5681.07 miles away from home to realize something about my identity. My objective on studying abroad was to have an experience, make memories and immerse myself into the local culture. But what I have come to realize is my identity as American. I have been living in America all my life, 20 years to be exact and never have I felt like an American. Growing up in a predominantly latino and Black neighborhood my identity was simply Mexican. A marker on the census and a culturally experience. Never did I feel American when my accent was always questioned or when my last name was pronounced differently at schools and doctor offices. And in 2016 I felt less of an American when my culture was seen as Anti-American. Not even celebrating Thanksgiving or Independence Day, while eating hot dogs under the sky’s blue, red, and white lights, did I feel “American”.
It only took thousands of miles away from America to get recognized as American– and to be blatantly honest I did not know how to feel about this. Why now was I considered American, with America’s political climate is this what I want to be seen as? The answers to these questions forced me to think about my identity. People saw me as American because of my clothes, my language (surprisingly) and my American cultural tendencies such as wanting coffee at 3pm. My everyday experience with Parisian students reminded me that I was in fact American. My accent was not questioned and I became their American friend not their Mexican friend. I was placed in the overarching category of “American” yet I didn’t feel confined to it rather I felt like a part of a community.
At first I was hesitant to be considered American as I understood their preconceived judgments. Their is the idea that Americans are rude, entitled and loud, however, these were not what others saw from me and I realized that the simply want Americans to consider all aspects of the french culture, the want Americans to see the beyond Paris and attempt to speak french because their country is not just a vacation destination. I have found that French people are very nice and interested in other perspectives, my study abroad experience has taught me to consider other factors and see past one’s preconceived notions. My identity is more complex than just Mexican or American and my study abroad experience has made me realize that what makes me unique is not my nationality or ethnicity but what I can offer as a friend, as a person and as a member to our globalized world. I have learned that to me being an American is to be a person that understands others regardless of what our leader does or says because what is American is compassion. I will leave Paris an American and a better person, I have learned more about my identity in few weeks then I have in 20 years.