Students studying abroad feel foreign attitudes of America first-hand

Posted 11:49pm April 4

by Nell McGarity
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

One of the pivotal issues that will shape the presidential race is the Bush administration’s foreign policy and voter’s perception of how well presumed Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry will be able to operate internationally.

Prominent Democrats, like Sen. Kerry and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, have criticized the Bush administration since the invasion of Iraq one year ago.

The White House has maintained their confidence in the foreign policy they are pursuing globally, not just in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Regardless of how either party paints the current status that the United States has abroad, students studying abroad encounter the impact of foreign policy on a daily basis.

“In my experience here in Italy, the Italians seem to be very welcoming and friendly towards Americans. It is our government that they do not like, specifically Bush and his war. They resent the fact that they were dragged into something that most of them do not believe in,” said Jillian McKnight, a junior at George Washington University studying abroad in Florence, Italy.

“All the time I am asked about what I think about Bush and America. I always tell them that I can only speak for myself, which they seem to be able to decipher,” said McKnight.

“I have not to date met a European who likes President Bush or things he is doing a good job in Iraq. Many Europeans are deeply concerned about his re-election and what it will mean for them and for Europe as a whole,” she said.

Joe Callahan, a senior at GW, studied abroad last spring on the University of Pittsburgh’s Semester at Sea Program. Even a year ago, Callahan experienced many of the same problems in several of the nearly dozen countries that he traveled to.

“No matter how hard I tried to fit in, I guess, it seems like people would easily tell that I am American, not to mention that I was there while we were declaring war, so that didn’t help much, ” said Callahan.

“People would equate all of the policies of the American government to the Americans traveling in that country. It caused arguments in bars and coffee shops; it seems like every time I would talk to someone I had to then defend the fact that I was American,” he said.

Callahan noted that of the countries he traveled to, Tanzania and South Africa were the two countries with the most anti-American sentiment that he experienced.

“The moment an Italian finds out you are American there is a different way they look at you. It’s not something I like to publicize. Canadian tourists wear Canadian flags all over their clothes and backpacks to show they aren’t American. It’s sad really. I’ve never felt afraid to be American or felt like I was in danger as an American. I do always feel like I have to defend our country when I’m speaking with Europeans, that I have to defend myself in a way,” said McKnight.

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