Your National Identities: Being an Ambassador Abroad
Studying in another country offers a unique opportunity to critically examine your national identity. You are likely to encounter differing perceptions of your home country, opposing opinions on prevailing political topics, and attitudes shaped by unfamiliar cultural and media filters. Further, host nationals may assume that you agree with the policies of your home country's government and air grievances with you.
Here are some approaches to take to navigate these interactions.
Understand your host country. Learn how your government's policies have impacted citizens of your host country. This means exploring the history of the relationship with your home country, any existing grievances, and current events.
Know Yourself. Explore your own values and identities. Understanding your own biases, your values and what has shaped your opinions puts you in a position to articulate your beliefs and distinguish yourself from your government's policies. Being challenged and questioned by others in your host country, while stressful, can prompt further reflection and exploration.
Avoid being defensive, when possible. This is a chance to understand the perspectives of others, and to share your views respectfully. Though some may view you as a representative of your home country, you do not have to accept that role.
Practice self-care. Navigating your national identity can be exhausting. It is important to know your triggers, be aware of your stress levels, and take measures to maintain your emotional and mental wellbeing. This may mean disengaging from political discussions when you need a break.
Stay safe. If at any time you feel as though you are being targeted, harassed or threatened based on your national identity, immediately remove yourself from the situation and notify a university or program official, and contact the OIE at email@example.com.
Survival Kit for Overseas Living, by L. Robert Kohls
"What's Up with Culture," Online Resource from Pacific University
Maximizing Study Abroad, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota