Last blog. Better late than never (and lucky that it arrived at all, with dial-up serving as my principle connection to the internet).
I left my host country a month ago. December 13th, 2008, I was back in America. And looking back at this journey, this epic study abroad sojourn, I find myself thinking... All in all, it really wasn't that much different. Nearly everyone spoke English (with the exception of my host family, of course), so it's not like I was out of my league. I suppose, as an American ambassador, I did help some people with their English. But it's not even like they required my assistance. Europeans as a whole speak English better than some Americans, I think.
As for being an Allegheny ambassador... I never met any college students or fellow German peers on my trip, so I can't really speak for that aspect. I didn't have the chance to be a representative from an American college. No one knew what or where Allegheny College was, so it's not even like I could brag about it.
However, as an American ambassador... I do have quite a few tales. As I have generally noticed, most Americans traveling abroad in Europe are complete idiots. Okay, that may be too harsh; many people travel to Europe who are incredibly intelligent and wonderful. But it seemed the only Americans I met on my travelings applied to the first category. For example, let me take you to Fuessen, Germany. Home of the Castle Neuschwannstein, probably most famous medieval-esque castle in the world. A common attraction site. A breeding ground for stupid Americans.
I was here with my fellow study abroad companion, Jen. We were staying in Munich for a few days on fall break, and had decided to come see the castle. We got our tickets, and were waiting on the impressive castle grounds for our tour to begin, when we hear... English. Not only that, but... American English. Could it be? Fellow Americans also here to see the magnificent but unfinished castle?
Our tour begins, and we ascend a short flight of stairs in order to get to the second floor of the castle. As we reach the top and wait for our tour guide, we hear again an American-accented voice begin to complain.
"That was a lot of stairs. Woo, I'm out of shape!" And finally, we spot the Americans. They appear to be in their late twenties, and are dressed... well, typically American. One man is wearing a torn and ratted jersey of some sort without sleeves. The others were dressed slightly more casual, but it didn't really help. They were all panting hard - surprising, for it was only about two flights of stairs. Comparing this to the walk up the mountain to get to the castle, it was nothing.
The tour begins, and we tried to separate ourselves away from the Americans. They talked loudly throughout the entire tour, and were generally disrespectful - taking pictures even though it was forbidden by Bavarian law, reaching around barriers to touch artifacts, and swearing and cussing at menial inconveniences.
When we finally reached the end of the tour, and were able to separate ourselves for good, Jen and I came to a realization - we were much better ambassadors than the Americans we had seen today. Although we were not always the model ambassador - I have strong memories of screaming Phantom of the Opera at the top of my lungs in front of the Reichstag, or German parliament building - at least we knew when to act appropriately.
Overall, I think all of my friends and I were good ambassadors. We varied from the crude and boisterous Americans that so often flocked to the touristy attractions in a way that was most definitely good. Instead of trying to stick out and be recognized for that difference, we tried to fit in. We tried to act cultured. We tried to learn instead of just see. Because of that, I think we represented the American people much better than, for example, the Neuschwannstein hooligans.