Fish out of Water

As a new transfer student, and an international one to boot, it was with understandable trepidation that I walked the halls of my new university last week.  My first day on campus was riddled with self-doubt and I found myself feeling rather anxious. Before each class started, I nervously checked and re-checked my schedule to assure myself I was in the correct room at the appointed hour [because my living nightmare is being the kid who has to gather her belongings and slink, embarrassed, out of class when the professor announces, “This is English 101, so everyone make sure you’re in the right room”].

My first course, Canadian Literature, went smoothly enough.  Walk in, sit down, take notes, leave.  Check.  Then I had a long break during which I secured a parking pass, payed part of my tuition, munched on snacks, and updated my Facebook™ status.  Check, check, check and check.  I was passing my first day in relative peace and had experienced no major catastrophes to speak of.

But (and there’s always a “but” in stories like these)…  My relative solitude was disrupted at the start of my second class, American Lit.

I knew from a previous encounter that this particular professor was American—a fact which drew me to her instantly.  And I knew from mere experience that many Canadians, students in particular, tend to harbor a lifetime of grudges toward Americans for a plethora of reasons (many of which are completely valid and warranted).  So it was with a measure of intrigue that I listened to the professor’s opening comments.

“I’m going to take a poll,” she said, “and it’s the closest we’ll ever get to statistics in this class, so bear with me.  I’m going to name a country, and you raise your hand if you have positive feelings toward it.  If you have negative feelings, simply leave your hand down.”

“Australia.” Every hand was raised.

“Japan.”  Again, every hand.

“Russia.”  This time, a few students kept their hands lowered, but most hands went up.

“Germany.”  This country was about 50/50.

Now at this point, most students assumed the “clincher” country would be Iran, Iraq, or another forerunner in political controversy.

So it was interesting to watch as the professor continued with, “America.”

Guess who was the only person to raise her hand?  If you guessed yours truly, you’re a good guesser.  [I should note I was sitting on the fourth row, and there were several rows behind me I couldn’t see.  It’s possible that some students back there raised their hands.  However, the overall tension in the room indicated otherwise.]

I am delighted to be living in Canada and meeting the folks here, yet harbor a lifelong sense of nationalism toward my own country.  How can I make friends with people—nice as they are—who won’t raise their hand for me? Image from here.

The professor, expecting those exact results, took it all in stride.  Easygoing and light-mannered, she went on to question students about their reasoning, and ended up with a simple request that we all keep an open mind as we venture into the vast world of American Literature this semester.

Image from here.

She might have been recovered from it, but for me, major damage was done.  See, on a regular basis, I am torn between pride in my country and loathing of confrontation.  I can’t count the times I’ve been put on the spot, called up to defend my countrymen for idiotic actions that make it on television.  Of course, if ever questioned, I don’t hide my nationality, but I’m not anxious to announce it upon first meeting.

“Doh!”  Image from here.

My biggest fear?  Someone will ask me a political question and I won’t have an educated answer, which will perpetuate the stereotype that all Americans are obese, lazy imbeciles whose only narrow view of the world comes from what tidbits they can glean off reruns of The Simpsons.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in Canada, fiascos, in all seriousness, my edjumacation and me, sad things. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Fish out of Water

  1. Holly Decker says:

    beautiful post, beautifully written.

    how interesting… and how thought provoking.
    and, i think you represent our country VERY well… very well indeed.
    i, myself, am somewhere on the fence about my patriotism… but something in my mind tells me that if i were to venture to other countries, i would be grateful for the one i do live in. i know our country has SO much to improve on… mostly people and how we treat them. mostly how we use our resources… mostly a lot of stuff. but i cant help but feel that it is a special place… one with lots of history. i wish i was more involved in making it better… instead i am just trying day to day to make myself and my family better… hoping it will eventually spread as a rock in a pond causes ripples.

    but seriously… to think that no one will raise their hand for us… bothers me. and i am glad you raised yours.

  2. Whitney says:

    Why such hatred for America? I dont really get into politics, it sorta confuses me. Do Americans have a hatred for Canada? This just baffles me.

  3. DeAnna says:

    Wow, I being a dual Canadian/US citizen find that a little offensive that only one person in an American Lit class would have positive feelings towards the US. Where as other countries had a more even ratio of negativity. Mind you the prof wasn’t so specific on what aspects of the countries that class members might have negative or positive feelings for. And I know many other Canadians who don’t like certain things about the US or the few Americans they have met. Good for you, for maintaining your patriotism!

  4. Lauren says:

    I am with Whitney…why the hate? I don’t hate on “America’s Hat”.

  5. DeeMarie says:

    Wow. What a message. I guess it’s good that the Professor already understands the vibe… I wish you luck. And the only other thing to add… wanna be Facebook friends?? :)

  6. Katie says:

    Wow. I would sort of expect that response in some parts of the world, even in England. But I wouldn’t have thought that would be the case in Canada. So much for our “friends” to the north!

  7. niki says:

    I would have the same fear. I’m happy that someone like you(one with more knowledge and wit regarless of what you might think) is representing our nation over someone like me. Props to you! I think you must surely do a better job than you give yourself credit for.

  8. Camille says:

    Holly Decker– Thanks. I know Americans have our issues, but I will always raise my hand for us.

    Whitney– I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say it’s “hatred…” More like annoyance with antics portrayed by the media.

    DeAnna– You’ve got a point. The professor did ask for more details later on, like basis for the feelings Most of the comments were based on “People I know from there,” or “What’s going on there right now.”

    Lauren– I guess I’ll need to research this further, and report back to my readers.

    DeeMarie– I like friends! Facebook sounds nice, with the exception that I’m trying to keep myself somewhat anonymous with this blog (although many of my high school friends can’t be convinced to switch their links from “Camille ‘Last Name'” to “Archives of Our Lives.” No matter how I try…). But yeah, that would be good.

    Katie– Don’t worry—I’ve been met with that response in England, too. And France, Belgium, & the Netherlands. It’s a pretty widespread opinion, as far as I can tell.

    niki– Wow, that’s really nice of you to say. I value travel in my life, and I can honestly say that I’ve acted both stereotypes. I can see peoples’ perspectives, but I want it to change.

  9. anonymous says:

    That does sound a bit severe, that no one had positive feelings for the U.S., besides you. Obviously the professor set it up to turn out that way, sounds like she’s taken the first step to breaking down some of the stereotypical thinking of young Canadians. It’s a very difficult time, with two foreign wars, and many Canadians wanting to be less involved, some even blaming the U.S. for Iraq. And first year University students often choose strong but relatively unsubstantiated opinions about world politics. Your classmates are lucky to have an intelligent American prof, who can confront and discuss prejudice. I’m sorry no one else put up their hand..i would have, as a Canadian trying not to be so typically anti-American as some of the rest of the world.
    You are a credit to your homeland, perhaps your classmates will benefit from knowing you, and learn your focus on trying not to judge.
    I really have no idea how to fix the world, and it’s a little embarrassing to hear of a whole classroom of prejudiced Canadians. It’s probably that damn wind down there driving them wonky.

  10. Very well written! (Oy, I sound like a professor now!) While most people don’t like confrontation, there are those fresh faces who do not realize they are confronting the norm when they admit a truth. Be your own person, I’ve always thought. Of course, I AM American and most of my education DOES come from the Simpsons. D’oh!
    Again, nicely put!

  11. anonymous says:

    I just had a brilliant thought, as you befriend those classmates you can talk openly with, you’ll tell some of them of your blog, they can comment en masse, and we’ll fix this whole American-Canadian thing!

  12. jami says:

    When I was traveling though China I came across a lot of people. It seemed to me that people hate american politics (so do I)..but they LOVE america (the place). I don’t know…but most of the people were Chinese.
    I did meet a lot of people from Europe…they all HATED America..the place and the politics.
    I don’t know why people hate us so much…it seems like we are the good guys…but maybe that is a stupied statment. I have never lived in a different country to get their perspective.

  13. Tisha says:

    I would totally raise my hand for you!! I love America, and many Americans. I firmly believe you can’t judge any group by the actions of an individual. It never works out well. You’d think people would have learned that by now. Hmmm…

  14. anonymous says:

    hm. that’s interesting. we’ve always heard that our country is the “greatest on earth.” maybe it really isn’t. jamie’s right- we’re missing out on a whole different perspective.

  15. niki says:

    guess what i just realized i forgot to tell you…that baby crib turns into a toddler bed!!! makes it worth every penny!

  16. HeatherPride says:

    Well, Camille…..you know, America didn’t get to be where it is today because we’re the kind of people who just roll over and take stuff. Our ancestors had to be spunky, or we’d be called Great Britain and not the United States. And we still carry that tradition of free thinking and independent action with us today. Many nations have us (among others) to thank for their continued independence as well.

    And when I was up in Canada, I wasn’t exactly impressed with how WORLDLY Canadians were, either. I came across several who had no idea where San Francisco even was. One group came through Kansas City on a camping trip with gear for the dessert. Um….Kansas City is not even CLOSE to the dessert.

    But I met some Canadians that I absolutely adored, including the one I almost married.

    So it just goes to show you that you can’t judge millions upon millions of people as if they were all one unit. We’re called the melting pot for a reason.

  17. Camille says:

    anonymous– The more I read the reactions of my readers, the more I realise I should clarify this post a bit more. Maybe Friday. Stay tuned!

    Sprite’s Keeper– If you sound like a professor, you sound like one I’d like to have. Hopefully I get comments like that on all my papers this year…

    anonymous– I certainly hope so!

    Jami– I’ve decided to write a follow-up post on this topic. Stay tuned. Friday.

    Tisha– Oh, thank you! So nice to hear someone’s got my back.

    anonymous– It’s all about perspective, and I can sort of see both sides of this issue. Check back Friday if you want to hear more on the matter.

    niki- Score. I was actually worried about that, because I know a lot of them do these days, and it would be a shame to spend so much money on a crib that didn’t even do that. Phew!

    HeatherPride– Spunky, spitfire HeatherPride. Thanks for keeping some perspective.

  18. Granamama says:

    Thank you, Camille. You do me proud. I remember when you were in grade school and we shared pride in and love for the song I am including. I echo the lines of Lee Greenwood and have published the lyrics as written below:

    Proud to be American
    Music and Lyrics by Lee Greenwood

    If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life,
    And I had to start again with just my children and my wife.
    I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
    ‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.

    And I’m proud to be an American where as least I know I’m free.
    And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
    And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
    ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

    From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee,
    across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea,

    From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA,
    Well, there’s pride in every American heart,
    and it’s time to stand and say:

    I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
    And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
    And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
    ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A

  19. Anonymous says:

    Millie,

    I am really irritated by this, for some reason. I’ll have to think on this more. Thanks for the food for thought.

  20. Cristin says:

    Yeah, what is the deal with America Jr. hating the American’s so much? Oh wait, maybe it’s because we call them things like America Jr. and the 51st state.

  21. Thais says:

    That’s horrible!!! I’d be offended too and I’m not even American!!! No wonder they were all for Obama too! YIKES!

  22. Canada says:

    Newsflash;
    I in all actuality do not in fact hate America.
    I’m mostly indifferent. It’s easier that way.
    L.A. not having good taco is small town Alberta. Taco bell works fine there.
    Check out Red Deer..they probably have two Mehico ristorante.

  23. Jacque says:

    CANADA HEARTS AMERICA.
    (HP, i’m a bit surprised by your hostility, you seemed nicer before).

  24. Pingback: Archives of Our Lives » “This Ridiculous Country”

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