Reflecting on first two weeks of orientation allowed me to explore and become self-aware of not only the Dominican culture, but my culture and sense of belonging to a greater community.
On our first day of orientation, we read a short yet powerful reflection piece, which argued that American student abroad cannot be ‘global citizens’. Her thesis states that, “American students who travel abroad cannot be expected to transcend historical, political, social, and global system of power in order to become cross-culturally immersed “global citizens””.
This reflection piece brought up several interesting and powerful reactions of not only myself, but all my fellow CIEE-SL mates, all of which are American students. Some of these reactions and beliefs derived from issues of Culture and Identity in relation to the article, and our own experiences. Coincidently, our group is comprised of many students born outside and/or raised for a certain amount of years outside the US, and not to make an over generalized statement, yet a large number of us, not everyone, without a doubt resemble what may be your average Americans who are privilege to study abroad. These discussions and our own personal experience continued throughout the week as our orientation focused on Dominican race and identity, further putting into questions our own perceptions and understandings of what it means to belong and self-identify oneself.
I take dear to heart this issue because at this very moment I am struggling with the idea of someone being able to immerse into different cultures and believe that they have transcended fully into that culture. I do believe people have the ability to travel abroad and learn from their experience, making them more internationally conscious, yet I do not believe one’s experiences may help them become fully immersed and integrated in to that culture.
For many American students, specifically white-American students as Zemach-Bersin mentioned in her argument no matter how long they have lived in countries like Tibet or the Dominican Republic; they will always be treated as a foreigner. To be fully immersed into a culture, I believe, one must be seen as a member of the community in all parts of the country and not just someone who has lived in the area for x amount of years and knows the language. But this is not only an issue outside the US borders. For many non-white Americans, born and raised all their lives in the United States have for a long period of time never fully been consider Americans by the greater public because of their physical appearances, resulting in many forms of discriminations. Speaking from personal experiences, although raised nearly all my life in Boston, MA, I have gone through the process of being naturalized, registered to vote, attended school, and have been “Americanized” in nearly all aspects of thinking/being, yet I am not seen as an American because of my appearance. Without a doubt the land we refer to as the Red White and Blue prides itself on the multi-culture influences it houses within its borders, yet when it comes time to speaking out and raising awareness of equality within its borders, we tend to erase the Red and Blue and only end up seeing the White.
When I get on a plane and visit Honduras, my birth land, I am not seen by members of my community there as a Hondureño, instead I am seen as an American. Although I lived up to the age of five in the same neighborhood as my neighbors there, speak the language as if I never left the land, and pride myself of the country, they see me as “different” resulting in “special” treatment, making me feel like an outsider and not a full member of the community. Very similar when I get on a plane back to the States, due to my appearance, I face many forms of discriminations and inequalities that many white-Americans do not experience.
This idea that American students are able to transcend themselves and fully immerse into a culture, especially after a semester abroad bothers me, especially when other individuals for a lifetime struggle to find an identity within their culture.
Part of these two-weeks of orientation I gained an idea of self-identity and external-identity. How you see yourself will be different from how others see and identify you. I do believe that it’s important that people are able to identify themselves as part of a culture. However, I do not believe it’s appropriate for one to say that one can belong to a different culture like the Dominican Republic, especially after coming from a privileged background and spending only a semester abroad with only limited exposure to the real lifestyle of a Dominican.
- Ellery Kirkconnell