Yes, I know the title sounds like your average nationalistic American, but just give me a second to explain my thoughts. This is my first time traveling out of the country so its a completely new experience for me, living in Spain. I found my mind instinctively processing all the new data that was entered from the moment I stepped off the plane in a comparative manner. Everything I saw, smelled, tasted and heard went under one of two categories: “Similar” or “Dissimilar”. The hardest part about this organization of data is the constant desire to switch the titles to either “Best” and “Worse” or “My Way” and “the Highway”. I’ve found it to be so easy to simply use these easy labels for all of my new experiences, thus eliminating all the hassle of having to analyze my own traditions and cultures. The boxes are nice, clean and consist of merely black and white. But I don’t think that’s the point of studying abroad, or world travel in general. Yes, I’m used to doing things a certain way. Yes it is a bit jarring to see large, Spanish women sun-bathing topless on the beach, and yes it is a little confusing when only certain streets have street signs posted on them (and in the most obscure places). But I have to think to myself, “If this has worked for them for so many years, there might be some merit to it”.
Perspective. In this game its all about keeping perspective, striving to look beyond the initial differences and into new and exciting avenues of thoughts and ideas. For example, I can choose to focus on the high level of humidity of coastal Spain and all the long nights spent lying on soaking wet sheets trying to sleep through the heat, dreaming about Bozeman’s beautiful white wintery days, or I can look at the Spanish palm trees and the sun and remember that while all my homeys in Montana are piling on 10 layers of clothes trying to keep their noses from freezing off, I’ll be cheerfully skipping (or riding my bike) to school wearing my chacos, shorts and sunglasses. Ahhh, perspective! So the next time you are granted the opportunity to travel abroad in another culture (like Spain), maybe instead of thinking of how many bacteria were spread to your face after the traditional double cheek kiss you can look forward to the next time you are introduced to a beautiful senorita. Ah yes, perspective.