In contrast to the previous, light-hearted post about food, I will discuss a more contentious subject in this post: U.S. national politics and what it is like to live abroad in our current political climate. As this is a subject about which I constantly think every day, I have more to say than could fill this blog post. Thus, I will concentrate on the two largest revelations I’ve uncovered this semester as well as their consequences.
Before I arrived in France, I was quite eager to get out of the U.S. Having participated in the non-consensual repeated gut-punch that was the Presidential election, I was feeling more than a little jaded and dejected about our political system. In fact, I had developed a healthy distain for America overall and believed my semester abroad would confirm my growing notion that life as an expat might just be the life I wanted to pursue. If it isn’t clear by now, I am a Democrat. I grew up surrounded mostly by liberals in a blue state. I attend a college that is crunchier than a Nature Valley Bar and that also instills upon its students the importance of being critical. So in December 2016, I found myself turning away from what I perceived was the inevitably doomed U.S. and towards the seemingly welcoming and laid-back Socialist country of France.
There exists a plethora of reasons why my views on America did a 180 not long into the semester – many of which I likely have yet to realize or comprehend. The most apparent was adapting to a new cultural and society. To be fair, France is not all that different from the U.S. in many respects (my friend Patrick once said France is like America with a different director). Consequently, I didn’t find myself feeling “homesick” – I had already spent two and a half years a thousand miles away from my hometown – as I did feeling oddly nostalgic about my life back in the states. Since arriving, random chilhood memories have been popping into my mind increasingly often. Because I am content with my life here in Nantes, contemplating these memories doesn’t make me yearn to leave France so much as it has made me develop a profound appreciation of the U.S. Studying abroad has given me a chance to step back and admire how much America actually has to offer. I won’t pretend like it doesn’t have many, many problems or that it’s objectively better than life in France, but it’s the life I am accustomed to and I quickly realized that it would be immensely difficult on many levels to give it up.
With the arrival of our new president, however, life in America as I have known it is in danger of changing for the worst. To be abroad while the Trump administration slowly dismantles the legacy of that of Obama’s is isolating and frustrating. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, I started to feel like I had walked out on my country right when it needed me. I wrote my Senator expressing my concerns, but there was little else I felt like I could do to uphold the American values that I had always cherished. Furthermore, when I am the only American in the room and am asked questions about Trump, it can be difficult to explain the situation to someone who likely has never visited the U.S. I tell them that yes, Trump is crazy and is making me scared for the future of the world, but between the language and cultural barriers it can be hard to adequately explain to them why I am nonetheless looking forward to going back home. The point I put the most emphasis on when discussing Trump in French is that there are more Americans who do not support Trump than those who do. This fact helps break down the notion, which a decent amount of French people have, that most if not all citizens back in the states are on board with what Trump is doing.
Instead of letting my concerns remain an internal stew, I decided to act upon them. Feeling like it was about time I start giving back to the country in which all the nostalgic memories that keep popping into my head were created, I decided to work for an AmeriCorps program this summer. As the program is a conservation organization in Maine, it has little to do with politics. Nonetheless, however, I expect the work to be satisfying as I will be helping to provide access to one of the most stunning nature settings in the entire country.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Bonjour! My name is Keanan Gleason, I am from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but currently live in Iowa where I am a third year student at Grinnell College. I am double-majoring in Economics and French, and this spring I will be studying abroad in Nantes, France! I hope to get to know my temporary home by going on lots of runs, eating at various restaurants, and exploring with friends.</p>