As anywhere, you will occasionally run into unfriendliness, and, as anywhere, such unfriendliness may be based on misunderstanding, resentment, or prejudices that have nothing to do with you individually. Anti-American sentiment often manifests itself in one of two forms: political, in which the U.S is seen as oppressive, racist, and imperialistic not only abroad but also at home; and cultural, in which the U.S. is considered to be the source of many of the ills of modern life, such as fast food, mindless efficiency, materialism, and wastefulness. One’s first encounter with anti-American attitudes can be very unpleasant, but remember that you may harbor some stereotypes of your own that are going to be challenged during your stay abroad and that one of your major goals in studying abroad should be to see yourself as others see you. Bear in mind as well that there are people who see the U.S. as a land of openness, opportunity, and generosity. On the whole, you might say that most people are quite receptive to international visitors and are happy to lend a hand. Your efforts to speak the language of your host culture will be appreciated.

Students are encouraged to prepare themselves for conversations about U.S. foreign policies and the reasons behind them by brushing up on U.S. political and cultural history. It is also critical to understand the current U.S. foreign policy towards the country you will be studying in, as well as that country’s current political climate. A well-informed student will be better able to engage thoughtfully in conversations with host country nationals rather than taking criticism of U.S. policy as a personal attack or insult.  For more information, visit the Being a U.S. American Abroad page of the Middlebury Study Abroad Diversity website.

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