I went into this sixth month of my exchange feeling confident. I felt more at home here, like I was doing a lot of things right. Yet I’m only a week into this month and that confidence is fading quickly.
For most of my time here I have been referred to as the “američanka.” This is funny for a while but at this point it frustrates me and irritates me. I am very proud to come from the country that I do. Yet being from the United States and being a native English-speaker does not define me. It doesn’t even hit the surface and I am sooo very tired of that being all people see in me here.
Every month I send an e-mail update to some Rotarians back in the U.S. and Canada about what I’ve been doing, how I am, etc. This past month one of them gave me some advice that I didn’t realize I needed…
“Do something to make them remember you as Allie and not the American they had for a year.”
This has been hitting home a lot lately. A lot of people message me and I know it’s just to talk to “the američanka.” I’m tired of that. I’m tired of feeling guilty for not responding to people who don’t actually want to get to know me.
I don’t want my class here to tell other kids they know that they have an američanka in their class. I want them to say that they have Allie in their class. I want my nationality and language to be mere aspects of my personality and not what ultimately defines me.
I am very independent, honest, opinionated, sensitive, caring, loyal, ambitious, etc. I like to think I am kind and fun to be around. This is how people should describe me. I am not merely an American.
So from now on I am going to work harder to be Allie and not the američanka. I don’t really owe anyone here anything. This exchange is ultimately my experience and my journey. I want to finish this time being myself and not rushing around trying to fulfill everyone’s expectations of me. I can only be who I am, nothing more.