I thought of my personal experience. Aug. 15, 2011 was the day I arrived in this foreign land. From the Memphis airport to Oxford that night, most of what I saw were trees and darkness. All I heard was a foreign language. I didn’t know where I could get food. I didn’t bring my phone and computer with me.
I had never thrown myself into such a situation.
A place without public transportation, without shopping malls, without restaurants I could walk to, without … all the things I just took for granted.
This was not the United States I had in mind. I lived in cities when I was in China. The life here was more than I could imagine. I suffered the first semester. Fortunately, people here were all very nice. They helped me a lot. My professors helped me gradually learn about Mississippi, the history, the music and the people. People in the South taught me to smile and say hello to everyone. I began to enjoy the life here and fall in love with Mississippi.
People always find it easy to have some bias or prejudice about things they are not familiar with, and they have allowed these biases and prejudices to build stereotypes about Mississippi and the South.
However, how can you judge something without ever experiencing it?
What’s fascinating about this quote, is that it’s the kind of thing you’d expect a (white, middle class) American student to write about their study abroad experience in a “third world” country.
I’m not posting this to mock the state where I live (and certainly not my institution). As a midwesterner, Mississippi was something of a foreign land to me as well. But I’ve come to appreciate it, despite all its quirks (which any place has, of course).
But I wonder how many American college students today are prepared for a world in which students from “third world” or “emerging” countries have similar experiences of the United States. And especially whether they’re prepared for the global economic realities (and both opportunities and constraints) such experiences signify.