Being American Abroad

Being American abroad means that you’re associated with Donald Trump. It seemed like EVERYONE asked me about Trump. I’ve had kids in elementary schools here ask me what I think about Trump. For the first month and a half of classes, Trump was mentioned pretty much every day in at least one of my classes. My international classmates, my Chilean classmates, people that I would meet when I was out — everyone asked me what I thought about Trump. For a test in one class, we even did a case study on Trump. Every time he is mentioned, people always look to you. Some are sympathetic, some are judgmental, and some sneer. There was a commercial on TV mocking Trump. During Holy Week, the people of Vina del Mar normally burn an effigy of Judas, the man who betrayed Christ. Instead, this year, they burned an effigy of Donald Trump.

Being American abroad means that you are exposed to a lot that the United States public education system doesn’t really teach you or will teach you in a different light. Like about how neoliberalism was first tried out in Chile, and how Nixon and Reagan and Thatcher were all supporters of Pinochet, the dictator that killed thousands. Or about how Western big businesses are basically the devil in their eyes.

Being a white American abroad means that you often feel guilty for being white and from the Western world. We talked a lot in my classes (Socioeconomic Evolution of Latin America and Social Movements of Latin America) about colonialism, and how neoliberalism is just another form of colonialism. They tell you all about the horrible things that people of your color and origin have done, and how the consequences of those actions still persist today.

Being an American abroad is an odd mixture of people being interested in you because you’re white and blonde and at the same time turning up their noses at you because you’re white and blonde. It’s this awful combination of being proud that you’re American and at the same time feeling guilty and hating where you’re from. You get the lovely condescending remarks of “Oh, you American” but you also get the people who are so fascinated by your country and want to learn about you and your life there.

It can be difficult being an American abroad. But at the same time it’s an amazing opportunity to break down barriers, to get rid of stereotypes, to learn about new cultures and have people learn about yours. Being an American abroad is hard, but it’s also a blessing.

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