The prof tells us to meet our group and pick a presentation topic. I find the guy whose name matches the one on my paper.
“Where are you from?” he asks.
“Oh… Americaaaan,” he says in a long sarcastic snarl. His eyes narrow as he leans as far in the other direction as
“Yep, let’s hear it,” I say, waving my hand for more.
He laughs and apologizes, repeating it was only a joke.
A joke that’s become too familiar over the past three years.
I’ve grown a thick skin since my first year at St. Thomas University. Taking enough political science classes will speed that along.
America is a popular subject among profs, students, and in my classes, but sometimes it can feel like an interrogation on my actions, as if I led soldiers into Iraq myself. I did not.
It’s a test of my knowledge. How well did you really pay attention in high school? I’ve taken STU classes where no one knew I was from the U.S. I don’t look international, so unless I announce it, I’m just a normal Canadian student. One with a pretty good understanding of what it’s like to grow up in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
If you ask other American students, they’ll admit to keeping their identity secret in at least one class.
It’s an odd thing sitting next to someone ripping on the U.S. and they have no idea. Sometimes you can pull the awkward, “I’m from the U.S. and that movie you’re referring to isn’t how things really are…” but most of the time they make valid points.
I don’t reveal where I’m from because I’m ashamed or have nothing to say. I like listening to other students and interpreting their opinions. I’ve learned more about my own country by not speaking up and simply listening. There’s a time and place however and the majority of my classes know I’m from the U.S.
So why STU? It’s a question I’ve answered hundreds of times and still don’t have an answer for. But honestly, it’s the price tag. Canadian tuition prices are far lower than schools in the U.S. which attracts American students trying to crawl out of this recession.
My guidance counselor knew a Maine family whose daughter went here and loved it. She knew I wanted to travel and told me I may as well start by doing my undergrad in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Um, where? After visiting campus I felt my crazy counselor might be right. Three years later and coming to STU is a decision I’m proud I made.
The lifestyle, food, and scenery are so similar to New England. I feel like I’m in a different state, not a whole new country. Until I hear someone say “eh.”
“Eh” is not a stereotype because Canadians say it all the time. New Brunswick surprises me with the range of accents just in the one province. Everyone in New Hampshire talks alike. I still struggle with Celsius and Fahrenheit but thanks to the internet I can rest assured knowing how many pairs of socks to wear each day.
I know I’m in Canada when someone gives me directions in kilometers, or spells the words favourite, colour, and cheque (favorite, color, check). These seem like minor differences and day-to-day that’s all they are, but in the big picture, the U.S. and Canada are two distinct countries with historically different political cultures.
I love the United States and I love Canada. Both countries have a spirit unique from the other that I’ve enjoyed observing over the past few years.
The town I’m from in New Hampshire turns into a tourist hot spot each summer because of our lake. Waitressing allows me to meet people from all around the country – and many from Canada. I get excited to meet Canadians and make a strong effort to be welcoming and encouraging no matter where they’re from.
Who knows, maybe if I hadn’t come to STU I’d be the one teasing “Oh… Canadiaaan.”