Although our readings on “orientalism” focused on a more large-scale description of the concept of “othering” a particular group of people, I believe that this same idea can be applied to much more specific and nonobjective circumstances. For example, when I first arrived at Dickinson in 2017, although I did not vary too much in appearance from the rest of the students, it did not take long before I began to feel “out of place”.  

Whether it was in mandatory first-year activities, or in class, it seemed as though most students had attended high school at a prestigious boarding, or private school somewhere in the North East, whereas I attended public school in southern Virginia.  

I became very self-conscious about my qualifications to be at Dickinson, which resulted in hyper analyzing my comments in class as to not appear as having less academic capability than the other students. Much of this was self-inflicted, however, I had enough experiences to solidify these assumptions that I had made.  

The temporary results of this were falsely viewing those who are from wealthy areas, particularly cities, as having unsubstantiated confidence about who they were compared to others, and detached from reality. This of course, was a gross generalization and without firm grounds. It did not take long before I realized that this perspective was false, and subconsciously inducing stress as by “othering” people around me, as I was actually “othering” myself.  

Although I have never travelled to the Middle East, from my experience abroad, it has become very apparent the way in which stereotypes can alter or misguide ones perception of reality. In other words, we create reasons for certain behaviors or occurrences through the lenses of our own experience. It would be unreasonable to say that in order to minimize barriers of understanding between the USA and the Middle East we must eliminate our predispositions. However, a good start would be to reflect on what our predispositions are. For example, in my experience growing up in the United States, I have come to associate my countries government with leadership and stability. Despite the significant faults that many of us in America recognize within our institutions, I am optimistic about our potential for improvement. However, citizens of many countries within the Middle East might have less confidence in institutions as a result of failing states, exploited governments, and perhaps even negative interactions with Americans. 

Another strategy toward understanding is to put an effort toward accepting culturadifferences and recognizing that “people are people”. It is very important that we do not simply regard someone as “other” as this can be extremely divisive and unproductive. Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is by becoming the “other” through travel, or other means, and despite the cultural/linguistic challenges, there will be commonalities among all people which will encourage acceptance.