Ryan Chartrand

On my Sydney campus, it is easy to spot a fellow American student. Study abroad students are not elusive when it comes to clothes – clad in fleece, baggy sweats, low rise jeans, and miniskirts paired with fuzzy Ugg boots; we stick out like sore thumbs. But I should clarify; I’d like to think that I am not a part of the study abroad crowd since I have been living in Australia for a year. I’m not ashamed of being American or elitist in any way, but I think that spending the extra six months here taught me how to shop with an Australian eye. I’d like to think my new wardrobe somehow magically transformed me into a native Australian. I’ve been to a footy game; I almost understand cricket; I know the hidden hot places in the city; and I know public transportation like the back of my hand. So why not look the part? Fashion wise, I have graduated from Supre, the cheap cousin of Forever 21, to Sportsgirl and Myer, the Aussie version of Macy’s (but only when there is a sale). But, unfortunately, I am constantly reminded of a proverb I learned in high school Spanish class: Aunque la mona se viste de seda, mona se queda (although the monkey wears silk, it’s still a monkey).

Case in point – when I was traveling in Adelaide, South Australia, a few tourists asked me for directions. Since I had been in the city for a few days, I had an idea of where they needed to go. As I started speaking, I was rudely cut-off: “Oh, you’re just a tourist too. You look like a local. Thank you though. Bye.” I got shutdown by a bunch of other tourists . and that really hurt. My quest to assimilate will never be realized unless I remain mute. My Northern Californian accent is a dead giveaway to my foreignness. While I have incorporated a few Aussie words and phrases in my vocabulary like no worries, ta, bloody, and heaps, it seems that when I say them, as quoting my friend Nadia, “it’s heaps funny.” It is ironic that last year I was complaining that I didn’t have an accent. I didn’t realize that you have to travel to discover it. Also, I stubbornly cling onto words like dude, man and crap. All my classmates are really fond of dude.

But then again, my Australian friends also like to pinpoint other things that I do which are very “American.” I dance too J-Lo to techno (whatever that means), I laugh at unfunny jokes, I walk like I’m in a hurry all the time and I speak too loudly.

Tacitly, I am American. I won’t be able to shake it off in a matter of months; I probably never will I realized that if I keep up this foolish delusion of trying to be a native Australian in my head, I might go overboard and end up looking like Borat. Clothes and words won’t erase what I am. I guess I will have to embrace the fact that I will just be another American student in Sydney and not a Sydneysider Sheila. This monkey has got to learn to not give a crap!

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