USA, the greatest place in the world! That would be how most of my American friends would describe their home country if asked which country they like best. However, if I address this question to an international student the answer most likely will be very different. We live in a world of perception. The way I perceive my world, is not necessarily how you perceive yours, and vice-versa. We encounter differences in cultures, personalities, norms, values, etc. every day. It is our choice to ignore, inherit, understand, or even engage, nobody will force an individual to do so. Nevertheless, it is my perspective that keeping open-mindedness is essential to progress with your own self’s.
Let me start to explain this to you. The first time I have visited the States was when I was barely 17 years old. My parents, on short notice (3 months), decided to put me in a plane and send me off. Most likely their intent was to get rid of me for a while. I did consent, but to be honest I was just excited to take a year off school. I had to redo the year I spent in the US high school in Germany due to grade requirements. This was my first time leaving my parents for a longer period of time, into a new country I have only heard about in the media. I was more than excited. I was stoked! Before arriving at our host families we stopped by in NY, and I could not believe my eyes! I thought to myself, please do not leave me by myself, I will be lost and probably end up with the bums under some bridge for a couple nights! To verify, I managed to not get lost… This was my first impression of the United States.
After NY, I went to my host family, visited Puyallup High School for a year, and went back home to finish my high school education. I came back to the US almost every summer to visit the host family I stayed with. I loved and I still love the US. This fact, ultimately, led me to save up money after my high school graduation in Germany to go to college in the States, where school is obviously expensive compared to free in Germany. Yeah, I know, do not even bother asking! It did work out. I went to Pierce Community College in Puyallup to fulfill my gen. Ed.’s and afterwards transferred to PLU.
One thing, that no school never was able to teach me, is to engage in diversity. Nevertheless, being a German in America is definitely considered in functioning as a minority compared to other cultures that resemble a much greater part of the American culture than Germany. “Hey German, you must love Bier right!”, “Yannik, where are your Lederhosen?!” (They are only worn in the south, I am from the north), or another classic “How are you today Sauerkraut!”. I think you can see where I am going with this. Stereotyping is typical for successfully demonstrating that you do not know much about the culture at all. However, we all still do it. I came to realize that we are all different, but also alike. It became a priority in my life to meet as much people as I possibly can to find out as much as I can about their cultures. I strive for understanding. Stereotypes do exist for a reason. However, finding this reason often means analyzing the problem to its core. I thought, that this is only possible by aligning me directly into the cultures as closely as possible.
There are certain character traits, which are vitally important to fulfill my commitment. I knew I had to be outgoing, which I am in nature. Moreover, I have to work on my mindset. I radically tried to get rid of all stereotypes that have been set for a long time and start over. It was not easy. More so, I would not claim that I was fully successful, because I can still find myself stereotyping one or the other time. Nevertheless, I aim to maximize my open mindedness as much as possible. I have learned that this way you can put your own judgments, based on mostly invalid information, aside and create a new sense for people and cultures. PLU offers you a great opportunity to meet people from all around the globe. Everybody is friendly, and, nobody will bite you! I encourage you all to put yourself out there and learn more about different cultures and people. You will not regret it. I hope I was able to give you a glance into my life. I wish you all the best, and feel free to contact me with any questions!