Though I am writing this post a bit late, I think it is still interesting to reflect on my identity and how it has affected my experience so far and how it will continue to affect it. Personally, I think that the main aspects of my identity are that I am German, American, and pretty liberal.
I think my cultural identities probably have the largest impact on how I see and experience the world. In the US, my German identity makes me unique while my American identity allows me to relate to those around me. When I travel it is basically the opposite. Having that German background helps me to feel at home in Germany while my American identity makes me interesting and different. I expect to have a similar experience in France but to a lesser extent. I expect to be able to relate more to the culture as a German than someone who is purely American, but I also expect my experience to be dominated by my American-ness. After all, US culture is the most different from the French and it is the one I experience most on a day-to-day basis. So far, after the first week, I think this has held true. At work, everyone speaks English with me and my Germany identity is not important to them. But for me, having spent time in Germany and feeling German has helped me to be more comfortable with my surroundings. One thing is have noticed, though, is that my German identity and past travels made me a bit overconfident about coming to France. I kind of thought that it would be fine because I’ve been to France before and because I’ve lived in Europe for a few months before, but I underestimated how much of an outsider I would actually be, mostly because of the language. It is important to realize that culture is not everything.
Throughout this experience, I know I will encounter people from all different backgrounds. While in France, I have already met a lot of French people who have a completely different image of America than I, as an American do. It is interesting to see how much more nuance I see. In addition, I think people in Europe have had very different experiences with politics and immigration than I have and that this affords them a maybe more realistic perspective on these issues. I am excited to have conversations with people from all over the world about their experiences because I think it is all too easy to assume that American liberalism is the same as liberalism elsewhere.
Overall, I am nervous but excited to have some new experiences and see where this semester takes me.