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Lost Isn’t Over Yet, But It’s Time To Leave The Island

It’s time for Americans to get off their island” says one Fulbright recipient, explaining why it’s important for US citizens to spend time in other countries, especially given what seems to be a common negative impression of the US.

First of all, one of the reasons I think it is so valuable to teach EFL even for a year or two is just this: it gives you the chance to live in another country and actually interact with locals on a personal level.

However I’m not okay with the idea that Americans – or anyone – should travel or work abroad with the goal of “representing” their country. There is definitely something to be said for positive interactions between those from different countries…but people don’t need to be defined on the basis of their citizenship (or language or religion or hair color) or assumed to represent others because of it. In many contexts we talk about making judgments on a whole group of people based on the actions of one or two as a bad thing…is this really different from treating people as “representatives” of their country?

I think one positive result of spending time abroad is realizing that people are not fundamentally different because they come from different countries. I’d also say: instead of framing time abroad as a chance to promote your own country’s image – frame it as an opportunity for you to learn about your host country because that has value in itself.