Reflection paper #1: Cultural Spaces

Upon receiving this assignment, I had a hard time narrowing down exactly what I think my cultural spaces entail. I like to consider myself a floater; very free spirited with limited ties to anything permanent.  Point in case, this is why I find this particular assignment to be perplexing. Beyond the obvious factors of being female, Caucasian, a student at the University of Minnesota and heterosexual, I am a complex person with a vast variety of “cultural spaces”.  I have studied abroad, I was a part of Delta Gamma for a significant portion of college, I have had 3 internships (including being a Global Ambassador for the U of M) , I am a waitress, I’m a dancer, I have a perpetual desire for traveling the world, I am an Advertising and Communication major, I was raised in North St. Paul, I snowboard, I surf, I enjoy yoga and I adore to paint. With that said, each one of the cultural spaces I mentioned comes with an abundance of different people, different places and different opinions.

Engaging in conversation with those that are “different” from me is actually a passion of mine. I fully enjoy learning about other cultures, religions, cities, etc. This is why I consider myself a “floater”. I don’t have any distinctive characteristics that stick out like a sore thumb and I thoroughly enjoy people, no matter what the background.

Given that I have to think of examples of cultural spaces and how they influence me, I will use my abroad experience first and foremost. I studied abroad in Australia, probably the closest country to United States anyone can think of, right? As similar as they may be, I was still discriminated against while I was there. I remember the first restaurant I ate at, I asked for a refill of soda and the waiter looked at me and said “Does this honestly look like an American dinner to you? Go back home”. Being that it was my first night, it threw me through a whirlwind of emotion, since I thought Australia was just like us. Turns out, most of them actually hate Americans; they think we are rich, obnoxious, get everything handed to us and have nice teeth. Seriously on the teeth thing, they talk about our dental care incredible amounts. Anyways, that was one of the hardest things I had to get used to. I was also rejected to multiple clubs and bars once they saw my state ID. I eventually started telling them I was Canadian so they would be more polite to me; it worked. Which brings me to the biggest cultural space I have to show for and will forever remain: being American. This signifies so many different things to other countries. In America, we all have sub-categories of cultural space from what state, city, neighborhood, school, family to individual hobbies and we often forget about the larger scheme of things. I know it is a little far-fetched to compare the discussion in class that we had on the Cedar-Riverside to my experience of discrimination abroad, but the word discrimination signifies exactly what my point is. Being that I assumed “White Privilege” would prevail in a country that white is also dominant and that proved to be false, I understand a little more about how discrimination feels. Cultural spaces of others also shape what we feel about them and vice versa. I could even use a “Mean Girls” example: nerds sit with nerds, skaters sit with skaters, mean girls sit with mean girls. I feel that holds validity in the real world, as well. Cultural space means a lot more than most make it out to be.

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