Global Engagement Day 2019: Let’s Talk About Race (Dr. JoAnna Wall)
When going abroad it is important to understand how you are going to be viewed by the people in the country you are visiting. It is likely you will stick out like a sore thumb which means people may interact with you in an interesting way. They may approach you with pre-conceived assumptions which affect the way they talk to you or interact with you. I have experienced this in multiple ways:
- People stare at you
- People may ask to take a picture with you
- People may try and practice their English skills with you
- People may assume you’re rich
- People may think you are arrogant
- People may assume your political affiliation
- People assume you don’t understand or speak their native language
Realizing these pre-conceived notions I feel that there are two ways to respond. You could be offended by the stereotype or you could embrace it and turn it into a positive experience.
I have enjoyed being different while visiting a new country. While sometimes it can be to my disadvantage, such as when I get charged more at the market because I am viewed as an outsider, I have more often found that I can turn these prejudices into positives. I thoroughly enjoy when people assume I speak English and try to practice their English on me! I have found it an amazing way to make friends and often can even practice my language skills one them. I have often felt like a movie star as others hurry to take pictures with me as I sit down for a meal or walk down the sidewalk. Having patience with others is key to having an enjoyable time abroad. Realize that most people don’t intend harm by their actions and words and turn the would-be negative interaction into a positive one.