In the United States, I always felt like a target for being a minority woman. Being an African American and a woman did not give me any special privileges or advantages. Privilege is only given to people who were not minorities. I thought that I would be apart of the majority since I am the same skin tone. I would not have to deal with not fitting into the culture because my ancestors were once apart of the culture. However, in Tanzania, I have realized that regardless of my status or skin tone, I still have American privilege.
When I first arrived in Tanzania, it was a culture shock. I was accustomed to a particular lifestyle and had to adjust to the lifestyle of another culture. Many of the natives believed that I was wealthy because I was traveling from America. People would charge me more for items because they knew I was American. They treated me differently even in a place I felt like I should belong. At first, things were challenging because of the differences between the two countries, such as appearance, food, and language.
People could not understand me because Swahili is the country’s native language. For the first couple of days, I complained about minor things such as the shower not having enough hot water or the not being able to use the sink. Things were opposite for America, and it was frustrating.
Nonetheless, I’ve realized that everything I was picky about was not the culture of Tanzania. I was trying to force the American culture instead of embracing the Tanzanian culture. Even though I am the same complexion as many of the natives, they treat me differently because I am American or in Swahili ya kigeni.
I experienced American privilege the most while volunteering at the hospital. I was trying to use techniques and procedures my way instead of adapting to their style. Tanzanian doctors and nurses handle medical procedures based on the resources they are provided. Many of the patients must provide their own medical supplies rather than it being provided for them. Doctors and nurses use different strategies and techniques during various services they perform because of the number of resources. Some patients encounter proceeds without any anesthetics. Supplies are not replenished frequently, like in the United States. I wanted help, but I learned that I have to observe first then assist.
Adjustment to Culture
For the past few days, I’ve learned more about the culture. Currently, I am learning Swahili to converse more with the natives. I also made a few nurse friends at the university in Tanzania. We frequently talk about the health care system in Tanzania. Being an American gives me certain privileges. I appreciate the small things in life because others may be without. Sometimes in life, we forget about the small things that impact our lives as well. The little things are valued more when they are taken away. Studying abroad made me embrace and cherish American culture more.