My stay in Germany has been an enlightening one, and as I write this three of the four weeks have already passed. My eyes have seen so many things that I have not seen before and may never see again. From small villages to magnificent castles and churches, endless fields of nothing but trails to the Alps of Southern Germany and Austria. I have seen remnants of the Berlin Wall and drank beer in a dining hall where Adolf Hitler spoke in front of the Nazi party. It all seems like a dream. Things that I have seen and read in textbooks, never knowing I would experience them for myself.
And yet, the truly enriching moments have come from conversations with my host family. We have compared everything from hobbies and interests to politics and policies of our respective countries. It was interesting to hear that from a European perspective President Obama would be considered a conservative, which he is far from in America. The most interesting conversation came earlier this week. It was a discussion regarding the perception of the United States as a whole and as a people. The man posing the question was German, but he has had the opportunity to travel around the world, including to the United States. Before I continue, I want to stress that this is one person's perception, not necessarily that of a whole. Nevertheless, I took his comments to heart.
His comment was that he respected and appreciated the opportunities of freedom that America provides to people from all around the world. However, he felt that America has the tendency to press its beliefs, values, and ideas on others. He referred specifically to the war in Afghanistan and the extended presence of troops. I found this comment to be very interesting and tend to agree. The United States is a nation that covers a large area of land, yet cultures from Boston to Los Angeles only have minuscule differences. There is nothing fundamentally different about accents or even how we vote. These seem like big differences to us as Americans, but in Europe a short car drive can put you in a completely different area as far as culture is concerned. From my perspective, Europe is a melting pot of hundreds, even thousands, of different cultures squeezed into a space smaller than the United States. People live amongst different cultures in harmony, and as a visitor I fit right in.
To wrap it up, I love the United States and am proud to say that I am American. However, this May Term I have learned that there is a whole world that I haven't seen. I encourage everyone to study or travel abroad sometime in their life, because it will change your outlook forever.