by Damaris Fernandez, Features Editor
Being a global citizen can be perceived as a blessing. Those who have lived around the world are often seen as individuals who go beyond patriotism and borders to be part of a single global community by frequently putting themselves in foregin surroundings.
However, the reality for some global citizens is quite the opposite; they feel like outsiders wherever they go. And making oneself at home in a new country is as exciting as it is improbable. With a group of friends from BCC and other colleges, we gathered to talk about their experiences as global citizens living in America.
The majority of them have dual citizenship, but this only adds to the feeling of alienation. “I’m literally a foreigner wherever I go,” says Andres Balvin, 20, who was born in France and raised in Colombia. “Even in my home [country]. When I go there people speak in English to me, and when I’m here they know I am a foreigner.”
Adapting to American culture and language was a challenge for most of them. “It was not easy at the beginning, the culture and slangs I couldn’t understand at all,” says Cinthya Castillo, 19, of Canadian and Ecuadorian origin.
“It is about how different sounds are,” Andres says. “Especially when my fundations were British English. Whenever I heard people talking I was like: are we even speaking the same language?”
But Language and culture aren’t the only problems these global citizens struggle with. In the short time they have lived in America, they have also experienced or witnessed discrimination. “One day I was at the laundry and I was talking Spanish with with my sister, and a lady told us ‘can you speak English? This is America!’” Cinthya says.
“I always tell people you should actually know your roots before you go out there to discriminate. You feel like a proud American, but you know that your ancestors were just a family of peasants that didn’t have anything and just came to this country, and that is the only reason why you’re here,” Andres says.
“The only time something like that has happened to me was with an ex-boyfriend’s little brother. I was speaking Spanish in front of him and he was like ‘this is America’” says Yvette Castillo, 18, who is Cynthia’s sister. “I didn’t say anything, but it’s sad how little kids already have these ideas and mentality. That’s wrong.”
“I know a lot of people who do not want to speak their native languages because they’re afraid of being discriminated against,” Andres says. “They are afraid of fighting back and that’s why racism is still there, because we don’t fight back. We need to fight back.”
Mayra Blanco, 20, from the Dominican Republic, says she hasn’t experienced discrimination towards herself, but her parents often do. “It is harder for older people to learn English and to adapt to the culture so they suffer more than we do,” she says.
For the most part, this group has been able to assimilate into American culture; however, there are certain areas of American society they find quite flawed.
“One of the biggest flaws of American society is how superficial and indifferent it is,” Andres says. “We can never generalize, of course. But you can see a lot of people who lack common knowledge, general culture. You cannot ask some Americans where the Middle East is, because they will probably point to Canada. In this country you have the possibility to be better, we have the means. People should use those means to be more aware and to become better.”
Relationships and friendships are perceived differently around the globe, and this can add to the feeling of alienation for global citizens.
“An example is how people perceive friendships and relationships here,” Andre says. “Friendships here are by stages, you have a set of friends in high school and then you move to college. You are constantly moving up. [In my] culture, we have the same friends from childhood.”
It’s not only personal relationships that differ from culture to culture, but professional ones as well. “In the Dominican Republic, you call your professor by their first name,” Mayra says. “I even hugged my teachers. I was, in fact, friends with them. And when I came here it was like ‘oh, no we don’t do that’.”
Regardless of limitations, they have tried to conserve their traditions and memories of what they once called home. “I still call it home, but it has changed. People move on, you move on yourself. It’s never going to be the same,” Andres says.
“When you go back the first days feel really awkward, until you get used to it again,” Cinthya says.
This group of friends has assimilated into American culture and its lifestyle, but they don’t consider this nation their home. However, they are hopeful that one day perhaps they will. They left their homes behind years ago, and since then they have unsuccessfully attempted to make every new place their new home. Until then, they will just be foreigners wherever they are.