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American in Paris: The Globalization Question

(Quinn Nachtrieb • The Student Life)
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(Quinn Nachtrieb • The Student Life)

A few weeks ago, a Pitzer College friend of mine visited me in Paris from Scotland. We discussed the study abroad semester wrapping up and how much we’ve learned while abroad. 

Ultimately, we both came to the same conclusion: Anyone who decides against studying abroad is an idiot. 

Before the juniors who decided to stay on campus get all up in arms, I want to clarify that we’re JOKING. Please calm down. 

There are many reasons one might or might not choose to study abroad. Some are international students who are already abroad by virtue of studying in the United States. Other students feel they are sufficiently worldly because of past travel experiences. Some just don’t feel like it. I get it. 

But with study abroad, the world opened up to me. The experience (and privilege) of going from country to country with nothing but a carry-on, sitting for two hours on a flight and suddenly finding yourself in a new place with a completely different climate, language, culture and history is a joy like nothing else I’ve experienced. 

And so, for my final study abroad column, I come to you with my ultimate conclusion about all this chaos. How has my perception of the world changed? 

This past semester, I’ve visited the urban antiquity of Athens, the windy highlands of Edinburgh and the tropics of Sevilla. Four countries — counting France — in as many months. I’ve also met people from Sweden, Australia, Turkey, Brazil and many other countries through my academic program. 

Having been exposed to people from around the world, I can’t help but reminisce on the question I posed in about how different disparate countries can really be in the age of the internet and globalization. 

In their book “Global Governance,” David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton propose that through radio, film, television and the internet, “people everywhere are exposed to the values of other cultures” at a rate like never before. 

“And so, for my final study abroad column, I come to you with my ultimate conclusion about all this chaos. How has my perception of the world changed?”

“Nothing, not even the fact that we all speak different languages, can stop the flow of ideas and cultures,” they said.  

In a globalized world, powers like the internet and media transcend nation-states as their influence stretches the world over — thanks to TikTok, Instagram and other social media, as well as film and popular culture, a world culture has arisen. 

This isn’t to say we have entered an era of global monoculture: The world is evidently wrought with instability and stratification. But I propose that we exist in a time where globalization and global stratification are taking place simultaneously. It all seems like a very sick joke. 

I’ve encountered this global culture in my own travels. 

Speaking to a random stranger in Sevilla, I mentioned that I was American. 

“I love your country,” he said. “The NFL, NBA, NASCAR, Major League Baseball. You guys rock.” 

An Iranian-Swedish friend in Paris told me how much he loves the Lakers and American films. “Heat,” “Goodfellas,” “The Matrix,” he could go on and on. 

“Does it surprise you that I’m a Swedish guy who loves American culture?” he said. “I’m halfway across the world.” 

I told him “no,” because the same thing happened to me in Iran. 

The world is a far cry from being truly globalized: We are war-ravaged and cultural disputes abound in every country. 

But we speak a universal language.

I was somewhat cognizant of this phenomenon by virtue of my upbringing in Iran. I know firsthand how far America’s can reach. But to truly see it in practice in all of these different contexts, I realized that though the universal language exists, we take the music, the films and TikToks and interpret them according to our own culture. 

We superimpose these cultural symbols into our own surroundings. And although globalization is taking place, we are still wonderfully different. 

Perhaps our universal language doesn’t homogenize us but rather provides us with the tools to understand each other.

After studying abroad, my perspective on the world, though not so radically different, has changed. I’m in awe of how similar and different we can be and I’m completely stupefied as to why one wouldn’t choose to see it for oneself. 

As I retrace where our ancestors have tread for thousands of years, seeing the cultures, languages and monuments that testify to our beautifully historic existence, I feel I have lived a thousand lives. 

Although we often lament our ultimate end, every human life is, indeed, a small infinity. To see the world is to witness the infinite lives we have collectively lived and to understand how far we are capable of going. 

Columnist Tania Azhang PZ ’25 is currently studying abroad in Paris. She often wonders if Sartre was right about hell and other people.