North American window

By Axel Marcenaro
On October 26, 2018

Every semester, in the last minute, I decide to live on campus. This late decision ensures my roommate is never the same, and while I am usually bummed about this, it always ends up being an enlightening experience. Every roommate has taught me something about myself or others.

This year, my roommate is a foreign exchange student from Vietnam named Huy. Huy loves American pop culture; it’s how he learned a lot of his English slang. He knows all the big movies, listens to all the big musicians and even has a special place in his heart for 90s hip hop.

After a while, I asked Huy about Vietnam’s disposition toward the US and if the people still hold negative feelings towards the war. He told me everyone is educated about it, but America is looked at in a very positive way.

Then to prove it, he showed me how his people react when different American presidents visit the country. I was astounded. There were entire parades with people throwing flowers and playing instruments and shouting for a man who was not their own leader.

Huy explained how his country pays considerable attention to ours and educated me on some of the economic factors that play a role. He then asked me what I thought about America’s politics and some of our past presidents along with the current.

I thought this was my place to shine as an American with inside knowledge of life in the United States. Well, it didn’t work out like that. Huy grilled me on questions, bringing up important senators, representatives, and bills I had never even heard of.

Huy knew more about American politics than me, an American. According to him, this was normal information for a person from his country to know about. I was embarrassed and what was initially a conversation that swelled my pride in America (I mean an entire country across the ocean treats our leader with as much respect as their own, they follow our politics, follow our culture and even come here to experience it firsthand) soon became a realization of my very American disposition and ignorance.

I know there are people who follow other nations’ politics and our own much more keenly than I, but most people my age don’t care much. So like most of my peers, I didn’t know anything about Vietnamese culture, their government, their politics, or their way of life.

There are almost 200 countries on this planet, and a majority of Americans lack any interest in them. This experience has left me yearning to ask more questions of people from different backgrounds and I have found that I am always intrigued and delighted the more answers I hear.

So all I ask is that you don’t forget to take a look out of the North American window every once in a while, there’s a whole world out there.

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