American Studies Abroad

Published August 18, 2021

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” ~James Baldwin

Dear readers,

We hope everyone is having a great summer!

A while back, Leeya came across an article: “Teaching American Studies in the Middle East.” This article was written by Dr. Suzanne Enzerink: a Dutch professor of American Studies who has taught abroad. The article brought up something intriguing: how teaching US history shapes perspectives on the United States. Leeya soon proposed this as an idea for the next A and L issue. Since then, we have gathered responses from almost 40 people, each of them with a fresh perspective on the United States.

While writing this edition we had a cute helper, we can’t help but mention: Lincoln, Leeya’s one year-old golden retriever puppy. He was glad to assist by begging for more water and diving under the Japanese maple tree in front of Adalia’s house on a treasure hunt for the perfect rock.

A final announcement: we have published the interviews from our past magazine editions (issues 15 and 16) with Mr. Hines, Dr. Sinha, Symoné, and Raven. Check them out at the links here:

Don’t forget to subscribe to the A and L YouTube channel if you want to be alerted when we upload new videos!

We hope everyone enjoys this jam-packed summer edition!


Adalia and Leeya

Where in the World? Our Interviewees and the World

Drawing by Adalia

Before you dive into the magazine, Adalia has drawn a map and key of all the locations mentioned!

  1. North Carolina, United States
    1. Raleigh is home to A and L
      1. It is also home to the North Carolina Museum of History, where you can see the Pauli Murray exhibit!
    2. Dr. Enzerink studied abroad at UNC Chapel Hill
    3. Dr. Enzerink’s roommate was from Durham
  2. Georgia, United States
    1. Leeya’s Virtual Voyage included a trip to Atlanta
    2. In Pursuit of Freedom, Dr. Wallace’s book will be published by the University of Georgia Press soon!
  3. Nathan, Georgia and Trevor have traveled to New York City and Gerges lives here. Many of the Colombian kids hope to come to New York one day!
    1. Trevor went to Niagara Falls when he was visiting
  4. Dr. Enzerink did her Phd at Brown University, Rhode Island. Zuzanna, Alessandro, Alex, Georgia and Alexander all met Leeya here. Lastly, Professor Guterl teaches here
  5. Dr. Enzerink taught at Phillips Academy Andover, Massachusetts
  6. Trevor has visited Disneyland in California
  7. Fiona has traveled to Canada
    1. Gerges lived in Toronto
    2. Gerges also studied at Halifax University, Nova Scotia, Canada
  8. Cristian, Liyen, Maria J, Donna, Nicolle, Sara, Camila, Nicole, Laura, Luisa, Juan Esteban S., Eva, Daniel, Sara Maldonado, Maria Fernanda J., Maria Fernanda G., Paula, Juan Esteban Q., Luis, Alejandra, David and Valeria live in Soacha, Colombia
  9. Dr. Wallace currently teaches at the University of Bristol in England
  10. Dr. Wallace is from a small town near Stirling, Scotland
  11. Dr. Suzanne Enzerink is from a small part of the Netherlands
    1. An event at the University of Groningen inspired her to major in US Studies
  12. Fiona, Nathan, Rose, Élisa and Paul live in a small town near Annecy, France
  13. Currently, Dr. Enzerink is living and teaching in St. Gallen, Switzerland
  14. Zuzanna is from Warsaw, Poland
  15. Alessandro is from Bologna, Italy
  16. Alex and Georgia are from Thessaloniki, Greece
  17. Gerges was born in Egypt
  18. Dr. Enzerink taught at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon
  19. Gerges and her family lived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  20. Trevor, Yahya and Daniella are from Nairobi, Kenya
  21. Sangita is from West Bengal, India. Rhythm is also from India.
  22. Alexander currently lives in Seoul, South Korea
  23. Alexander was born in Guam

America in the World’s Consciousness

Introducing Our Interviewees Through How They Became Aware of the United States

For this edition, we conducted about three dozen interviews with foreigners to learn about their perspective of the US. We asked everyone when they had first become aware of the US to get an understanding of where their perspective came from. Some individuals had positive memories of becoming aware of the US, others had negative experiences, and many had neutral moments associated with the US.

A Bad First Impression

Murray Gerges grew up in Egypt, Abhu Dahbi, and Canada. She was aware of the US, but it wasn’t until 9/11, when she really developed a perspective on a country whose actions would affect the rest of her life. She told us how 9/11 increased the amount of security at the airport and changed the checkpoint scene, especially for her dad and uncles. Even though she was only 10, she remembers being “horrified by imperialism,” including seeing how the value of American soldiers’ lives was placed above that of brown soldiers in the Middle Eastern conflicts.

Overall, the world events that happen in the United States spillover to other countries. Even if we think our actions stay within our borders, we are a very well-known country so they will affect other countries. We are like the leader of the popular cliche at school. Everyone knows us. Some envy us. Some love us. Some hate us. But our bullying (in Merray’s case, racism against Brown people) is seen by everyone. Just as the bullied kid at school would experience, no one wants to take their side for fear of what the popular kid will do. Due to the United States’s “bullying,” which began over 20 years ago, we’ve solidified a trend of fear against Middle Easterners and South Asian people. What America does matters. Our actions affect other countries.

Curiosity Through Education

Ever since he was a young child, living in Stirling, Scotland, Dr. Shaun Wallace has been fascinated by the United States and its history. During his second year at university, he read Frederick Douglass’s 1845 Narrative during the American History Unit. This is when his interest skyrocketed. Fourteen years later, he is still searching for answers to his curious questions. His interest in slavery and fugivity fuel his personal research in discovering the first American fugitive slave ad and creating a database, the Fugitive Slave Database, with even more of them.

Dr. Enzerink didn’t tell us a specific memory of becoming aware of the US, because she was always interested in United States media from listening to popular American music to seeing American sports and TV shows in her everyday life. She decided to major in American Studies after visiting the University of Groningen, where she became even more fascinated in understanding American culture, politics and history.

What foreigners learn about American history in school can make them aware or even more interested in the subject. Both the professors we interviewed became even more interested in American Studies after learning about it in an educational setting.

Furthermore, many of the teens we interviewed first became aware of the US through what they learned at school. Even if they were only taught basic facts, their viewpoints were still shaped by what they’d learned. If we care about how we are perceived by other countries, a large way part of our influence comes from education.

What the Media Can Teach

The majority of the teenagers we talked to have been aware of the United States since a pretty young age. A through their knowledge from American news, social media, and pop culture. This could mean hearing the name “the United States” on the news, listening to musical lyrics, or trying to understand American high schoolers from movies. For example, Fiona, from France remembers being around age 12, watching YouTube clips and excerpts of popular shows, like The Ellen Show and The Tonight Show. Paul remembers learning more about the US when he and his sister would watch the Tom Sawyer cartoon. Daniella, from Kenya, remembers learning about the United States from watching movies. Maria J, from Colombia, noticed the United States being mentioned on TV.

Overall, the younger generation relies on media and technology for their information. The movies we make or the YouTube videos that are created can all have a large impact on how young foreigners see America. Even within the United States, what is put on the media has such a huge impact. However, not everyone realizes how much the United States impacts others and how many eyes are watching eyes.

Additionally, because TV usage has grown throughout the world, many people are exposed to the news from a young age. For example, some households constantly have the news which results in younger people hearing the name of a different country. 

Lastly, because the younger generation is so connected through phones, the separation of cultures is shrinking. We are all becoming involved in one universal culture created through social media. For example, a teenager from Poland knows the same “trends” as a teenager from the United States. 

A Familial Introduction

The last major path to the introduction of the United States is through familial ties. Several teens we interviewed became aware of the United States through their family members. For example, Trevor, from Nairobi, Kenya, became aware of the US at a young age because he has cousins living in the US. Another example is Alexander, from South Korea. He was born in Guam, a US territory, where dad used to work. He is very curious about the United States, from a multitude of angles: political, cultural and social.

Having a relationship with the US, whether that is through family or being born here seems to create curiosity about the country’s history and culture. Even more than learning through the media or at school, having that permanent connection to a country makes knowing about it even more special.

We must realize that the United States has a large impact on the world whether it be through world events, past history, or media. As the world becomes increasingly connected through technology, perspectives are widened and American Studies expands abroad.

Part of what we want you to take away from this edition is that you can love America while still seeing its flaws. Viewing our country from another country’s perspective is a way to zoom out and understand the global impact. Like a person, the United States is always changing for good or bad. It will impact others whether we want to or not. However, like any written piece of work, we also want you to find your own takeaways from our research.

To Love is To Criticize:The US Through Dutch Eyes: Dr. Suzanne Enzerink

Dr. Suzanne Enzerink is a professor of American Studies. She has taught in several countries including the United States, Lebanon and Switzerland.

Enzerink grew up in a rural part of the Netherlands, constantly listening to popular American artists like the Backstreet Boys, Aaliyah, and Destiny’s Child. She became interested in American Studies after hearing a presentation on the major at the University of Groningen. At the time, she was there to look at their International Business and Management program and the general history program. Enzerink explained, “I had never even heard of the degree. Yet when I listened to the presentation—the combination of history, culture, and politics—I was sold.” She studied American Studies at a college in the Netherlands. During her BA, she studied abroad in North Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill. Enzerink told us, “My roommate was from Durham, so I got to do Thanksgiving with her family, explore the area, have good BBQ, get initiated to the UNC-Duke rivalry, etc. What I love about North Carolina is how warm everyone was to me.”

When she was doing her MA in American Studies, she received a competitive talent grant from the Dutch government to go to the US and ended up at Brown University. Afterwards, she taught US history at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts. A year later, she entered into the Ph.D program in American Studies at Brown University.

After she graduated in 2019, Enzerink taught as an assistant professor of American Studies at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. She was there for two and a half years and described those as “very difficult years for Lebanon,” from the currency losing over 90% of its value against the USD to widespread blackouts to the political corruption to the Beirut port explosion, all on top of the pandemic. Regardless, Enzerink was able to enjoy Lebanon. “It was a very happy time in my life because of the beauty of the country, the people I met there, the magnificent university and its campus,” she said, “Living there gave me, in many ways, a new perspective on life, on what I take for granted, and also on the role of education.”

As of this January, she lives in St. Gallen, Switzerland, a town about the size of Chapel Hill. She is an assistant professor of American Studies at the university there.

In addition to her teaching, Enzerink has written several books.

Personal Experience with the United States 

Enzerink didn’t visit the US until her first year of college, but she always had a strange fascination with it. “You just couldn’t turn on the news without hearing about some consequential decision the US had made or an event that happened there,” she said, “Virtually all commercial channels exclusively had US television shows. Same for music…All of this sparked the question for me, how did this come to be?”

In high school, she learned a little bit of US history with the historical linkages between the Netherlands and the US (Amsterdam and New Amsterdam, Brooklyn and Breukelen, etc), which only fueled her interest.

Teaching American Studies in the US as a Non-US citizen

Enzerink sees teaching American Studies in the classroom as an enrichment. When she was at Brown, the class background was usually a mix of perspectives in terms of national background, race, gender, sexuality, class and more. She said, “I was just one more voice to add to the mix. I think, in general, students appreciate that I brought in a lot of global perspective. Virtually everyone teaching in American Studies understands that we cannot view the US in isolation, and that it is much richer and more generative to view the US in relation to the world.”

Enzerink mentioned how she has written about the US for public media and shared her thoughts on Twitter, where she says, “I’ve definitely gotten some pushback there due to my citizenship status. To ‘mind my own business’ or ‘leave if I don’t like it’ when I still lived in the US. To an extent I understand this: people are protective of their own country, proud of their way of life, and here I am as a relative outsider mounting criticisms. However, everyone should be mounting these criticisms if they truly believe in the vision of equality that the US set out to be, and if they want to stand a chance of materializing it.” She concluded by mentioning the James Baldwin quote we included at the beginning of our magazine: “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Teaching American Studies Abroad

Enzerink has taught courses about the US in the world, inequalities in the US, and the role of cinema in bringing about social change. She noted that each course may change slightly based on where she’s teaching. For example, when she taught her Intro to American Studies class in Lebanon, they focused on exploring the connections between the US and the Middle East, from the presence of Cowboys and Indians, a theme park in Lebanon, to media stereotypes to foreign policy.

Enzerink explained that teaching American Studies Abroad is less different than one might think. For those outside of the US, it requires more contextualization with certain cultural or political issues. In general, though, she is always trying to do the same two things. First, is to show how the US has related to the world in both positive and negative ways. Second, is “to understand how both systems of oppression and movements of solidarity have always developed within a global context.” 

In her experience, many students are “trying to come to grips with the fact that a country many thousands of miles away has such a presence in their lives,” something Enzerink has experienced herself. Other than that, what students are interested in depends on the students and the university. For example, the university she is currently at has a business and economics orientation. In this class, students are interested in issues related to sustainability, inequality, the US as a global economic power, and its cultural influence. On the other hand, when she was in Lebanon, students were more interested in US foreign policy.

The US Through Dutch Eyes

Over the years, the Dutch perspective of the US has evolved. When George W. Bush was in office, Enzerink was starting her BA in American Studies. Politically, at that time, there was a more critical opinion of the US due to world events like the US invading Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The Netherlands was skeptical about sending Dutch troops to support the US in the Iraq War. The Dutch believed lives were being risked and sacrificed for less and less obvious reasons.

Once Obama became president, a “wave of celebration and hope swept through Europe” with people getting really caught up in the idea of “Obama being an emblem of progress and hope” as the first Black president.

Aside from the political perspective, the US has a lot of cultural appeal. Enzerink guesses that about 80-90% of what makes it into Dutch TV or cinemas is American. Maybe aspects of US culture are embraced by the Dutch, from celebrities and pop culture to food and sports. Enzerink noted that “you’ll see Dodgers and Yankees caps everywhere” and “many Dutch people dream about visiting the New York they see on TV, the beautiful national parks” and more

There aren’t many Dutch stereotypes of Americans because “Dutch people in general are good at differentiating between the country and the individual people,” but the ones that do exist are similar to the ones we encountered in other interviews: eating junk food, driving everywhere, and enjoying surface level small talk.

The US through Lebanese Eyes

Lebanon, like many countries, has “just about many perspectives on the US as people you will meet.” Enzeirnk explains that “some people really look up to the US as this economic powerhouse that has the potential to step in and rescue Lebanon from its current financial and political misery; others see the US as a root cause of much of this misery (due to the US’ uncritical support of Israel, a neighbor Lebanon has no relations with, and other US imperial incursions into the Middle East)… others don’t really think about the US at all.” 

She has noticed that her students in Lebanon had a much more layered, critical understanding of how US interventions overseas have shaped the world today compared to those in the Netherlands. She noted that “for a lot of Europeans, US military powers are associated with the past tense and with positive interactions, like the liberation of Europe during World War II.” She explained that everything that was taught about the US until 9/11 had been very positive for her, including how her grandmother “would talk about Americans and Canadians liberating our hometown, pointing out their graves in the cemetery and the bravery of them giving their lives for the freedom of the Dutch.”

On the other hand, US military incursions in the Middle East are “much more recent, more devastating, and less easily justified even for those who are generally sympathetic to the US.” Since most of her Lebanese students were born after 9/11, they experienced the US stereotyping of Arabs and Middle Easterners, the effects of US invasions, and the US’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Enzerink concluded by saying, “Lebanon has the highest number of refugees per capita in the entire world, with many permanent encampments—more like mini slum cities—of Palestinians who have now been there for decades after being driven out from their homelands. This indelibly shapes day-to-day life and the social balance of Lebanon.”

How does the US’s leadership influence other countries’ perception of us?

We asked Enzerink how US leadership, foreign policy, and reactions to major events influences other countries’ perception of us. Her answer was straightforward: “I will be pretty direct here: it has a major impact. The news pays a lot of attention to the US.”

The recent Supreme Court decisions have greatly impacted the image of the US. “The repeal of Roe v. Wade and the general assault on civil rights and voting rights is seen as incredibly concerning,” Enzerink told us, “Most European countries are quite socially progessive. It is unimaginable for many that a Court would interfere in women’s bodily autonomy in this way. The same goes for continued violence against Black Americans. Black Lives Matter, for example, a few years back inspired many solidarity protests around the globe, including in Beirut and Amsterdam. I find these valuable in that they also provide important moments for other societies to reflect on their own shortcomings.” Enzerink went on to explain the presence of racism in the countries she’s lived in. In the Netherlands, there is the character of Black Pete during the annual Sinterklaas celebrations. In Lebanon, the kafala system: a system of indentured labor which traps predominantly Asian and African migrants in subhuman conditions. “In this way,” Enzerink said, “coverage of what might seem a distinct US problem can lead to action.

Enzerink continued, “Gun violence, and the reluctance to pass gun legislation by Congress, is perhaps the factor that has most puzzled those outside of the US. Whereas some of the above mentioned issues are more contested—of course, there are also conservative and right-leaning segments in Europe—the question of gun violence seems to universally shock and baffle despite one’s political affiliation. The images of Sandy Hook and Uvalde, especially, with such young children, really led to both grief and disbelief.”

“One thing I will stress is that the attention to the US is constant, no matter whether a Democrat or Republican is in office,” Enzerink added, “Of course, Trump’s outrageous statements and demeanor were covered extensively here. But that doesn’t mean that Democrats, who are naturally more closely aligned with European political leanings, get a free pass by any means. For example, Biden’s recent visit to Saudia Arabia garnered quite a bit of critical attention in European media, both due to the regime’s complicity in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the general human rights abuses-–such as against LGBTQ citizens—there. The US’s uncritical support for Israel and its condonement of human rights abuses against Palestinians has been another recent flashpoint.”

Enzerink concluded by saying, “In short, I think what happens in the US is always discussed and evaluated against our own value systems, and what’s happening is that the US seems to be moving further and further away from the general sentiment in Europe in particular.”

Understanding and Studying US History

Enzerink believes learning about the US shows how “humankind has always contained within it the drive to create better ways of living together, to question authority, to believe in progress and improvement. This is, of course, at the heart of the US foundation, and a narrative that remains extremely powerful and appealing both to those within the US and abroad.” On the other hand, Enzerink acknowledges that when you study US history “it is inescapable to see how this dream was always exclusionary; how this new system of supposedly unprecedented democracy was in fact built on a foundation of genocide against Native Americans and the enslavement of Black and Brown peoples.”

“This is the gigantic and bitter irony that is at the heart of the United States and its foundational myths, and one that I think forms a perfect encapsulation of what studying history should enable one to do: to differentiate between fact and fiction, between intent and result, between rhetoric and action,” Enzerink continued, moving towards the topic of education in the US, “I therefore find current moves within US education to restrict access to this kind of history extremely concerning. Ignoring these complicated histories does not change them or make them go away. It seems as though some legislators and educators have come to equate sharing these histories with an accusation of complicity, as if teaching the history of slavery is an indictment of all white Americans today. In fact, I believe that teaching these histories is as close to the spirit of the US as one can get, calling out wrong when you observe them and working to create a better system.”

Enzerink brought up how even Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, wanted a passage about slavery. “There are still glaring inequalities in the U.S. that cannot be seen separate from decades of political, economic, and social decisions that were rooted in racism and other forms of discrimination,” she said, “Ignoring, warping, or trying to erase these histories does make one complicit in my eyes to perpetuating these inequalities.”

“I’m not calling out Americans specifically here, or US history in particular– every national history has certain difficult and painful moments that cannot be ignored–but you can be proud of where you come from while still acknowledging historical injustices; one does not exclude the other.”

To Love is To Criticize

After hearing Enzerink’s answer to the last question, we decided to ask a follow-up question: How can we appreciate our country while seeing its flaws? Or see the flaws but still appreciate our country?

Enzerink began by telling us that appreciating something doesn’t mean ignoring the flaws or vice versa. She said, “Think about the James Baldwin quote I mentioned earlier; the US was founded on democratic principles, the stated belief that everyone was created equal. Even if this was blatantly untrue when the nation was founded and these words were written, the sentiment is something to aspire to, to work to materialize in real life.” She brought up examples of legal rights for women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and social security. “There is no denying that it has always remained a work-in-progress—equality has never existed, racism, for example, has continued to affect social outcomes profoundly—but we also have to celebrate this progress. Not doing so would erase the hard labor of activists, many of whom have devoted their lives to securing legal protections and to bring the nation one step closer to this promise of equality.”

“This is why it is so devastating now to see some of this work undone in recent Supreme Court decisions; not just Roe v Wade, but also the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. It is in this possibility of activism, of working toward equality, that I think you can also find a sense of pride; not just pride in those who do the work, but also because the US allows for this kind of political participation,” Enzerink then explained how we have contextualized gratitude, “Many people across the globe do not enjoy this right, or see their attempts at activism or criticism of the ruling powers met with censorship or imprisonment. Again, this is why it is so important to pay attention to attempts to curtail this right, as it is here first and foremost that ordinary citizens in the US get to participate in political life.”

Enzerink also brought up the idea of patriotism and how it has become associated with things like “Make America Great Again” and the “exclusionary politics this entails.” She mentioned British writer George Orwell, who wrote an essay on nationalism. Orwell defined patriotism as a kind of civic pride: a belief in the shared principles that the nation is founded upon. His definition entails “no wish to force [this system] on other people.” Enzerink compares this to US nationalism we currently see which is a belief in the absolute superiority of a certain way of life, often defined along ethnic, racial, gender- based or sexual lines. “That’s where things become very problematic, and where we see hate speech and violence emerge,” Enzerink noted.

“To be proud of your country is not a bad thing; of course, it is a thing to be celebrated that the US has things such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to vote, etc, and to realize that this is not a given for everyone. But when you try to impose a certain way of life onto others—both at home and abroad—or exclude racial and ethnic others from your vision of the future or try to deprive them of these rights, that’s veering firmly into nationalist territory. And that is when it is time to come into action,” Enzerink concluded.

Enzerink encourages everyone everywhere to keep an open mind about the world, and to inform yourself as much as you can about what goes on in it. She suggests that people read a variety of sources from the perspectives of a variety of people instead of just consuming depressing, one-sided news. This, in turn, helps you “move in life with compassion for others.” While this might sound idealistic, Ezerink puts this concept into context: “When we look at the roots of hatred—be it within the U.S. itself, or directed at those outside of it—it almost always originates in echo chambers, in single perspectives, what Chimanda Ngozi Adichie called the ‘danger of a single story.’”

Enzerink concluded by saying, “learning about the world can help everyone notice how these singular stories or stereotypes come to circulate. I’m not saying that this will magically solve all issues—unfortunately, hatred and bigotry are extremely pernicious. But I really do believe that we can all take our individual responsibility. Practice kindness. That is my mantra both in the classroom and outside of it.”

Media Recommendations from Dr. Suzanne Enzerink

As mentioned, we were inspired by Enzerink’s article to write this magazine. We were so happy to get an interview with her and wanted to learn more about her research process of writing this terrific article. Enzerink told us she was inspired to write the article after arriving in Lebanon. “I quickly realized that there was still a lot of misunderstanding about the investments of American Studies overseas, and that my students experienced the field totally differently from my peers’ students,” she said, “The chair of the American Studies center at AUB, Robert Myers, had compiled a small booklet on the institutional origins of American Studies at AUB and the region, so I talked to him about this. In addition, I based my research on texts I was teaching that semester, such as Alex Lubin and Marwan Kraidy’s book on American Studies in the Middle East. These institutional parameters are a crucial part of understanding U.S. global aspirations and foreign policy in my opinion. Education has played such an important role in how the U.S. markets itself to the world. It’s important to try to understand how and why this has played out.”

*Enzerink’s article Teaching American Studies in the Middle East: 

Media mentioned in the article:

Art Comment on American Progress by John Gast

Opinion piece by Adalia and Leeya

This painting, done by John Gast in 1872, represents America’s westward expansion during the 1800s after the Louisiana Purchase by the US from the French and the subsequent land acquisitions. The industrial revolution of the early 1800’s contributed to a widespread population growth, which led to an increased migration of people moving west and a greater need for more resources. As poor and middle class white people were coaxed into settling farther away from the east coast with the promise of cheap land, gold and glory, indigenous peoples were pushed further away from their homes.

Taking a Look at American Progress

American Progress does an admirable job capturing this history. You can see the eastern harbor of major trading cities, maybe Boston or New York to the right, and the Rocky Mountains, dark and unexplored to the left. Everything about this painting has meaning from the fact that the blonde lady dressed white to the storm clouds in the west, from the fleeing buffalo herd to the train, chugging across the tracks leading to the new land.

This painting seems to have two halves: a light and dark side. This juxtaposes the people coming into the picture versus the people being pushed out. The poor and middle class white people gained land and opportunity, only at the loss and destruction of native lands and the homes of indigenous peoples. The right side has clear skies, trains and modern technologies with white people on horses and oxes, strutting towards the west with their axes and plows, ready for their piece of cheap, stolen land and to dig up whatever gold was to be found. The left side has indigenous people and native wildlife, like the wild buffalo and bear running away out of fear, being pushed away in the name of “progress.”

What We See in American Progress

Part of what is symbolized in John Gast’s American Progress for us is how after the revolution and consequent gain of freedom, America still decided to follow in Britain’s footsteps. The irony that a once colonized state, who had fought their way out of colonialism was becoming a colonial state itself is not lost on us. The US had fought to be free of Great Britain with its imposing taxes and regulations, but that didn’t stop them from enslaving millions of African people and removing millions more indigenous peoples from what is actually their land.

This painting makes us question: What will we do in the name of progress? What morals are we willing to give up for a “manifest destiny?” Who are we willing to plow over to expand our borders?

Why mention American Progress?

Dr. Enzerink mentions this painting in her article Teaching American Studies, posing and helping to answer the question “Why, the main question was, should the United States support a settler colonialist state? We arrived at the answer later that class when we looked at John Gast’s 1872 painting American Progress, a visual embodiment of Manifest Destiny and the genocide of Native Americans that solidified the United States as a settler colonial state itself.”

This painting has been brought up in history classes before, but now we had an added layer of meaning to it, which we wanted to share.

Fun Facts

Are you smarter than the average American? It won’t take much!

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation completed a survey with over 40,000 Americans in all 50 states. They found that “only 27% of those under the age of 45 across the country demonstrate a basic knowledge of American history.” In addition, the study found that only 3 in 20 Americans can remember when the Constitution was written and only 1 in 4 know that there are 27 amendments in it. The same amount don’t even realize the freedom of speech is guaranteed under the first amendment. The president of the foundation, Arthur Levine, noted how this data questions whether we teach American history properly. If we do, it’s clearly not working as few citizens know their own history.

One Word Changes It All

Wording in foreign American history textbooks changes foreigners’ opinions of Americans. In an article for MIC, by Elizabeth Herman, who is a Fullbright scholar with a focus on teaching 9/11 noted, “Even slight word changes—such as referring to 9/11 as an “incident” rather than an “attack”—can affect how these educational accounts of history are interpreted.” Simply by changing a word or two, history may seem different!

Canada and America: Siblings or Twins?

An infographic by Article Lists, puts Canada as the most similar country in the world to the US. This is mainly because they were both British colonies. They also have a ton of small similarities. Did you know that they use the same type of electrical outlets with the same voltage? A fun fact, within a fun fact, is that the two countries share the longest border between any two in the world!

A Brief History of Returning and Sheep

Have you ever heard the phrase “return to one’s muttons?” We hadn’t heard of it until one of our interviews with a French teenager. One World Histories writes that it is related to a line from La Farce de Maistre Pierre Pathelin, a popular 1457 French novel, “revenons à ces moutons,” which translates directly to “let us return to our sheep.” However, it noted that the phrase was used as far back as the Roman Empire. If you still don’t know what this means, it is a fun way of saying “return to the matter at hand.”

Massachusetts Government Act of 1774: It was Boston’s fault, not mine!

During the beginning of the American Revolution, Boston was one of the first colonies to push back against England. However, by the rest of Massachusetts, it was seen as one rebelling city brawling with the enormous, powerful empire. The rest of the state was trying to stay out of it. However, the Massachusetts Government Act of 1774 changed this all because it punished all Massachusettsans, even outside of Boston, who were not doing anything. This angered the other Massachusettsans and sparked a lot of anger.

Boston Massacre? More Like Boston Showoff

Most of us know the general story of the Boston Massacre. However, the gritty details are not often taught. It is said that 15 year-old Eddy Garret wanted to impress his girlfriend so he went up to a nearby British soldier and kicked him. The soldier got mad and hit Eddy on his head with a rifle. Eddy started gushing blood and screaming in pain. Nearby men, who were celebrating the end of a long work day, heard this cry and swarmed out of the taverns to see what was happening. They beat up the British soldier and seven of his comrades. Oyster shells, leftover from dinner, were used as weapons, Since it was cold, the shells had ice on them, which transformed them into sharp razor blades. Crispus Attucks, a Black man, was the first to die in the Boston Massacre. Thus, he was the first casualty of the American Revolution.


During the Civil War, women used nursing jobs on the battlefield as a way to meet a husband. Louis May Alcott, author of Little Women, also joined a nursing job at the Union Hospital in Georgetown. However, she quickly realized what many womens’ real motive for joining the war: getting that man! But Alcott didn’t agree with that, so she created some rules: nurses must be at least thirty years old and plain-looking. She believed nursing was supposed to be a professional job, after all, not dating!

The Trailblazing Three: Mexico, America, and India

Computer artwork by Neel Chaudhuri

Vilification or Veneration? The US from the Perspective of Foreign Teens

In addition to interviewing several professors and adults, we wanted perspectives from our generation, so we sent questions to various contacts in the following countries: Colombia, France, Poland, Italy, Greece, Kenya, India, and South Korea. We asked the teens about their interactions with the United States, what they were taught about the United States in school and their preconceived stereotypes. We hoped to get more perspectives on the US from younger citizens of the world.

It was super interesting to see the diverse answers we received from each country. Furthermore, it was humbling to read, but a good experience nevertheless. There were definitely some answers we expected, but also some things that surprised and intrigued us.

The Dreamland of Opportunity: The US Through Colombian Eyes

For several years Adalia has been participating in a Spanish speaking club with a group of teens from Soacha, Colombia. She reached out to them through her wonderful teacher, Sr. Rodriguez to see what they had to say about the United States: a country none of them have ever visited, but many would like to go to.

A Warm, Diverse Landscape in a Cold, Unforgiving Political Climate: The US Through French Eyes

Adalia has a friend from France who, along with four of her friends, answered questions about their perspective of the United States. Through education, their knowledge of politics and the media, each had their own perspective on our country. Some had different answers, others overlapped in places.

“Humid” Vibes in a Land of Compliments and Ghostbusters: The US Through Polish, Italian, and Greek Eyes

Leeya reached out to several people she met at a Brown University Pre-college Summer Program. They are from a variety places in Europe including Poland, Italy and Greece. Overall, their opinion was more positive than the French opinion. Their ideas came from what they had learned traveling here and from comparing their home experiences to what their time in the United States was like.

The US Through Kenyan Eyes

One of Adalia’s friends has several cousins from Nairobi, Kenya, who told us about their perspective of the US. Two of the teens, Trevor and Yahya, are thirteen. Trevor likes math and playing soccer and Yahya likes PE and watching movies. Daniella is going to Jomo Kenyatta University, where she has just finished her first year. Her favorite subject is Calculus and she enjoys skating and shopping. 

Trevor has been to the US to visit Niagara Falls, New York and Disneyland. Daniella and Yahya have never been to the United States.

TREVOR: Before going to the US, I thought it would be 99% racists/rude people. After, it was fun and the places I visited were interesting.

In school, Trevor and Yahya have learned about the discovery, development, and social/economic history of the US. Daniella, on the other hand, learned that the US is a powerful country, but most of what she knows has come from watching movies.

In general, none of the teens have a negative view on the US, but both Trevor and Daniella mentioned how they have problems with racism in the US. When Yahya thinks of Americans, one of the first things to come to mind is slaves and slave owners. Trevor’s only stereotype of Americans is of patriotic Southerners. Daniella has no major stereotypes, other than from how American teens act from movies.

In the end, it is uplifting to hear that Trevor’s experience in the US was better than he thought it would be and it has been interesting to learn about a different perspective.

The US Through Indian Eyes

Leeya connected with two of her Indian cousins to learn more about their perspective of the United States.

Sangita is a college graduate, who graduated with a major in biology and is completing a professional paramedical course. She likes to read, listen to audiobooks and watch movies. Sangita lives in West Bengal, the western region of India. She has never traveled to the US, but if she gets the change she would love to come. Rhythm is an 11th grader who enjoys math and watching TV. He’s never traveled to the United States.

Sangita became aware of the US through her family and learning how America came to be in school, though she didn’t like history class, so she doesn’t remember much. On the other hand, Rhythm learned about the United States through cartoons.  Rhythm learned about Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and the Louisiana Purchase in school. He likes the US because of its natural beauty, food, and talent in sports.  He believes Americans are extremely friendly.

Despite these brief answers, it is clear that the Indian teens view the United States from a positive perspective.

A Journey to Understanding America: The US Through South Korean Eyes

Also at the Brown University program, Leeya met a teen who lives in South Korea. Alexander was born in Guam and his perspective comes from a place of curiosity. He wants to go to a college in the US and experience more of American culture and understand its history better.

Overall, hearing from these fellow teens put things in perspective and gave us a bigger picture view of the world. Furthermore, one of the French teens, Paul, asked us about our perspective of France. This encouraged us to think more about how the United States perceives other countries, rather than just how the United States is perceived. We encourage you, our reader, to think more about this as well!

The Dreamland of Opportunity: The US Through Colombian Eyes

We reached out to an eighth grade class from Soacha, Cundinamarca, Colombia, a city near Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, to learn about their perspective of the US. Thank you to Adalia’s teacher, for helping connect us!

Meet the Teens

We received answers from Cristian, Liyen, Maria J, Donna, Nicolle, Sara, Camila, Nicole, Laura, Luisa, Juan Esteban S., Eva, Daniel, Sara Maldonado, Maria Fernanda J., Maria Fernanda G., Paula, Juan Esteban Q., Luis, Alejandra, David and Valeria, who are in class 805 at the Soacha Avanza la Unidad school.

Liyen enjoys photography, dance, singing and the arts. Maria J.’s favorite subject is math and in her free time she enjoys listening to music, such as Mitski, Arctic Monkeys, Queen and Nirvana, playing video games and doing arts and crafts. Her favorite animal is the fox. Nicolle is the youngest in her family, which means “my family pampers me a lot and they say I am a ‘treasure,’” she told us. Nicolle is a professional skater and likes to play with her puppies. Sara has a puppy and a cat. In Camila’s free time she practices sports, studies and helps her mom around the house. Nicole likes music, dance, BTS and enjoys singing and reading in her free time. Laura enjoys listening to music and playing sports. Luisa almost always listens to music in her free time, and she also enjoys dancing. When she leaves school, she would like to study medicine or cosmetics. Juan Esteban S. is into automotive mechanics and electronics because he really likes cars, trucks and motorcycles. He told us that his favorite animal is the dog because “they are a man’s best friend. Something Eva enjoys a lot is music. Her favorite animal is the hippopotamus because they are very cute. Sara Maldonado likes to listen to music, watches movies and draws in her free time. Maria Fernanda J. also really likes music. In her free time, she likes to read, draw and watch movies. Art and fashion are Maria Fernanda G.’s favorite subjects. In her free time, she likes to spend time with family. Paula likes photography, dance and music and she loves animals, especially cats and dogs. Luis likes sports, music and playing video games in his free time. Alejandra doesn’t have a favorite subject, but she likes reading, cooking and listening to music. David’s favorite subject is Algebra. In his free time, he likes to play soccer. And last, but not least, Valeria enjoys modeling and preparing for the next event. Some of the other teens enjoy playing the piano, spending time with family and training for sports.

If I Could Go to the United States…

None of the Colombian kids have traveled to the United States. Liyen, Donna, and Paula noted that they have not traveled outside of Colombia. Cristian. Donna, Sara, Nicole, Laura, and Valeria told us that they have not had the opportunity to go to the US. However, many of the teens expressed interest in traveling here sometime. Almost everyone wants to visit New York or “The Big Apple.” Maria J. described it as a “great goal” and several others agreed with her sentiment.

The teens want to get to know the culture and the people of the United States. Furthermore, many want to experience the snow or the climate differences between Colombia and the United States.

Some words they used to describe what they think the US would be like are cool, beautiful, fun, new, cute, fabulous, super incredible, a big country, nice, and different.

CRISTIAN: I think it would be very cold because the United States is very cold.

LIYEN: I would love to familiarize myself with the place and other cultures—it would be beautiful. I would like to familiarize myself with the United States and go to the Big Apple, New York. Also, I want to experience the snow there.

CAMILA: I hope in the future that I can go and visit the beautiful country of the US. I imagine it would seriously be a lot of fun to go and I would get to know new things and people.

MARIA FERNANDA J.: I’ve never visited the US but I know someday I’ll travel, and I think in that moment I will be very nervous.

PAULA: I dream about being able to go to the United States and being able to play in the snow and enjoying myself a lot.

VALERIA: I have not had the opportunity to go but I would love to because from what my Spanish teacher tells me, it is very beautiful and I would love to see the snow and the differences between our countries.

When did you first become aware of the US?

Several teens became aware of the United States from their social studies and English classes in school. Maria J. learned about it by noticing the US being mentioned a lot on TV. Others heard about the United States from their families, while Maria Fernanda G. became aware of the United States from hearing about it in the news and her social circle. Daniel found out about the United States after discovering the Disney parks located in the United States. Others noticed the United States from movies, series, celebrities and the media. For example, Juan Esteban Q., learned about it from cartoons he watched. One individual became aware of the United States after learning about the White House.

DONNA: I found out about the United States because my family said that going to the United States gives you more opportunities to get ahead, that it is a country that has better opportunities in life.

LUISA: Since I was little, people have mentioned the United States a lot and from there I began to see more of this country and began to look for it and see pictures on the Internet.

The United States in Colombian Schooling

In school, the Colombian teens have learned a variety of things. Cristian and Daniel learned that the United States is a big, rich country with a lot of power, a good economy, and many states. Daniel also learned that the US has a good military and many weapons. Maria J. has learned a little about the history and the main language, English. Others have learned about the Industrial Revolution and some of the differences between Colombia and the US. Some of the teens were taught about the culture, language, how beautiful the United States is, and about United States schools. Juan Esteban Q. has learned about American presidents and the US landscape in school. Luis learned about the Independence of the United States and the significance of the US flag. David learned that the United States has a lot of global potential/power and how it influenced the World Wars. Lastly, Maria Fernanda G. and Valeria learned about the United States economy. Maria Fernanda G. noted, “it is a country that gives us many benefits:”

VALERIA: I was taught that the country is one of the most important countries in the world and that the dollar is very important for Colombia because the value affects Colombia.

Only Luisa and Alejandra told us that they hadn’t learned much about the US at school.

The United States from a Colombian Teen’s Perspective

A majority of the teens had a positive perspective of the United States. Many think that it is a very beautiful and big country with good people and lots of opportunity. They admire the beautiful parks and landscapes, the quality of life, and the differences between their culture and the culture of the United States. Donna and Sara told us that they have nothing against it because “as they say ‘do not judge a book by its cover.’” Luisa and Luis expressed interest in living in the United States sometime.

SARA: Since I have high expectations for it, and it is a great dream of mine, I have nothing against it because, the truth is, I have never had the opportunity to go there and as people say “do not judge a book by its cover.” I hope that I achieve that happy trip and am able to fulfill a dream of mine.

VALERIA: I think the United States is a perfect country and thanks to their efforts, one of the best governments in the world. I have a positive view of the United States.

Maria J. and Sara Maldonado had neutral or positive and negative views on the US:

MARIA J.: I am neutral because everyone puts the US in one category, but they also have robbers and traffic, etc.

SARA MALDONADO: I think the United States has a lot of history. I think it is a very cute country with a lot of culture. I have a positive and negative view. It is positive since I think you can grow more as a person. You can learn English and that gives you many opportunities. But it is negative because I think it would be a bad experience to be a foreigner and arrive where you don’t know anyone, you don’t know the language, etc.

Alejandra has a more negative perspective of the United States:

ALEJANDRA: I have a kind of negative view. The truth is I have seen people who traveled there and had not good experiences.

Stereotypes of Americans in Colombia

Generally, the stereotypes revolved around appearance. However, one person mentioned that in the United States, “they like to use a lot of gas.” The stereotype is that Americans are tall, fit, cute, intelligent, wealthy, blondes with white skin, blue eyes, and a beautiful voice. Camila told us that the stereotype is mostly seen in movies, however, she doesn’t think it is true. Maria Fernanda G. and Juan Esteban Q. told us that they don’t have any stereotypes about the United States.

In Conclusion

The perspectives of these teens were very positive. They saw the US as somewhere where their dreams could come true. We hope that all these teens get to have their special trip to New York City or elsewhere in the United States. For those who want to live in the United States, we wish them the best of luck!

Valeria concludes on a very sweet note, “I want to invite you to come to our beautiful country, which despite its various difficulties, has a beautiful culture and landscapes. We also have many delicious ethnic dishes to offer you!”

A Warm, Diverse Landscape In a Cold, Unforgiving Political Climate: The US Through French Eyes

For a French perspective, we contacted five teens who live near Annecy, France.

Meet the Teens

Fiona is an 11th grader whose favorite subjects are English, English literature, economics, and sociology. In her free time, she loves listening to music, watching movies, crocheting and cooking.

Nathan is a 16 year-old, who will be in his last year of high school. He enjoys sports such as karate and scuba diving. He noted that where he lives is convenient for scuba diving in Annecy’s lake. In his free time, he enjoys writing stories and scripts. 

Rose is moving to a new high school, where her favorite subjects are theater and philosophy. Rose enjoys listening to music while cycling or walking her dogs.

Élisa is an 11th grader whose favorite subjects are literature and philosophy in French, literature in English and theater. Élisa loves theater because “it is a way to be myself without the fear of other’s gaze and…it allows me to get more self-confidence and oral skills.” She is also interested in social science and human behavior. Élisa enjoys playing and listening to music, and spending time with the people she loves.

Paul, Élisa’s boyfriend (AKA the happiest man in the world) is an 18 year-old who has just finished high school. He is headed to the preliminary grade, where he will study French computing engineering. He is a big computing enthusiast, photographer, crocheter, filmmaker and piano player.

Have you ever been to the United States?

Most of the teens have never traveled to the US, with the exception of Nathan. He went to New York with his parents before COVID. Fiona has visited Canada.

NATHAN: I traveled once to the US, to New York with my parents in 2019, before Covid 19. Before coming, the only point of view of the US I had was from our education because I don’t watch many series or things like that…But, I had an idea of the United States as a country that’s very different and interesting depending on the state and the place…When I arrived in New York, I was surprised principally by the food and supermarkets. They are very different than supermarkets in Europe. I had and I have the impression that people don’t cook in the US, they eat in restaurants or ready meals and the consumer society has adapted itself to consumption. Now, I see the US as a really interesting country with many places, things…a scientist country…It’s a very culturally rich land. But food is not really healthy and is better in France 😉

Élisa: A lot of students of my age dream of travel to the US for their studies because they think it is a nice place to learn and live for students. Personally, I don’t think I want to study there, but I would like to travel if I have the possibility to do this one day. There are a lot of beautiful landscapes and it is really attractive. I would also enjoy visiting New York or other big cities like this one because we hear a lot about big US cities and it would be interesting to discover them in real life.

When did you first become aware of the US?

Many of the teenagers have been aware of the United States since a pretty young age. A lot of their knowledge seems to come either from watching American media, whether that was on YouTube of clips, from TV shows and news shows, in Hollywood movies or in English class. For example, Rose remembers being in primary school English, while Paul remembers when his sister and him would watch the Tom Sawyer cartoon.

FIONA: I think I have known about it since I was pretty young but I first really started to know about it when I was around 12 years-old. At that age, I started watching American YouTubers and also extracts from shows like “The Ellen Show”, or “The Tonight Show”…etc.

NATHAN: I had the point of view that America was incredible, the best country in the world…After that we talked of the US in school, in the newspaper, and I found myself interested in the US because it’s a very interesting country and one of the most powerful and important countries of the world.

The United States in French Schooling

The teens are taught a variety of American history and things relating to the US. Some kids have learned the basics like the discovery of America, the Independence War, how the US functions at the political level, the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War. Others are taught about topics like American spies and secret agents.

Élisa: We almost only learn the common history between Europe and the US…it depends on the teacher. When we have to choose the three main topics in high school, we can choose some topics, which will allow us to learn more about US history. For instance, you can study the history of Anglo-Saxon literature: current news, the history, and how Anglo-Saxon countries are being run.

Paul: The English curriculum in (French) high school isn’t very interesting: it doesn’t touch on topical issues, nor does it cover subjects that are necessarily very interesting for our age. Although, I had an English teacher who liked to teach an extra-curricular on the period of invasion of the continent by European colonists. In the speciality course of Contemporary English that I chose, I learned more about the economic crisis that hit the country and all the underlying measures such as Roosevelt’s New Deal. This was enriching, but I’m unfortunately truly bad and bored when it comes to politics and economics.

The United States from a French Teen’s Perspective

Everyone had different thoughts and feelings about the United States. We noticed that many of the kids were very straightforward telling us exactly how they felt about the United States, so we decided to include all the quotes:

Fiona: On one hand, I feel like it’s such a big country with beautiful landscapes and a lot of diversity between the people that live there. However, on the other hand, I feel like there are a lot of issues, for example in politics (vote against abortion, don’t say gay bill, the healthcare system…etc), then there’s also safety with the fact that almost anyone can have a gun, and finally there are still a lot of problems with racism…etc.

Nathan: The US is a beautiful country, very brilliant scientifically, culturally, and it is a very interesting country, but, I don’t trust in the American Dream because I have a very good situation in France. The only negative opinion I have is on the food, due to the reviews of fast food.

Rose: It is a very interesting country for its politics and heritage, but quite incomprehensible in terms of freedoms and laws. I have a positive view of the culture, heritage and a little politics, but a negative view when it comes to fundamental rights, the carrying of arms and the rights of women and LGBTQIA+.

Élisa: I appreciate the culture and some places of the US that I see on TV or in pictures because I found them beautiful. What I find negative about the US is the way the country is being run. For example, some decisions the government takes with the possibility for the different states to forbid abortion or the permission for people to buy and possess weapons.

Paul: For a long time I had a very negative image of the United States, because of the ideas we receive in France; it’s seen as the archetype of capitalism and the consumer society. Also, when it comes to problems, particularly societal or economic, that affect our country, we sometimes talk about the “Americanisation” of the system, and this term has taken on a pejorative meaning. Nevertheless, I started questioning the sum of negative thoughts I was given over the past few years. I have reached a stage of reflection where I say to myself that the United States is surely not worse than France (for comparison, because it is the only country in which I have really lived, if we exclude travel) and on the contrary I now conceive it as a modern country and ahead of our Western European countries. I’d be really curious to travel there, to see if it’s a mentality I’d relate to or not.

Stereotypes of Americans in France

There were a number of stereotypes the teens mentioned as responses to our final question. They included things surrounding food, like Nathan had brought up when describing his trip to New York, things regarding education, about the racism in the US and the stereotypical image of an American.

FIONA: I think Americans (not all of them, of course) are not good at geography. I feel like they think America is the only country in the world. I think this because I’ve seen so many interviews of young people who couldn’t name three countries other than the US and who thought that Africa was a country or even that France was the capital of Europe. I was so shocked because I thought things like that were basic knowledge!

ROSE: At first, I saw Americans as idols, great people with a wonderful country because of the films I saw. But when I became interested in their politics, history and functioning, my view completely changed and now I and the majority of French people see Americans as racist and conservative white Christians with a cowboy hat, a pistol in his right hand, a rifle in his left hand, obese with a moustache, imbued with himself and boastful.

Élisa: I have the idea in mind that everybody is different even if there are some things in common for people of the same country. But in America, like in other continents, every inhabitant has differences from the others in his life. It can be the financial situation, the place where he lives, his work, his social life…and all of these things make him have his own way of living, thinking and being.

Paul: Please, don’t be upset. But what we hear in France about American people is not that positive: they are supposed to be continuously overdoing, overreacting, and above all, they make no effort to speak decently and clearly, which does not help us (as students) to understand them. We French also think that Americans eat poorly, always kind of fatty and unhealthy things. Of course, this is very cliché and this is obviously not my personal thoughts.

In Conclusion

We concluded the interviews by asking everyone what they wanted to tell our magazine readers. We included some of their answers below:

Rose: I met for a month and a half with an American woman who had been welcomed with my family as part of her university program. With her, I discovered a completely different view of the Americans and the United States, in general. A positive view. Even if we are not of the same blood and family, I will always consider her as my sister despite the borders and culture that separate us.

PAUL: I’d be very interested to know what Americans think of French people (with the same questions as in this survey). If you have some time to answer these same questions please do not hesitate to send it to me.

To end on a positive note, Fiona concluded by telling us: “I hope everything will be fine in the US so everyone can live how they want! Sending lots of love from France! :)”

If you want to shoot Paul some answers, his Instagram username is @paulolardet and if you want to know more, go to: Our questions, reversed for the US perspective on France, are: (1) Tell us about yourself, (2) Have you ever traveled to France? If so, what did you think before you went? How was your experience there? (3) When and how did you first become aware of France? (4) What were you taught in school about France? (5) What do you think of France? Do you have a positive or negative view? Why? (6) Are there any stereotypes you have about French people?

“Humid” Vibes in a Land of Compliments and Ghostbusters: The US Through Polish, Italian, and Greek Eyes

To learn more about a European perspective (outside of France) of the US, we reached out to four teenagers living in Poland, Italy, and Greece.

Meet the Teens

Zuzanna is a 10th grader at a small British school in Warsaw, Poland.

Alessandro is a rising 12th grader from Bologna, Italy. His school focuses mostly on the sciences, including math, biology and physics. In his free time, Alessandro likes reading, watching movies and riding his motorbike.

Alex and Georgia are both rising seniors who live in Thessaloniki, Greece. Alex enjoys history and English. Georgia enjoys reading, debating, and attending classes at the YMCA. Her favorite subject is Ancient Greek.

Have you ever been to the United States?

Zuzanna has been traveling between Poland and the US since she was seven years old. She remembers that when she first came to the United States, she was scared to move because she didn’t know English very well. However, her teacher helped her feel involved even if she didn’t know what was going on.

Georgia has been to the United States twice. The first time was to visit New York City and the second was to attend a Brown Pre-College Program. Georgia told us how tipping at restaurants was a new experience to her and that people in US stores are much more helpful to customers. Although, stores close much earlier here than they do in Greece (where they close around 2:00 AM). Also, she noted that she loves how strangers in the US give you compliments. Before coming to America, Georgia thought it would be like Hollywood with lots of crowds, famous people, and skyscrapers. 

GEORGIA: When I came to New York, I was hoping to see famous people but I only saw the Ghostbuster actors on the subway. They were filming the new movie. This second visit was so different. When I was younger, I hadn’t paid attention to the details. I was just a little kid tagging along with my parents. Now, I noticed the people and the buildings. The tallest building in Greece is 8 floors and here it is 80 floors. I noticed everything. When I was in Boston, everything was clean. There weren’t homeless people or trash. In New York, it was the opposite. It was like my first time again. Even the things you don’t notice affect you. Also, people in US stores are much more willing to help you find what you want. They are so kind but it might be because of the salary. 

For Alessandro and Alex, coming to Brown University was their first time traveling to the US. For Alessandro, coming here was very helpful for his language skills.

ALEX: This was my first time traveling in the US and it was a really unique experience. I would love to do it again and absorb as many more memories as I can.

When did you first become aware of the US?

Zuzanna has always been aware of the United States as a random country in her consciousness. Alessandro became aware of the US as a kid, by watching the TV. He used to watch the cartoon Ben 10 and that’s when he first saw the US flag. Similar to Zuzanna, Alex feels like she has always been aware of the US.

ALEX: It’s pretty obvious that every non-US citizen is aware of the US, since it’s a “dream” destination to all of us.

The United States in Polish, Italian and Greek Schooling

In Poland, Zuzanna, has not been taught about the US in school. In Italy, Alessandro has studied the influence of past European countries over the US as a colony. In Greece, Alex and Georgia have learned about the American Revolution in school, but not much else. Alex noted that most of what she has learned has come from the media.

The United States from an Polish, Italian and Greek Teen Perspective

Personally, Zuzanna has a positive view of the US. She noted that the US has much “chiller vibes” than Poland, though she thinks the older generation, like her grandparents, would have a harder time adjusting here. Similarly, Alessandro has had a positive experience in the US. Georgia, on the other hand, less so.

ZUZANNA: I don’t see many differences between friends in Poland and in the US. I think it’s because social media connects everyone around the world and makes it easier for my generation to connect. We all follow the same trends, for example.

ALESSANDRO: The people I’ve met were very friendly, even though sometimes I had a few problems about understanding.

GEORGIA: Everyone in Greece is dreaming of going to the US because it’s a dreamland. My opinion is neutral. I don’t like the ways the laws work (gun control and abortion) but there is a fair system with the salary and tips. I also don’t like the rats and humid weather.

Georgia also compared US and Greek teenagers’ work ethic and testing systems.

GEORGIA: In Greece, teenagers are more mature in some but not all things. People in America have not learned to work hard. People still fail after studying in college for years because one exam determines the whole future. I think it’s pointless to learn it by heart but not really remember because if you don’t like what you’re learning, you won’t remember it.

Stereotypes of Americans in Italy and Greece

Alessandro’s only stereotype of the US was that they eat a lot of sweets, while Alex and Georgia’s were similar to the French perspectives.

ALEX: I don’t think there are stereotypes about Americans. They’re known for good things mostly. The only ‘rumor’ I confirmed from traveling here was that the food is really processed and it’s hard to find something healthy to eat.

GEORGIA: People think Americans are obese and they don’t know about geography. I think American tests are so easy because they’re are multiple choice. I think it’s really easy to evolve here and find job opportunities to become successful—it’s the place to study higher education.

In Conclusion

Overall, these interviewees had a positive perspective on the US. This could be because they’ve all experienced the United States through a pre college summer program. Either way, it serves as a reminder that everyone experiences the United States differently.

A Journey to Understanding America: The US Through South Korean Eyes

To learn more about a South Korean perspective on the US, we reached out to Alexander, a rising senior at the Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies (HAFS). He was born in Guam but raised in South Korea, where he lives in Seoul. Alexander is planning to study human biology at a college in the US. 

Since he was born in Guam, Alexander has been aware of the US somewhat always.

ALEXANDER: I had few chances to directly experience American culture, and contemplate its history and social structure. However, after I decided to study at a US college and attended HAFS, which offers a good program for students who want to matriculate colleges in the US, I was motivated to understand America deeply. Studying the Declaration of Independence, the Vietnam War and capitol insurrection on January 6, I tried to gain insight on American culture and interpret ongoing issues. During this time, Mrs. Ji Yoon Kim’s YouTube channel helped me a lot. Furthermore, I took a course about American identities at Brown. However, still, there are many contexts and details I want to understand about America. For example, it was very hard for me to understand the controversy on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, illegalizing abortion, which is already strictly outlawed in South Korea.

In school, Alexander learned about the Battle of Ganghwa and the US-Korea Treaty of 1882, something they were taught was an unjust agreement and the first official diplomatic relationship Korea had with the US. He has also learned some basic US history, like the foundation and independence of the United States, the Pacific War and the US’s engagement in the Korean war, in order to understand the world, but he hasn’t learned enough in school to allow him to understand the US by itself.

Coming to Brown for a course called, “Literature, Culture and American Identities” was his first time visiting the US. He told us more about his experience:

ALEXANDER: When the Customs and Border officer said, “Welcome back home, sir,” stamping on my US passport that I’ve never used before, I awkwardly remembered that this was my birthplace, another home. I felt many things have changed since my last year in the US. However, still America is the most inclusive society I’ve ever experienced.

Before coming to the United States, Alexander watched several movies set in high school, such as Dear Evan Hansen, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Let It Snow, to see what an average American high school student’s day would be like:

ALEXANDER: It seemed like being a so-called “insider” and being “cool” is very important. Also, I read Quiet and Bittersweet by Susan Cain who criticized American culture to inordinately praise extroversion over introversion and emphasize positivity in every moment of life. This made me worry that classmates would think I am a “nerdy” and stereotypical first-generation Asian student. However, when my classmates sincerely listened and commented on my ideas in discussion and empathized that they also feel the aspect of American culture that Susan Cain warned to her readers, I felt that there was no need for those worries and I am also belonging to this society.

In Conclusion

Alexander is curious about the United States and understanding the country beyond what he learns in school. He wants to be able to experience America. Hopefully, his journey is a positive, enlightening one! Lastly, Alexander said, “I hope someday we can meet in the academic field. I hope your dreams come true! Thank you for reading.”


Get Out *Contains spoilers!*

Get Out, a horror movie that draws parallels to our racially complex society today, delves deeper into what one race wants that others have. For example, the movie centers around a White family wanting to steal a Black man’s strength. I interpreted this as symbolism of the phenomenon we are seeing today: cultural appropriation. We see other cultures taking aspects of Black fashion or mainstreaming what has been traditionally Black music. Another example is in sports where White owners are taking advantage of Black athletes and profiting off of them. Essentially, even though we’ve moved away from the chattel of slavery and passed the Civil Rights Act, we still see commodification of Blacks. This can be seen in the auction scene in the movie where White people are bidding on which Black person they want to make their victim next.

My favorite scene in the movie is when Rose is seen drinking a tall glass of milk while eating Froot Loops separately. She has this weird snack while she looks through top NBA prospects and finds her next victim. While I mostly liked the weirdness and suspense of this scene, I read it carried deeper symbolism. Apparently, milk has been used as a symbol of white supremacy. In addition, the separation of milk and Froot Loops is supposed to symbolize Rose’s beliefs in the segregation of people by skin town (separating the white milk from the multi-colored Froot Loops).

Lastly, I liked how this movie went against stereotypical race and gender roles. Oftentimes, films portray Black men as violent villains. However, in this film, the Black man is the gentle character who treats women well. He is the victim and the one who is oppressed. Similarly, Rose is not the helpless white woman. Rather, she is the villain. 

Overall, I believe horror is a genre that can be used to comment on social and political problems in an indirect or direct way. Although some horror films are meaningless and escapist, others have complex meanings.


Elvis Presley is an American icon. His slicked-back black hair, integrated sound, and appeal to the ladies make him quite the superstar. But was this superstar really living the perfect life or was it all just a show? Elvis explores the relationship between Elvis and his manager: Colonel Tom Parker. What’s most impressive is how Austin Butler re-recorded all the Elvis songs himself. Watch Elvis to discover what was under the veil and the dark secrets of the show business. 

This Changes Everything

One of the industries with the worst gender discrimination is the media and entertainment industry, with only about 15% of movie and show directors being female and many movies starring mainly men with women put into stereotypical roles. This Changes Everything, streaming on Netflix, dives into the gender disparity in Hollywood with famous actresses and filmmakers, such as Meryl Streep and Sandra Oh speaking their minds about what is going on. It also highlights organizations and people making an effort to change the way women are perceived in the media in a multitude of ways, from data-collectors to directors to actresses and so many more who want the perspective of women in film to break these stereotypes and improve those too-small percentages. This Changes Everything is a must-see documentary, which discusses the history and solutions to gender disparities in one of the biggest recreational industries out there.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a creative, comedic, but heart-wrenching story that spreads a truly important message about community, love and kindness. This “mockumentary” follows the story of Marcel, a shell who lives in a house with his community: his family, friends and neighbors. Until one day, the couple who owned the house breakup, his entire family, except for his grandmother, are displaced and the house becomes an Airbnb. Overtime, they learn to adapt, until an aspiring filmmaker, Dean, comes to stay for a while, while looking for a permanent house. Together, with Dean recording Marcel going about his everyday life, they create a YouTube following with the hope that Marcel might be able to find his family again. This beautifully made animation and live-action film highlights so many important themes in a sweet and sad, but comedic way. This film is perfect for all ages because the message it spreads is for everyone!

Soul of America

This book aims to use historical events to explain present events. While the book is dense, there are quotes and stories layered throughout. Anyone who wants to understand the current political climate and dive deep into the ideals that make up America should read this book!

My Name is Pauli Murray

You probably haven’t heard of Pauli Murray. But their ideas influenced some of the biggest legal activists we do know of: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. Murray’s work fighting for women’s rights and rights for people of color began even before the Civil Rights Movement after the 60s started. This non-binary and Black activist, poet, lawyer and priest was a true visionary, much ahead of their time.My Name is Pauli Murray does a beautiful job documenting who Pauli Murray was, highlighting them as a person and so much more!

Living Locally: Imp, Crusader, Dude, Priest: Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray’s exhibit at the NC Museum of History

By Adalia

Back when the Pauli Murray exhibit opened at the North Carolina Museum of History, I went to watch the documentary, My Name is Pauli Murray, at the Museum’s theater. Before watching, I walked through the exhibit, which is open until November 27. I had never heard of Murray before and what I had read during my quick Google search didn’t encapsulate their personality much. However, the exhibit and documentary taught me so much more about the wonderful Pauli Murray!

The title, “Imp, Crusader, Dude, Priest,” and opening of the exhibit, already began to put Pauli Murray into perspective, especially with the pictures, printed on enormous canvases. Each showed a different part of Murray, portraying the intersectionality of them. But what really struck home all these intersections of who Murray was, was a graphic with different pieces of them displayed. In the middle, it reads “human rights are indivisible,” and each piece gives information on different pieces of Pauli.

In the top right corner, it reads “between black and white,” noting how diverse Murray’s family tree is with ancestors of Black, White and Indigenous descent. It has a quote of Murray’s, which reads, “in a world of black-white opposition, I had no place…being neither very dark nor very fair, I was a nobody without identity.” Even from a young age, the prejudice against different parts of them affected who they were.

The top right corner is “between male and female,” something which Murray struggled with particularly because of the lack of fluidity and acceptance in the time they were alive. It mentions how Murray chose the name “Pauli” “to reflect their ‘he/she personality’” and explains how Murray sought our hormone treatment, believing that something was wrong with their body.

The next circle depicts the difference “between working class and middle class.” Murray was an extremely successful academic, with advanced degrees in English Literature, Law and Divinity, yet, because of their race and sexual orientation, their options were limited. Because of the struggles they faced finding equal economic opportunity, Murray became a workers’ rights activist.

The last circle reads, “between homosexual and heterosexual,” quoting Murray asking, “Why is it that my greatest attractions have been toward extremely femine and heterosexual women?? Why do I desire monogamous married life as a completion?” Murray never publicly identified as LGBTQIA+, however they expressed affection for Irene Barlow as a partner and spiritual mate, who shares a headstone with Pauli.

Already, the exhibit showed pieces of who Murray was. Each additional picture, plack or graphic helped add to who they were and the amazing things they accomplished.

Ingredients for a Movement: 1 Person, 1 Typewriter

One really important part of Murray was writing. They wrote several books, in addition to countless articles, essays, sermons and speeches. Writing was one of their forms of activism, which they point out in a 1965 quote: “One person plus one typewriter constitutes a movement.” In addition to the activism aspect of writing, poetry was a way for Murray to understand themself, from their race to gender to class.

Their most well-known book Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family follows the story of Murray’s maternal grandparents, who were from Durham, North Carolina, and their story of surviving slavery and micsegenation from before the Civil War till the Reconstruction Era. It was written in 1956 and is still studied today to learn about African American genealogy in the United States.

Pauli Murray Through the People Who Knew Them

One part of the exhibit, which I found most intriguing, was a graphic of Murray’s social network, which listed a number of well-known activists, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rosa Parks. This showed just how diverse Murray’s friends were and can be a synonym for how many people were affected by their actions.

Along with the “Pauli Murray’s Social Network” poster, the museum had Murray’s address book, which listed over 500 friends, allies, acquaintances and more, whom they had interacted with during their life.

A project, called “Finding Jane Crow,” was based on the extensive list of names and stories within Murray’s address book. This name came from a term Murray had coined: “Jane Crow,” meaning prejudice against women, which they felt could be compared to Jim Crow laws. 

Honoring Pauli Murray

One of the last things to come across in the exhibit is a beautiful copy of a graffiti painting of Murray, with a quote of theirs at the bottom from their book, Proud Shoes. It says, “It had taken me almost a lifetime to discover that true emancipation lies in the acceptance of the whole past, in deriving strength from all my roots, in facing up to the degradation as well as the dignity of my ancestors.” This mural, along with several others in Durham, North Carolina, were painted by the community in honor of Murray’s work for equality for all people: people of color, women, the working class and many more. Without the work of this amazing human being, who would be arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of the bus fifteen years before Rosa Parks, several legal actions and countless other moments in history might not have happened.

There is so much more to explore about Pauli Murray, even in this exhibit alone, which really only skims the surface of who they were. This exhibit is free and open until November 27, 2022 at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, and I highly recommend taking a trip to learn more if you are in the area! If you can’t go to the exhibit, I recommend watching My Name is Pauli Murray on Amazon Prime (even if documentaries aren’t really your thing) because it has so much information about all of the different things in our world touched by Pauli Murray.

Exploring the American Landscape from Across the Pond: The US Through Scottish/English Eyes: Dr. Shaun Wallace

Dr. Shaun Wallace grew up in a small, quiet village on the outskirts of the historic city of Stirling, Scotland. Wallace went to the University of Stirling as the first in his family to go to college and in 2018, Wallace was awarded his PhD. From there, he moved to Bristol, England, where he is a lecturer in US History at the University of Bristol. 

Becoming Involved in US History

Wallace has been fascinated with the US ever since he was a child when he visited several times. But, he really became involved in American Studies during his second year at university. He was doing an American history unit, and one week, when studying slavery, his class read Frederick Douglass’s 1845 Narrative. Wallace says, “I became instantly fascinated with the topic. Reading it raised so many questions. Now, almost 14 years later, I am still pursuing answers to those questions.” Furthermore, Wallace read many testimonies written or narrated by formerly enslaved persons. This gave him interest in slavery and fugitivity, specifically. He explained, “There are so many incredibly powerful accounts which offer unparalleled insights into slavery told from the perspective of persons who experienced its horrors first-hand.”

Wallace says that the most interesting thing he has learned about and continues to learn about is the “unique stories of thousands of enslaved women and men who escaped every day from across the US. Fugitives risked their lives in pursuit of freedom and in their escapes from physical bondage. Women and men escaped alone but also escaped alongside their family and friends demonstrating remarkable courage.” Through Wallace’s personal research, he has discovered the very first American fugitive slave advertisement published in a US newspaper.

Teaching US History

Wallace teaches US history from 1619 to the modern day but he specializes in early national and antebellum era slavery. He told us, “I am particularly interested in the stories of enslaved persons who escaped and who were advertised as escapees in American newspapers.  I created a database of these advertisements called the Fugitive Slave Database.” In fact, his book In Pursuit of Freedom, which will be published by the University of Georgia Press soon, introduces the database.

Wallace explained that his students want to learn many different things about the US. Some are already familiar with US history and simply want to know more, while others are learning it for the first time. Some of the most interesting themes and topics for students include race, the Civil Rights Movement and Native American activism.

American Studies Within vs Abroad

Although Wallace has never taught in the US, the main difference he has observed is that he spends a lot of time sketching out the geographical landscape of the US to students. Wallace encourages students to explore the diversity of the US, its vast landscape, and how it has evolved over different time periods. He also likes to spend time looking at local and regional histories to learn how these can relate to national history and narratives.

A Perspective on the US from English/Scottish Eyes

People have wide-ranging personal views and opinions on cultural, economic, political, and social issues in the US however I would say that most people, at least that I know, are intrigued by the US and want to learn more about it.

Going in depth in American Studies changed your perspective on the US hasn’t changed Wallace’s perspective of the US, but rather made him “appreciate its complexity.” Wallace says “I am very fortunate that my job allows me to explore US history in depth each and every day. It means I am constantly discovering new histories.


Overall, Wallace believes understanding US history is vital to “understanding the relationships between people and societies throughout the world. Ultimately, people’s viewpoint will not be decided simply by studying US history, rather it will be shaped and reshaped as they explore how people and societies have shaped the US and how they have acted in the US and across the globe.”

Learn more about Dr. Wallace at: Also, you can check out his book In Pursuit of Freedom, which is coming soon and will be published by the University of Georgia Press, which introduced the Fugitive Slave Database.

Virtual Voyages: The World of Coca-Cola Museum

By Leeya

In June, I visited Atlanta for the first time. While it was a brief trip, it was definitely a memorable one!

During our trip, we visited the World of Coca-Cola museum. It was clearly a popular tourist destination as the museum was packed. The museum had many interactive exhibits including “Scent Discovery” and “Taste It.” In “Taste It,” I could try over 100 types of Coke products from around the world. My favorites were the Watermelon Fanta from the Philippines and the Moldovian Coke. The worst one was the Sour Plum Coke from China which tasted like barbeque sauce.

What stuck with me the most from this museum was the international symbol of Coke-Cola. It is truly one of the most powerful and recognizable logos in the world. In a way, it is applicable to the topic of the magazine because it serves as a representation of the US. Overall, it shows how US projects can become a global icon, one that a lot of people associate with the United States.

Food Facts: Meals in Colonial America

Written by Leeya

Food can tell us a lot about history. It connects people and places and it speaks to the culture and traditions of a place. Not to mention, we need it to live. 

This summer, I visited Fort Ticonderoga, looking out on the Adirondack Mountains. This beautiful historical landmark was once the tipping point of the Revolutionary War. It was the first offensive victory for the Americans: a win for the small guys against an entire empire. 

In the past hundred years, Fort Ticonderoga has been converted into a privately run historical site that people can visit.

During our visit, we got to watch one of the employees create a meal that would be made during colonial America. The meal consisted of beef and black eyed peas stew, molasses-based hot chocolate, spruce beer, and freshly baked bread. They all represented what was going on in the political climate at the time. For example, George Washington was getting a lot of chocolate from the north coast of South America at the time, so hot chocolate was made. Molasses was very multifaceted, as soldiers during the Revolutionary War would use it to cook up with salted pork. This gave it a sweet and sour flavor. In addition, many people drank spruce beer. It is full of vitamin C, which combats scurvy. Colonizers adapted this from Natives after seeing them drink tea with spruce needles. The stew was made of cabbage grown in the garden and other greens. Lastly, the employee showed us the process of checking if the clay oven was ready to bake bread. He scraped the coals and banked them against the oven to see if the heat was powerful enough to cook the bread fully through, but weak enough to not burn it.

The most interesting thing I saw was the reversed gender roles! In the 21st century, you can see a woman chopping wood while a man cooks. 

Overall, Fort Ticonderoga was an immersive experience that I highly recommend!

A Hispanic-American Meal

We’ve pulled together a few of our favorite Hispanic-American style dishes to share with you. These dishes are tasty, filling and fun to make for yourself, family or friends. Our guacamole and pico can be brought to events or parties and our rice and enchiladas are changeable to fit whatever level of spice or flavor you want. We hope you enjoy cooking!

Guacamole with Red Onion

Ready in 10 minutes 

Serves 4 people


  • 2-3 avocados 
  • 1 lime 
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • ¼ tsp of garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp of chili flakes
  • ½ tbsp of olive oil
  • ⅓-½ a medium red onion


  1. Mash the peeled and pitted avocado in a bowl with a fork or potato masher until there are no big pieces of avocado left.
  2. Squeeze half a lime and put a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili flakes in the bowl. Stir. Then add your olive oil and stir again. Dice your onion and add it in the bowl, depending on the amount you would like. Squeeze the other half of the lime and put in another pinch of salt in the bowl.
  3. Stir more until you get the desired texture. Enjoy!

*To save your guacamole from browning, keep the avocado pit in the guacamole. You can keep it for several days!

Pico de Gallo

Top left: Pico de Gallo, Bottom: black beans with rice, Top right: corn tortillas

Ready in 15 minutes

Serves 4 people


  • 1 serrano pepper or jalapeño pepper
  • Half a small red onion
  • Half a bell pepper
  • 1 whole tomato
  • Half a lime
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼-½ tsp cumin


  1. Then, roughly chop your onion, tomato, serrano or jalapeño and bell pepper. If you are using a serrano or don’t want the pico to be super spicy, take the seeds out of the pepper before chopping.
  2. Put the onion, serrano pepper, and bell pepper in the food processor first (these will take longer to blend). Use the chop option to blend until the vegetables are diced. Put this mixture in the serving dish.
  3. Blend the tomato and add to the serving dish.
  4. Squeeze half a lime and add a pinch of salt and ¼-½ teaspoon of cumin. 

*For a yummy mango salsa: Roughly chop ¼-½ of a mango and blend it up in the food processor. Then, add it to your pico de gallo recipe.

Black Beans and Rice

Ready in 20 minutes

Serves 4-6 people


  • For the rice:
    • 2 cups of water
    • 1 cup of basmati rice
    • Olive oil
    • Pinch of salt
    • Pinch of pepper
  • For the beans:
    • ¼-½ of a white onion, depending on size
    • 1-2 cloves of garlic
    • 15 oz can of black beans
    • Olive oil
    • ¼ cup of spinach
    • Pinch of salt
    • Pinch of black pepper
    • ½ a teaspoon of cumin
    • 1 ½ tablespoons of red hot sauce 

Rice Preparation:

  1. Use a water heater, to boil 2 cups of water.
  2. Heat your pot, then add some oil to the bottom. Add the rice, salt and pepper and let your rice fry while the water heats.
  3. Once the water is boiling, add it to your rice. Put the lid on, then turn the heat down to simmer. Do NOT lift up or stir for at least 13 minutes. Then, you can check that the rice isn’t burning. If it needs more time, add a minute or two.
  4. Once done, put it into a separate container.

Beans Preparation:

  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Drain and rinse your can of beans.
  2. Heat your pan on the stove on medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil and saute the  onion and garlic, until the onions start to brown.
  3. Then, add the beans, spinach, salt, pepper, cumin and hot sauce. Stir constantly until the spinach and beans are cooked.
  4. Add the rice, then turn off the heat. Stir until everything is incorporated.

*Valentina and Texas Pete hot sauces are our favorites!

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Ready in 90 minutes

Makes 9 enchiladas

Center: sweet potato enchiladas, Left center: roasted zucchini, Right center: Puerto Rican-style rice, Corners: black beans with Mexican sour cream, Bottom center: salsa verde with tomatillos


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (or 3 small ones)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • 2 raw chicken breasts
  • Oil for pan 
  • 5.5 oz can of v8 juice (tomato juice)
  • Spices:
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • ½ tsp chili pepper
    • ½ tsp garlic powder
    • Pinch of paprika
    • ½ tsp oregano
    • Pinch of salt
    • Pinch of pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 9 six-inch tortillas (corn tortillas are the best but flour tortillas work)
  • 3-3 ½ cups of your favorite shredded cheese (colby jack or mozzarella are good)


  1. Turn on the oven at 400°F. Once ready, put the sweet potatoes in with their skin on so they will hold their juices. Cook for 45-50 minutes until soft. Once done, slice the sweet potato into thin ¼-½ inch strips. This step can be done in advance.
  2. Turn the oven down or preheat it to 375°F in preparation for the enchiladas.
  3. Chicken and Sauce:
    1. Chop the onion, mince the garlic and cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes.
    2. Heat a large pan at medium-low. Once hot, add oil and the onion. After the onion has started to become more clear (3-5 minutes), add the chicken and garlic. Cover with a lid, to keep the juices in the pan. After a minute, stir to flip the chicken. Repeat this until the chicken is cooked (5-7 minutes).
    3. Add the V8 juice. Make sure to rinse out your can to get the extra juice. Add cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper and stir. Turn the stove to simmer.
  4. Spray a 11 inch by 7 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  5. Heat up several large skillets or a griddle at medium heat. Your pans/griddle must be very hot before adding the tortillas. Heat the tortillas for about 1 ½ minutes on each side. They must be cooked all at once because this part is done quickly.
  6. Lay out two big cutting boards and place your tortillas ugly (or bumpy) side up so they will fall apart less easily. Add a handful of cheese on top of each tortilla. Place one to two strips of sweet potato on top of each tortilla. Then, scoop 5 to 6 pieces of chicken onto each tortilla. Make sure to drain the sauce out, because we’ll need that for the top, later on.
  7. Once all nine tortillas have their toppings, begin rolling them.
    1. Grab a handful of cheese and place that on top of a tortilla.
    2. Tightly roll the tortilla up, making sure nothing falls out. This might be hot work, so use gloves if necessary. 
    3. Carefully place the tortilla roll against the side of the baking pan with the end pieces down so it doesn’t fall apart.
  8. Repeat this process with all other tortillas. You may have to tightly pack the tortillas and two of the tortillas will go along the top of the other tortillas.
  9. Add the extra sauce along the edges of the tortillas, so they don’t get burnt. Make sure to thoroughly get all corners of the pan, but don’t add any to the middle or your enchiladas will be soggy.
  10. Add more cheese on top of the enchiladas, making sure to spread it to the edges. This also helps with crunchiness.
  11. Put the enchiladas in the oven for 20 minutes.
  12. Make sure to check on them in about 15-17 minutes. If the enchiladas are not browned on top, cook them a little longer. If they are browned, take them out.
  13. To serve your enchiladas use a metal or wooden spatula to gently scoop one rolled tortilla onto a plate. It is tasty to add pico and guac on top of your enchiladas with a side of rice or beans!

*The level of spice can be changed: if you want more of a flavor, add more!

*To reheat your enchiladas, either cover in the microwave for 2 minutes or reheat in the oven at 350°F for 5-7 minutes.

*If your tortillas are super hot add cheese on top to help cool them down. Plus, this adds flavor to the enchiladas.

Sheltered In the Land of Free: The US Through Foreign Eyes: Merray Gerges

Merray Gerges lived on three separate continents by the time she was 15 years old. She was born in Egypt but moved to Abhu Dabhi in 1996 and then, at 15, to Canada. Currently, Gerges lives in New York City where she is a writer and editor for her own art history and art criticism publication, which she does with some of her friends.

Gerges grew up Cathartic Orthodox: a Christain minority persecuted by the Muslim majority in Egypt. She left Egypt at a young age to move to Abhu Dahbi with her family. In Abhu Dabhi, she learned English at an international school.

Her parents had been constantly trying to move to Canada because they had limited rights in Abu Dhabi since they were on a work visa. When they finally got to Canada, they moved into a mostly white, suburban neighborhood where Gerges went to an art high school. This inspired her to expand her art knowledge and go to university for art education. She is a Halifax undergraduate. Before coming to New York, Gerges worked in Toronto and started her magazine.

Gerges told us “her identity is shaped and informed by the places she’s been” and the “different ideas of home” she’s encountered in each place she’s lived.

Becoming Aware of the US

For a long time, Gerges was aware of the US, but it didn’t really affect her life and she was too young to understand how the US could impact her in the future. Her first real memory of the US begins on 9/11. At the time, she was 10 years old and living in Abhu Dabhi. She was on the phone with her friend who had supposedly wronged her and was asking for an apology. She said, “I was powertripping because I finally had an apology, when my mom started yelling ‘You need to see this!’” Gerges remembers the footage playing over and over on the TV of the twin towers falling. She really became aware of the global impact of this event when she was traveling and the experiences her uncles and dad faced at security checkpoints in the airport and the feeling of being “horrified by imperialism, even though [she] didn’t really understand it.”

Another thing that drove home what the US means to her was the disparity between the value of soldiers during the conflict in the Middle East. “The value of US life is so much greater than of brown lives and brown soldiers,” Gerges has observed, “one American life is more important than a thousand brown lives.”

The US in Gerges’ Education

Other than these two personal experiences, Gerges didn’t know a lot about the US because she wasn’t taught about it. In the gulf (Egypt), the US didn’t enter the picture until 9/11 because the curriculum focused on British and European history. In Canada, it was similar as well.

Gerges tolds us she is most interested in the last half of the 20th century, especially relating to women’s rights and suffrage, the Black Panther Party, and the civil rights movements, while the rest of US history isn’t very interesting to her. She also learned more about the US during her Art History studies where she’s seen parallels to culture, political context, and politics. 

Coming to the United States

Before coming to New York City, Gerges had been living in Nova Scotia, where they were under lockdown because of COVID-19, even though the population was relatively small compared to that in New York. Gerges told us she was surprised that there was no lockdown in the US, even though the rate of cases is so much higher here and by how many people refused to get a vaccine in the US despite how easy it is.

Furthermore, she explained to us her first ever memory in the US: When she got into the taxi from the airport in New York, the first thing she saw was this ad for a lottery to win a million dollars and Joe Biden saying something about high vaccine rates. She told us that the US thinks it is “advanced and sophisticated but it is very rudimentary to need to convince people to take a vaccine with a lottery!” Beyond what Gerges has already experienced, this experience would further shape her perspective on the US.

Stereotypes from the Arab World and Canada

Clearly Gerges has lived in a number of places where she’s observed stereotypes of the United States. In the Arab world, there is a vilification and veneration of Americans. Some aspire to move there and some hate America. 

Becoming a journalist in Canada also greatly shaped her perspective on the US, Gerges told us. She also explained how she’s noticed that Canada’s nation is built on comparing itself to the US. Gerges told us that some Candadians argue that they’re not as bad as the US because they didn’t enslave people. Though Canada’s colonial history isn’t as bad as the US, they still have some complex history, which does, actually, involve slavery.

Overall, Gerges told us that her perspective on Americans is that they are very sheltered, with limited life experience because of growing up in one place for their whole lives. Her overall stereotype of the average white American is an upper middle class, sheltered kid in the Midwest.

In Conclusion

She told us that Americans are generally very sheltered because they have limited experience in the world, unlike an immigrant, such as her, who grew up on three separate continents. Gerges noted how the United States is considered a free place, but, in reality, it is hard to have a life here in the US if you’re not a citizen, which has given the US an inflated ego.

Outgrowing “American Studies”

One pager by Leeya

*Disclaimer: This is how we interpreted the publication. This is only a section of publication. We encourage you to read the entire piece and form your own perspective as it has great points and is very well-written. Read it here (with a JSTOR subscription):

Throughout this edition, the word American Studies is consistently used. However, with the growing cultural groups within America, some have questioned whether American Studies has outgrown its name.

One person who believes this is Professor Matthew Guterl who teaches American Studies at Brown University. He wrote about this concept in his publication, “The Importance of Place in Post-Everything American Studies.” Guterl argues that we are too big for the name “American Studies.” It only sticks because of how long it has been used, the national resonance it carries, and international strength it has. Now, “American Studies” is more complex. Borders are contested, people argue that the United States should be a shared subject, and we are an interdisciplinary community. Guterl questions whether American Studies can ever be a subject that we can all “(un)comfortably inhabit together.”

A and L’s Thoughts

LEEYA: I believe the word America carries the meaning that Guterl is looking for. For me, America aims to be an interdisciplinary community. The purpose of America is to encompass the culture groups into a rich, shared community. Whether America fulfills that aim completely is open to debate. However, keeping the name “American Studies” serves as a reminder of what we aim to be. It is similar to what Dr. Enzerink said in her article: “… the US was founded on democratic principles, the stated belief that everyone was created equal. Even if this was blatantly untrue when the nation was founded and these words were written, the sentiment is something to aspire to, to work to materialize in real life.” The word America is that unattainable, incomplete perfection.

ADALIA: I disagree with Guterl’s point that “American Studies” has outgrown its name because I don’t believe it can outgrow its name. Even if the United States were to dissolve, studying its history wouldn’t suddenly mean needing a different name. While I do agree that subjects within American Studies are growing, this doesn’t entitle us to change its name. Even if the Periodic Table gained 50 elements, we wouldn’t change the name, and the same applies here. In the end, I do agree with Leeya’s point that America can be a synonym for unattainable perfection in the form of equality and democracy.

American Studies Abroad: A Concluding One Pager

Each individual we interviewed had a varying perspective on the United States, whether it was negative, positive, or neutral.

Our most negative perspective probably came from Merray Gerges, whose family and friends have directly been affected by the US in racist and discriminatory ways. However, several others shared sentiments through what they had heard about in the media. 

A few people shared that they had neutral or a mix of positive and negative views of the United States. They expressed interest in the beautiful landscapes and the opportunity that the US offers but also understood that there are political and cultural problems within the US.

The people with the most positive views were probably our Colombian teens, several of whom described how the highs and lows in the American economy positively affected them and how the United States is a land of opportunity that offers a high quality of life. Almost all of them expressed interest in visiting the United States or living here one day.

As with any piece of writing, the reader is open to interpreting what they’ve read, however it best fits their viewpoint. We believe it’s important to look at the positives and negatives. Being able to see multiple sides of the story is something Dr. Enzerink talked about.

We both are extremely grateful that in the United States we have the freedom of speech. We are so thankful we can have this publication and can write what we want without fear of the government interfering. We believe this is part of the beauty of democracy. Through writing, perspectives are widened and views can be changed. We hope that this publication broadened your view of the United States on both ends of the love-hate spectrum. We are going to conclude with the same quote we started with as we believe it will be thought about differently after fully reading this magazine: “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” ~James Baldwin