“My parents were born in Mexico but I was born in the United States, so I am Mexican-American.” This is what I would always tell people back in the United States when they would ask me where I was from. But honestly, due to being a first generation American, I have always struggled with my identity. I never felt Mexican or American enough. I always felt like most people in the United States didn’t really see me as American. Especially now with the tension between the United States and Mexico. At times, I would feel like maybe I am just not American enough.
But now that I am studying abroad in Europe, I have never felt so American in my life.
On my weekend trips, I would go on a lot of walking tours and most of the time I was the only American there. When the people in my group would find out, they would ask me all sorts of questions like, “What is it like in the United States?” or they would ask questions about American politics.
Whenever my tour guide would mention America’s role in events that have happened in Europe, I felt so American.
On the first day of class, the professor asked us to introduce ourselves and to say where we were from. After class a boy walked up to me and said, “Are you really from America? What state do you live in?”
I felt so American.
When I stayed in a hostel, I got to stay in a room with girls from different countries such as Israel, Taiwan, and Argentina; when they asked where I was from, I said, “Oh, I’m from the United States.”
And one girl replied, “Wow! An American!”
I felt so American.
When I got invited to the US Embassy in Prague and got to meet all the people who worked there, Americans and Czechs, I felt so American.
When some of the Czechs at the embassy would tell us about their initiatives and how they would like us (Americans) to give our input, I felt so American.
I know of cases where people go abroad and they suffer from an identity crisis while they’re abroad or even when they’re coming back. But going abroad was the best thing that ever happened to me in terms of my identity. Every day something would happen that would remind me just how American I was. Even doing something as mundane as ordering breakfast or going grocery shopping can remind me of that. I don’t feel like I am suffering from an identity crisis anymore and I feel very confident in who I am now. I’ve realized now that I’m abroad that I don’t only represent myself when meeting people from other countries, I’m representing the United States. I know that I have to be a good ambassador for my country. So, whenever I meet someone new and they ask me where I am from, I proudly say, “I am an American.”