Have you ever moved to a foreign country, learned at least some of the language, and then move back home hearing how wordly and cultured you are?
After receiving one of the best experiences of your life to travel and/or live abroad, were you geared towards wanting to travel and experience the world even more? At the very least, to live up to those compliments from others who have never left their home country?
Well be careful. I’m talking especially to you, Americans.
After the having two different living experiences at a young age, I believe my eyes became rounder with the knowledge that there was a world beyond the borders of American soil. Not just knowing it, but experiencing it first hand. I will not say that I sought out people who had a foreign background for friendships, but looking back, I noticed that I had more friends than I thought in High School who immigrated here or were first the first-born Americans in their family.
When I moved to American I met Jane Doe ( this will be her name for confidentiality), a Muslim who was moved to the sates in 6th grade from Kenya with her family. Now, she was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and it was always interesting to us that we were sometimes even mistaken as sisters, probably because of our similar complexion and shape. Throughout High School, we hung out like any other other friend’s, met each other families’, and etc. I had never even seen her wear hijab.
It’s not that I was never interested in her religion or culture, because, sometimes that would come up in conversation. But most times it didn’t.
Then Senior year hit. We had both applied to a few colleges– and both made it into Georgia State ( she started in the Fall , but I was wait-listed for the Spring because of my late transcript. ugh!) But then the worst happened:
Her family was moving to Seattle.
At first, I didn’t think too much of it. I thought, well, I knew she would miss her family. Except she wouldn’t because, she would be moving there with them, even though she was eligible for in-state tuition and grants because of her Georgia residency status.
Why do you need to move? You’re 18 now and graduated High School! You should try and convince them-You get the gist.
Honestly, all I did was add stress to her life, all because I was upset one of my closest friends would not be attending college with me. In the end, she moved anyway.
The thing is, I didn’t understand. I’m close to my family, but I didn’t understand the family dynamic in her culture. I’m not sure if it is her Kenyan culture, Muslim religion, or both, but years later I realized that family came before everything in her life.
They say as Americans, we are generally very arrogant. It’s our way before anyone else’s and I regretfully see how I represented that even though I didn’t see that at the time.
Is this post too long?
All I have to say is that ethnocentrism (evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture) is not a comfortable thing. I will include myself in the effort when I say that, let’s all try to be open-minded to people with a background different from our own. That includes attempting to understand by asking questions.
Her and I stay in touch through Facebook here and there, but I’ve always regretted how little support I showed. I vowed to do much better from then on.
Let’s try a little harder.