Thursday, January 29, 2009

Questions of My American Identity

CHICKS ROCK! welcomes our next guest blogger, and TWM's newest intern, Bridget:

Bridget is a senior at Vassar College, studying Political Science and Women's Studies. She loves watching movies with her younger brother and playing rugby for her school.

Being American is something I never particularly thought about or questioned before I went to study abroad for a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. At home, I considered my experience unique, exceptional to the general stereotypes of a red-meat-eating, baseball-loving American. I identified regionally, as a New Yorker first and a liberal arts student second. However, being abroad, an outsider in a foreign country, whose language I was struggling to learn, I was confronted with questions of my own identity.

In the months abroad, a special camaraderie formed between me and my American classmates as we tried to navigate maps of the city, learn appropriate patience when waiting for the street light to change, and taste delicious Danish pastries. They hailed from all across America -- Tennessee, Ohio, and the US/Mexico border. The differences in attitude and social customs that I thought once divided me from people outside of New York dissolved as I began to recognize our commonalities. Coping in the European context, I could not rely on the fixed pose of the fast-paced, hard-nosed New Yorker. From the Danes’ perspective, we weren’t Southerners or New Yorkers, we were Americans. And so my classmates and I depended on each other, united over our confusion of Dane’s obsession with potatoes at every meal, the 4 hours of sunlight, and how Danish does not have an official word for “please.”

Reevaluating my own values, I began to appreciate home. As I compared it to Copenhagen, I realized just how fortunate and proud I am to be a citizen of a country where not everyone wears the same clothes, has the same political beliefs, or celebrates the same holidays. Although my classmates and I have different accents, we all share similar experiences, values, and hopes for a better future. We are lucky to live in an incredibly nuanced and diverse country. Reflecting on my time abroad and watching the inauguration of our new president, I am reminded that, despite our diversity, we are truly unified as a people. I take great pride in introducing myself, no longer as "Bridget from New York," but "Bridget from the USA."


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this. I hope you write again soon

Unknown said...

And now, under Obama, all Americans have a representative in the world that we can be proud of.

I'm looking forward to future posts!

Anonymous said...

GR8 blog. As Americans, we can recognize our unity and at the same time celebrate our diversity.

Anonymous said...

Diversity is our strength and gives us a global view of the world. Still, there is no place like home!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake with reading this, but better late than never, no? Anywho... I know exactly what you mean. As soon as you go to another country, you find yourself relating to people you wouldn't have otherwise for no other reason than they understand you on a lingual level (if not on a personal level). I would still say I'm a New Yorker first and an American second, but it definitely puts things into perspective when you are on a different continent. Tres insightful mon petite Bridgie!

B.Jude said...

Great article, Bridget. I enjoyed your take on the diversity within our own country and your shared experiences with your peers when you studied abroad. Hopefully, you can tell me more about Denmark this summer at Sharon's wedding. I do believe we have a vast number of diverse people/cultures represented with our great country, but I don't always feel unity. Too often, modern day segregation blooms and the invitation to unite fails to be delivered.

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