Tag Archives: United States

First 24

Moments of culture-shock durning first day being back in the States:

1) Just hearing one language, my ears are bored
2) How loud the commercials and TV shows are. It seems like everything is on level 10 and stays there
3) I keep going to the wrong side of the vehicle
4) No one is walking, I’m used to seeing many people walking to work, school, the store, and even on the highways people are walking
5) Where are the combies??? Seriously, I miss these guys.
6) Going to the grocery store made my eyes vibrate. All of our packaging is SO bright!
7) Wastefulness is everywhere
8) Americans really are loud
9) Our vehicles are huge
10) I’m handling US money like foreign currency

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Africa’s True Size


An American Abroad

thI suppose it is to be expected that when an American travels abroad you are going to feel the brunt of stereotypes. Because to the people you encounter you are not one of 46 million but you are America personified. The United States as flesh and blood, standing right in front of them. I’ve had my share of stereotypes tossed at me, in the short time I’ve been in South Africa, from other international students. They assume that they know what the United States is like because they have been exposed to our entertainment culture (movies, television shows, and music).

The saturation of entertainment coming out of the US makes people think that they already know everything about the country.  However, when pressed most people do not know specific places other than New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.  What they know is more what they think they know about the US because the media is not an accurate portrait of the entirety of our country.  Some people I have met know Minnesota or North Carolina, which always makes for a fun conversation.

Since being here the only regular question I’ve gotten from locals is, “Why are you studying here?”  It is interesting because it reminds me of my experience moving to Minnesota.  I have had very few people ask me details about where I’m from, but I get “Why’d you move to MN?” all the freaking time! The question is usually asked with a tilt of disdain in their voice and I can never tell if it is for me or the place which they are from.

Usually, when one of the American students does explain something about the US people are surprised.  For example, most people do not seem to grasp the vast diversity represented within our country.  How large the United States is or how I could have a difficult time moving from one part of the country (NC) to another (MN).  I’m guessing it is because most people, including the Europeans, have just never thought about it in any real detail.  I mean I didn’t know how difficult it would be to make the move and I was the one doing it!  lol! I was grateful for this Washington Post article, “Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?” because it helps me explain the differences throughout our country in a more coherent way.

Oh, and one more thing…yes, we are loud!  But so is everyone else 😉


South Africa: Some Numbers

Statistic South Africa United States Comparison
Size (sq. km.) 1.2 million 9.6 million 8 Times Larger
Population 46.9 million 298.3 million 6 Times Larger
GDP (2005) $ 239.5 billion $ 12.5 trillion 58 Times Larger
GDP Per Capita $ 5,107 $ 41,904 8 Times Larger

Some other numbers to help provide perspective on South Africa.

Unemployment
South Africa 24.10%
United States 6.6%

Poverty Rate
South Africa 31.3%
United States 15.1%

Life Expectancy
South Africa 49.5 yrs
United States78.5 yrs

Infant mortality
South Africa 42.2/1000
United States 5.9/1000

Female Survival to 65 years old
South Africa 49.03%
United State 91.14%

Male survival to 65 years old
South Africa 43.35%
United States 86.13%

AnnualHIV/AIDS Deaths
South Africa 310,000
United States 17,000

Adult HIV/AIDS
South Africa 17.8%
United States 0.6%

People Living w/ HIV/AIDS
South Africa 5.6 million
United States 1.2 million


Meeting my cohort

Tonight was a farewell reception for the group going to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa for the semester. Its a good mix of first-year students, juniors, and seniors. There is also a wide mix of majors going (business, travel and leisure studies, psychology, elementary education, special education, and undecided. But, the group is 100% female!

I was surprised by this because the one group meeting I attended there was a guy there. Amy, who is the intern in the Multi-Cultural Student Services department helping to arrange all of our paperwork, said that study abroad is statistically 70% female. While universities are 60/40 split, study abroad sees a higher gender split. She sighted several studies, which attributed the lower rate for males studying abroad to such things as: risk, majors, and planning.

We did some icebreakers and talked about what we will miss (or what we think we will miss) while we are in South Africa. I’m not sure what I’ll miss because most of the things I will miss, I already miss because they are back in NC! I am looking forward to seafood! I do not think this fact can be overstated.

I still do not know where I will live while I’m in South Africa.  I do not think I will live with my fellow St. Cloud State University students, but  I wonder if I will be with other international students who are not studying abroad?  I’m not stressed about the situation, just curious.

50 days!!!


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