In the past few years, students have gone abroad and have written on the Coliseum, broken priceless statues, been stuck in statues, and left their marks on religious or sacred sights. While some of these may seem funny or “cool,” they aren’t. There are many more ways to leave your mark on the places you travel to or study in than to disregard highly important elements of a culture abroad. When you go abroad, remember it is important to stay classy! You are not only representing your home institution abroad, you are also representing America and we want to get rid of the “ugly American” stereotype that is currently circulating.
Going abroad can be the time of your life. Students who participate on an education abroad program say they learn valuable intercultural skills, professional skills and even personal skills. Students begin to feel like their education abroad host culture becomes their home as time goes on.
As it gets to be time to leave and head home to the States, students feel the need to leave their mark on the places they have visited. Whether it be writing their name on a tree, famous bridge in the city, or climbing on statues to say they “did everything they could” while abroad, all of these are disrespectful. To leave their mark abroad students should not focus on leaving their mark on famous objects, but rather focus on leaving their mark on the people they meet and encounter abroad.
How can you leave your mark through interactions with people of your community? Here are a few tips.
- Give your undivided attention and be present with those who you’re with.
- Remember people’s names. It makes people feel valued and makes a great impression.
- Always give a little more to a relationship than you may get back.
- Show integrity.
- SMILE! A smile means the same thing in every language.
- Make eye contact with people (if the culture respects eye contact! Be sure to know the cultural norms before you are quick to assume they respect and value the same things as Americans do).
- Show respect. Even if you cannot speak the language, find a way to communicate and always show respect for the people you meet.
Remember to always think twice before taking a selfie in a location where it may be offensive or climbing on something to get a better perspective. The perspective you might get in these instances may be behind jail bars, and nobody wants that. Follow these tips to leave the best mark of yourself abroad and go have the time of your life while representing yourself, your home institution, and America as a whole in the best light possible!
Photo Sources: Courtney Smith and The Guardian
Courtney Smith is a senior at Transylvania University studying Psychology. She participated in a Semester at Sea Program and the KIIS Poland Consortia program.