My semester abroad was a series of memorable moments. Traveling to different countries, eating new foods, and meeting new people has brought me a new sense of the privilege I hold. These new experiences also revealed the American bubble I have lived in for most of my life.
One of my favorite, most memorable nights, was attending Carnival in Sitges, Spain, a small town about an hour outside of Barcelona. Carnival is a celebration that occurs right before lent. Much like Mardi Gras, Carnival is filled with colorful costumes, parades, and specialty foods.
On a Tuesday night in February, my friends and I were herded into a large bus, draped in shimmery boas and disguised in a colorful array of wigs and masks. I had been given a lesson on Carnival in my Spanish class, so we knew what to wear and what food to look for when we arrived in Sitges.
An hour later, we arrived in Sitges to find a long line of locals dressed in elaborate costumes. Women wore bright leotards and large glittery wings, men were dressed as animals with large headdresses and face paint. They danced to Spanish music as they waited for their turn to walk past the parade’s starting line. This was something I had never seen. Rather than floats sponsored by corporations and parade participants in t-shirts with company logos, the Sitges parade had a cultural focus. The floats were hand-decorated and the participants danced to carefully crafted choreography. I was so used to the capitalist spectacle of parades in the United States, that seeing something so authentic was shocking. ...continue reading "Carnival!"
It feels crazy looking back at my original blog post (I am back in the United States now). I had so many new cultural experiences since early February. I traveled to Sevilla, Paris, Nice, Ghent, Brussels, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Rome, Florence, Milan, Budapest, and many smaller cities in the region of Barcelona. I have learned a great deal about Barcelona’s culture, and my Spanish has significantly improved. Regardless, I think do not think my identity has changed considerably. There is a common perception that study abroad “changes you,” but I don’t know how accurate that is.
I certainly settled into Barcelona and became more comfortable talking to locals, allowing my “dumb American” identity to slightly subside. In my last week, I had a fifteen minute conversation in Spanish with a waiter at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Barcelona. I clearly had adapted better than many other American students, which was comforting to know. In March, when I was in line at a popular sandwich place, my friends and I were the only Americans to order in Spanish. However, my American identity was still very present. I dressed differently than Spaniards, I went to many restaurants that attracted other Americans, and I felt lost when visiting other European countries.
Other parts of my identity have remained completely stagnant. Now that I have returned to the United States, I realize that my ethnic and religious identity have not changed. I am still a slightly confused, half-brown atheist, but I am completely okay with this. I take pride in my unique identity.
...continue reading "Still Confused"
It’s difficult to confine my identity to a singular sentence, paragraph, or even blog post—perhaps because different parts of my identity become more prominent depending on my environment. I am a biracial woman; I am the daughter of two mothers; I am an atheist, although I was raised partly Jewish and partly Christian; I am from the United States.
Throughout my life, my background has served a source of constant confusion. I had trouble identifying as a person of color (POC) for most of my life because I have not experienced most of the challenges of POCs, as I am half white. There have been moments where my brownness is more present, like when I am in a room of all-white people, but when I am with my friends from home, most of whom are people of color, I feel whiter than ever. I do not know how to check the race and ethnicity boxes on a census nor do I know what it would be like to walk into the Hillel at GW, knowing that I have not been bat mitzvahed and have not grown up in a traditional Jewish household.
My confusing identity has certainly had a frustrating presence in my life, as people are constantly asking “what” I am or where I’m actually from, or denying that I’m Jewish. However, because I live in the United States, there are people around me are going through similar challenges and I have grown up in places where diversity is theoretically celebrated. This has allowed me gain pride in my identity. I will continue to hear the question “what are you?” on a daily basis, but answering that question is certainly easier than what I have experienced abroad.
...continue reading "My Study Abroad Identity"