Every time I open my mouth to mention that I’m from New York, people automatically assume that my life is like Gossip Girl. Sorry to disappoint you all, but my life is not like the American teen drama television series based on the book series of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesa. My life is not like the beautiful music video by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z where “the lights will inspire you” and the streets “will make you feel brand new”. I am from Brooklyn, New York, the home of the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Lil’ Kim. I know absolutely nothing about trust funds, I’ve never met a child with a trust fund who runs away on Daddy’s jet to France when a sexting scandal leaks out and I don’t even know how trust funds works. I live in Brooklyn on the last stop on the R train where I can get a bagel with eggs and cheese and a hot tea for under three dollars. We don’t have Chuck Bass’s and Blair Waldorf’s; we have Shaniqua’s and Dayquan’s.
Whenever someone comes to me saying, “I’ve always wanted to visit New York” or “Oh my goodness, what’s it like?”, my response is always one of the following: (1) “You’re not missing a thing”, (2) “When you come through, let me know so I can show you all the good stuff”, or (3) “Really? Why?”. I believe that the stereotype of all New Yorkers being spoiled brats with yachts who drink Mommy’s champagne and spend Daddy’s credit cards when he gets a new wife stems from shows like Gossip Girl, 90210 and more. Additionally, I believe that these stereotypes emerged to “fill a vacuum of knowledge”, as suggested by Hafez Adel, a University of California at Irvine student who studied in Barcelona, Spain, who wrote an article entitled “Slashing Stereotypes” for the magazine Abroad View. If all they have are these shows to tell them who we are and are not as New Yorkers, of course, they’ll have this ruthless depiction of us ruthlessly spending money and having sex with our best friend’s significant others.
Conversely, I had my share of stereotypes coming into the United Kingdom as well so I can’t exactly be the pot calling the kettle black on this one. I have no problem admitting that I thought that everyone here would have perfect table etiquette, only drinking tea and scones, wearing crisp Oxford shirts and speaking in the thickest accent I’ve ever come across. While the accent is true, it took no time at all for the stereotypes to die. Not that it should have been much of a surprise to me, but they’re regular young adults just like myself and anyone else who’s reading and falls into the 18-25 age demographic. As a matter of fact, they’re more carefree than we are. They’re not stuffy and crass and posh. They party harder, drink like fish and smoke like chimneys. Try to imagine less Buzz Killington from Family Guy and more like Skins. Not the overly edited American version. Overall, I can most certainly validate that blogging about these kinds of considerations can be an excellent way to document the way in which study abroad is improving my critical thinking skills.