How Going Abroad Made Me More American

Blog post about my study abroad experience in Copenhagen (published at The Tab Georgetown).

It’s a mistake to separate the international community from the American community in the way that we often do at Georgetown

It’s no secret that the International community at Georgetown is like a “club” of its own. It’s often thought of as exclusive, as the students only rarely mix with the American community at the Hilltop.

I’m from Panama, and I have to accept that during my first two years at Georgetown, I barely met one or two Americans, and I wasn’t really that close with any of one of them. Ironically, it was not until my semester abroad in Copenhagen that this changed. There, I was one of the only international students among around 1000 Americans – getting out of my comfort zone was a must.

For my international, and especially my Latin American friends out there, here are some tips and lessons I want to share from what I learned during my experience in Copenhagen with my newly made American friends:

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First, you’ll have to get over the fact that you’re not going to understand every joke and American idiom the first few days. Sometimes, you’ll just have to laugh with everyone else, and pretend that you are cracking up in laughter too. But beware! This will often times make you pass by as stupid as you will start laughing even when you’re not supposed to laugh. Don’t worry about this too much though, after one month you’ll know how to speak American.

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You’ll learn that every single American that you meet has taken around 10-15 years of Spanish classes. Don’t get fooled my friends, none speak the language! But interestingly enough, though, after three or four beers, they are all pretty fluent and their accent is pretty great too!

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Circa 5:30 pm. Still unsure if that was meant to be lunch or dinner for everybody else.

The first few days, you’ll start confusing lunch with dinner. I am used to eating dinner around 9:30pm or 10:00pm.… but for Americans, it is not unusual to sit down to eat at 5:30pm or 6:00pm for dinner, which for me just means that I am going to have dinner again around 10 pm. I can’t complain about that.

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What my face looked like after every “slap cup” game I played

Then, you’ll go to a pregame with them, where they will play this game called “slap cup.” Don’t underestimate how ratchet this game can become. I came in very confident at first, but things didn’t really turn out as planned. Luckily for me, though, the more I drank beer, the better I became at slapping cups.

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You will also learn to accept the fact that if you’re always surrounded by Americans, everyone else will think you are American too, especially when you are blonde. There comes a point where you will just give up and go along with it. If they ask, there are only Americans in the room…Well, this only works until the moment you have to speak. Then, you’ll obviously be asked why you speak like Sofia Vergara, and you’ll have to explain you are actually not American.

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Then on Halloween, you’ll hear from people on the streets that there’s this tradition in Europe where people dress up pretty scarily for Halloween night, with blood all over your face, sharp teeth etc. You do it, and you are proud of how scary/horrible you look. But then you get to the party, and every single American girl looks like a Barbie doll. In other words: DON’T BUY THE SCARY HALLOWEEN COSTUME STORY!

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“Lupita, are you there? Is that you speaking to me in English?”

Then, there will come a point where you’ll start speaking to your Latin friends in English. This is especially weird coming from a girl who almost refused to speak in English before coming to Copenhagen, just cause she was more comfortable speaking in Spanish. Here is when things get serious and you don’t know if you should feel proud of how better your English has gotten the past few months, or if you should feel preoccupied that you managed to get more comfortable in speaking in another language than your own in just a couple of months. That’s weird!

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Most of the conversations I have with other Latin friends are a weird combination of Spanish and English words

Going off of this, I really think that Spanglish should be an official language. Come on! It would make my life so much easier…

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You’ll finally do something you never thought you would. You start liking Justin Bieber songs, and you even decide to watch his YouTube videos for the first time ever. I tried to learn the “Sorry” video choreography…   the results are not quite there yet :/

But at the end of the day, there is really only one take-away from my experience with Americans in Copenhagen: it is a complete mistake to be separating the international community from the American community in the way that we often do at Georgetown.amigs

International friends: we are not making our experience at Georgetown be as enriching and full as it should be. I met so many amazing, fun, incredible, one-of-a-kind Americans during my semester at Copenhagen.

I can’t wait to hang out with both, the internationals and the Americans back at Georgetown, all together.

 

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