Monday, 19 October 2015


When I started my research, I essentially was interested in what others like me had experienced--what did other Americans think about their time spent studying overseas? How did it change their lives? I thought the case of Americans in Britain was particularly interesting, because of the "special relationship", common language, shared culture, etc. How are the experiences of Americans different from other international students, those who don't speak English as a native language, those who may not "blend in" as well as Americans (particularly white Americans)? For example, on my first day in the UK as an exchange student, I got asked for directions. When I said what I thought the right answer was, and explained it was my first time here, too, they said "Oh, sorry, you looked like you knew what you were doing!" During my time in the UK, I've been asked for directions countless times in London, Liverpool, Bath, Manchester, Leeds, etc. I blend in--I "pass" for a local until I open my mouth. I'm privileged to pass, and now that I've been here for so many years and finished my research, I've finally recognised that privilege.

One of my more academic insights into parenting (almost 4 months now!) has been that I want George to acknowledge his privilege. He is white, male, a dual citizen of the US and the UK, born to married, home-owning parents who both hold postgraduate degrees. He has a passport and has already used it. When he learns to speak, it will be in English, giving him an advantage in the international job market. His first-rate medical care has been provided by the internationally renowned NHS since before he was born. He is incredibly privileged (not part of the 1% or anything, but still, very privileged). I want him to know that these things are completely up to chance, and he could have just as easily been born in Syria. He could have been born a girl in a culture that doesn't value them, and gone without medical care or an education simply due to being a girl. He could have been born into a single parent situation, as his parents both were, or a lower middle-class family without health insurance in America, as I was. He could have been born another race and faced discrimination simply based on the colour of his skin.

As a parent, you walk a fine line between wanting the best for your children and trying not to spoil them. Statistically, he's already spoilt from day 1. I want the best for him, but I also desperately want to teach him to use his privilege for good in the world. He has a voice that many people don't have, simply because of the color of his skin, his sex and his nationality. I hope he uses it well. (Very heavy expectations for a kid that can't even roll over yet, but there you go!)