reflection: on being the “other” (or rather, not)

What did you think of the different perspectives you heard in Tuesday’s class? In what ways have you experienced being the “other” or outsider? Or have you? Do you have any fears about studying abroad in terms of your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other factors? How do you plan to address those concerns?

As a light-haired, blue-eyed, white Texan female, I’ve grown up almost never feeling like a minority. Even at OU, where I’m here with 20,000 other people, a lot of people I’m surrounded by look like me.

Because I’m hoping to go to a Spanish-speaking country to study abroad, I’m sure that I won’t blend in wherever I go the same way I blend in here. I think it’s generally pretty obvious that I’m not Hispanic. Even when I was in France this summer, and I looked fairly similar to the people there, people could tell I wasn’t a local. Maybe it had to do with the camera around my neck, or the fact that I was moving in a pack with my mom, dad, and sister. I don’t speak French, so that was a big giveaway too, especially when I would stumble over my stumble over my words trying to order food at a restaurant.

When I study abroad, I think it’ll help that I have a good handle on Spanish. My accent isn’t perfect, but I’m confident that I can speak well enough to get around, keep myself fed, and talk to locals. I don’t feel that my gender would put me at a significant disadvantage–I mean, women are treated differently (and worse, I suppose you could say) than men in the United States, and while I imagine that being a woman in a Spanish-speaking country would be a different experience than if I was a man in a Spanish-speaking country, I can’t imagine that it would be a shocking disparity.

I’m also not particularly worried about my religion being a problem abroad, since I’m not particularly religious. I was raised Christian, but my family and I didn’t subscribe to any denomination. We tried Baptist churches, Methodist churches, nondenominational churches, and I’ve attended a couple Catholic and Lutheran services. Now, I don’t attend any church regularly–unless my parents ask me to come to church with them for a holiday or just because my mom’s feeling religious, I don’t attend church. There’s nothing I oppose specifically about church or Christianity in general, but it’s just not a large part of my life anymore. If I was living with a host family and they wanted me to attend a church service with them, I’d happily go, if for nothing else than to understand a bit more about their culture and lifestyle.

Overall, I’m not terribly worried about feeling like an outsider when I study abroad because I know that, to a point, it’s inevitable. Some of the things that make me who I am are things that I can’t hide. When I study abroad, I hope to strike a balance between trying to hide my differences and trying to blend in and be respectful of a new culture.