Was measuring the temperature in Celsius so painful for the US, that they had to switch to Fahrenheit? Or is it just the rebellious nature, that seamless desire to take the ‘u’ out of colour or the ‘l’ out of travelling because shorter words are just more alluring? I will never know. In spite of everything though, Americans stuck with the good old imperial measurement system, when the whole world moved on to the metric system, so I could give them that for originality!
In the past four years that I have spent in the US, I have come to form the analogy that "there is the whole world, and then there is USA." Believe me, though, my love for the US is unparalleled, proof being that I spent treacherous years of hard work abroad trying to grind through grade school years just so I could be worthy of a US undergraduate degree one day. Why is it a privilege to graduate from the greatest country in the world, right?
For the most part, though, having lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Uttar Pradesh, India, walking into the country where all dreams apparently came true for immigrants became my ultimate goal in life for 18 years. I was counting, four years, I graduate, a degree, a job and an application for naturalization. Every non-US student’s dream: my life was set.
Little did I know, it was a bubble I was walking into, a cloud of oblivion. "We were taught to be patriots since second grade: Heavy US history that revolved around that fact that freedom felt is freedom earned in what is essentially the best country in the world," said my roommate, who was born and has spent her life here for the most part. I sat there in disbelief, pride and patriotism is one thing, entitlement and disregarding all alternatives is whole another.
I know, you must be thinking, "Sorry, what did I miss? How is this disregarding all else?" Well, it’s unassuming; I related it back to my upbringing: a bilingual ethnically Indian girl in an Arab country in second grade studying compulsory Islamic history, Indian history and American history in an international school with little kids of 40-60 different nationalities. A bubble is what America seemed to me, from a globally-minded individual’s perspective.
For non-blamable reasons, 90% of my American friends did not see the need to travel abroad. Why would they have to anyway, when US has everything there could possibly be to offer?
Wrong, English isn’t the only language, America isn’t the only country, the dollar isn’t the only currency, and fourth of July isn’t the most important date in history. The US is as much a product of evolution as is any other country of this planet. But to better understand one’s existence, it is important to study not only one's birth country, but the planet itself, in essence, to feel a belonging to something greater.
So for me as an international student, perspective was the element missing in a lot of Americans. Lack of exposure gave a platform for ignorance to thrive. James Madison University is a predominantly Caucasian university and hence, I have experienced racism a couple of times. That doesn’t bother me as much as the non-curiosity of students. The world isn’t flat, and borders are crossable.
To become more competent and emotionally intelligent citizens in a swiftly globalizing world, it is of utter importance that the US evolves into a more all-encompassing and all-embracing education system, where diversity and acceptance thrive and ignorance and entitlement are degraded. Like Albert Einstein said, "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know."