My name is Amelia Scarbrough, and I am currently about 4100 miles away from my Luther home. I have now been studying in Münster, Germany for two months. I’ve tried to blend in with Europeans as much as possible, in order to experience things as less of an outsider, and to shed my American stereotypes at the door. So far, I’d say I’ve done a fairly good job. I’ve avoided block-lettering on T-shirts, spoken quietly in public, and avoided obesity (though, at my rate of chocolate consumption, this might change).
However, one thing I have been unable to avoid is discussion of American politics. “Which candidate is your favorite?” asks my host family. We discuss the issues and what makes each leading candidate over- or under-qualified to be president. I read the local German newspaper as often as possible, and never fail to come across articles discussing American candidates. Even attending a gathering with German students my own age, my new friends, barely able to use the familiar du form, ask me what I think of Donald Trump. This experience is odd, because Europeans seem to know so much about American politics, while I only have a limited knowledge of German politics.
I have therefore learned that it is up to me to represent my country in a good light, because the only impressions people have of Americans and their politics come from headlines such as “Jabba the Trump.” Everywhere I go, I feel that German people have a predisposed opinion of me, because I am an American. For instance, they seem to find us uninformed. It is thus very important to stay on top of current events. Being able to discuss, for example, what each presidential candidate represents, is a must, as everyone on the eastern side of the Atlantic strongly favors certain American politicians. As a student abroad, I am an American ambassador. I cannot tell my German friends I support a candidate for vague reasons. I must be able to back up my opinions, reinforced through concrete statements, and show the world that I—an American, a student at Luther college, a Millennial—am more than just a stereotype.