What It Means to Be an American: Comparing and Contrasting

I agree with the argument Henry James makes in his novel, The American, and so does the founder of WISC, Professor Robert Schuettinger . The argument is simple, and goes as such, an American finds out who he truly is by going overseas (particularly, in my context, and James’s context, to Europe) to see how different he is from the rest of the world. Europe is not just an older version of America. It is altogether different. James put it like this in “London in Midsummer,” namely, that Englishmen have a more “rich and fine temperament” than Americans. I sense from my first few days that Englishmen are more simple, composed, and quiet than Americans (that sounds too sweeping and stereotypical, but I am just working through my thoughts), and others from the program concur with me. They are nowhere near as loud and showy as we are. On a more funny note, though, they really do not take care of their teeth.

Two days ago, we went to the world-class and famous University of Oxford Bodleian Library and got initiated. They love their history over here, and everyone has stories about great and influential people that once lived and went to school here. This continued when we were given tours by Brian. More things are “sacred” over here (e.g., there are strict rules about not walking on the grass in the College courtyard), and their sense of history and tradition is overwhelming at first. This is a special place, to say the least. It makes you want to do great things and continue in the tradition of excellence that the University of Oxford has accrued over the years.

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Another thing that has impressed me about the University of Oxford is their method of teaching. Education is seen as an end-in-itself, and their professors do not feel the need to use unnecessary and often not humorous stories. They teach and convey information with simplicity and straightforwardness. If the knowledge itself does not draw you, that is not their fault, but ours. They love knowledge and make no mistakes about it. They hope we will join along for the ride, and I most happily will.

Lastly, it has been good getting to know the people from MSU and IWP more these last few days. We have done tons of walking around the town and eating out together. However, all of this “eating out” will most likely end soon. We need to start saving our money! We actually went to Tesco (kind of like Wal-Mart in the USA) to shop for food to cook at our flat. We also went to the Summer Eights today. It is a big tradition that the University of Oxford has: all the colleges compete against each other in a rowing competition on the Thames River. It was very fun. They love their rowing over here. It might very well be their most popular sport. It is a beautiful scene also. The Thames is amazing, and the meadows surrounding it are breath-taking. Tons of people were there, and we all had our pimms and hot-dogs like any good Englishmen and soaked in the sunshine while we could (you do not get sunshine a lot over here! Even in the summer it is mostly cool and cloudy, and days are filled with spurts of small rains). However, the weather was nice all day today.

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