Perhaps one of the most interesting experiences I have had while being in St Andrews is the strong, often negative, reactions to my being an American student. While I am not naive enough to think that the entire world loves the United States and all its inhabitants, the fact that I have encountered so much negativity is both discouraging and disappointing. Often, my peers are fond of pinning the misdeeds of my nation on my shoulders, forgetting the fact that I am an innocent eighteen-year-old girl. Are we not all here for the same purpose?
However, no matter where we hail from, I think that all the international students deserve some respect and applause for their decision to come to the University of St Andrews, regardless of how long their stay is. Moving away from home to begin university is a huge step in the life of any young adult, yet adding the international factor makes the experience all the more daunting. It saddens me that some of my peers choose to speak so negatively of the American student population, without realizing the fact that many of us are here for the experience of studying abroad, learning about a new culture, and perhaps satisfying life long dreams to see such a beautiful country. How discouraging would it be for someone to essentially tell you to go home after you have waited your whole life to visit their amazing country? It is a saddening occurrence to say the least.
Finally, while I do not expect to be free from the many stereotypes that follow the American students, the way a lot of the other students go about expressing them is disheartening. I have been met with many questions that are inappropriate in their direct support of outdated, often rather rude, stereotypes. When I do not adhere to one, another is quickly put in its place, as if I cannot exist without some negative qualifier that confirms another’s suspicions about American lifestyles. Whatever I seem to say about my home, my upbringing, or my family, I am met with ridicule, which just altogether makes me uncomfortable.
Though I have made many friends here, many of whom hail from such diverse backgrounds, it simply disappoints me that I have met so much negativity simply for my national identity. I am in no way saying that that Americans do not subscribe to similar ideologies about other cultures. However, university is a place full of international students, a safe haven for scholars pursuing their dreams and discovering themselves. Personally, I find the European way of life appealing, and I have fallen madly in love with Scotland, so much so that I do not want to leave once my student visa runs out. All walks of life should be tolerated, and view points expanded while at university.
Originally written 6 October 2012