Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds

As a Hoya currently studying abroad, I could not help but take issue with some of the implications of Kerry McIntosh’s most recent column (“Avoiding McEgypt,” THE HOYA, Sept. 13, 2005, A3), namely, that embracing the conveniences of “Americanization” while abroad will somehow diminish our experience and understanding of foreign culture.

When studying abroad (or even just traveling), of course we should take advantage of every opportunity we have to distance ourselves from the comforts of our own culture and immerse ourselves in another. Yes, it can be difficult to adjust to new purchasing patterns when surrounded by the same commercial establishments we have access to at home. Yes, it can be hard to bond with our host-countrymen when surrounded by the same “internationalite” population that forms a good portion of the Georgetown community.

If we are too successful at avoiding these temptations, however, we may only be immersing ourselves in the past. If it seems difficult to achieve an exotically foreign experience while abroad, it is not necessarily because of our failure to adapt, but rather because the lifestyles and customs of our hosts are not as dissimilar to our own as we might have anticipated. This is the reality of globalization.

Like Ms. McIntosh, I began my experience abroad with the intention of distancing myself from American culture as much as possible. When I arrived in Buenos Aires in July, I vowed to watch only Spanish-language television and renounce Coca-Cola in favor of ate, a regional herbal tea. When I proudly told my new classmates of my plan, they couldn’t help but laugh. The most common reaction: Rather then emulating my Argentine peers, I was emulating their grandparents. There are, naturally, long strides to be made before I can truly understand the culture of Argentines my age, but it would be a grave omission not to recognize all of the lifestyle elements we share. Finding common ground is a disservice neither to celebrating diversity nor to intercultural understanding.

You need not even study abroad to figure out that kids drink Coca-Cola all over the world. Just look around your residence hall. When I found out that my freshman year roommate was from China, I thought I was in for a real cultural shock, or at least a good bit of cultural education. Come move-in day however, I realized that the move-in packages he brought from China were filled with the same stuff that I brought from my parents’ house in Virginia, 30 minutes away. We had lots of the same music on our respective Kazaa accounts, and simultaneously developed a taste for Wisey’s and a distaste for Leo’s. Sure, we’ve learned plenty from each other, but the most important thing we learned was how much we had in common. A generation ago, who would have thought it possible?

While the world is supposedly becoming more “Americanized,” let us not forget that America is also becoming more “globalized.” Living in Washington, it’s not hard to notice. Just as an American traveling abroad can walk into a virtual embassy at each McDonald’s, can’t a Lebanese traveler or new immigrant do the same thing at Quick Pita? (OK, minus the french fries on the Special and the Nantucket Nectars.) Anyone from Miami (or most other major American cities, to a lesser extent) will testify to the fact that there are neighborhoods which bear no resemblance to the classical image of the United States – ethnically, culturally or linguistically. The future of the world, however unsettling it may be to some, is one devoid of cultural purity. While “Americanization” supposedly sullies foreign cultures, traditional American culture is also sullied – or enriched, as I prefer to think of it – through globalization and immigration.

Globalization is a slow but steady undercurrent in the world in which we live. We will witness periodic backlashes and efforts to curb its influence, but the trend is inevitable due to technological advancements in transportation and communication. For those of us at home, this means recognizing that we will have to incorporate elements from other cultures (and sometimes languages) into the definition of our own. For those of us studying abroad, it means that while we attempt to fully immerse ourselves in a new culture, we must also recognize that no culture is static or isolated in the 21st century, and we may have more in common with our foreign friends than we realize. Don’t worry, we can still justify our time abroad to our parents (and to our deans): We are experiencing globalization firsthand.

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