You’re Not Just American: You’re America

When my international and Austrian buddies ask what I am studying, and I reply with a cheery, “English Literature and Linguistics in the American Studies Program!”, almost collectively I can expect a semi-blank expression.

“Aber, warum?” But why?

Fair. Fair question.

Why come all the way to Austria to study America?

Yes, I understand the confusion.

It’s not that though: it’s not studying America, it’s studying a non-American perspective on important and vital texts that helped shape countries and ideologies. How absolutely, unfathomably more interesting it is to study American literature from this non-American perspective.

To engage in similar debates that I’ve had in my previous classes at Emporia State University, only with profoundly different directions.

It’s getting out of this bubble of the influence of American politics and American ideals in literature and examining texts with a literal worldview.

It’s also excellent insight on how the rest of the world views America.

I will try not to blanket or generalize anyone here, my classmates represent the entire world as much as I represent America. It’s too small of a sample size. But collectively, many agree on similar stances of Americans, so I believe it to be quite representable.

Perhaps the most notable example of insight into American portrays is from my From Rags to Riches? Social Class in American Literature. My professor is this anomaly of information, perhaps the most passionate social class hero and well-informed feminist supporter I have met.

We put pressure on such topics as, “Why do Americans have a higher overall level of outspoken confidence over Europeans?” and, “why do Americans tend to have a lot of acquaintances and few ‘best’ friends, while Europeans operate on the reverse?”

My international classmates view American as a self-confident, extroverted ethnicity will no shortages of self-efficacy. I’ve been told, “you have the certain…passionate light in your eyes that makes you obviously American” multiple times.

I have been told that Americans have obvious and vocal dreams; that our society has raised us to be individualistic and ambitious over the more collectivist societies of Europe.

When you study abroad you become your country in the minds of others. Do you think that the industries should better prioritize the manufacturing of dog textiles? In the eyes of an international student, suddenly America believes all dogs should be clothed.

Are you in the habit of sneezing before you drink wine? Suddenly America sneezes before they ingest alcohol.

Do you like reading Action Adventure novels over Romance? Suddenly America is obsessed with the Bourne Ultimatum and because that Parisian chick in the back of the room likes reading Nora Roberts, the Romance genre is for the French.

Honestly, it gets a bit old to be generalized. To be blanketed together with the more audible values of America that you may or may not agree with.

I welcome this, though.

How else will I learn not to blanket others besides being put in the box myself?

-Josie, Austria

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