U.S. American Identity Abroad

U.S. American Identity Abroad

Tool Objectives:

  1. To differentiate between stereotypes and generalizations and how stereotypes impact intercultural learning.
  2. To reflect on how U.S. Americans are perceived internationally, both positively and negatively.
  3. To explore ways to dispel misperceptions and combat negative stereotypes of U.S. Americans.

Tool Description:

As students travel and study abroad, they encounter a range of positive and negative stereotypes of U.S. Americans.  This tool begins the process of understanding stereotypes and generalizations and how preconceived notions of a culture group can impact intercultural encounters. Through class discussions and an optional assignment, students explore ways to dispel misperceptions and combat negative stereotypes of U.S. Americans.

Tool Procedures:

  1. Initial Brainstorming. Begin by asking students to individually generate two lists. The first should list characteristics frequently associated with those in the international destination. The second should list characteristics frequently associated with U.S. Americans. (Clarify the convention of using “U.S. American” versus “American”.) Once students have a few items for each list, ask them to share their lists with the class. Write up a master list on the blackboard so that all can observe emerging commonalities. Invite students to share their reactions to the two lists, whether they agree or disagree with them and the extent to which the characteristics are applicable to themselves and their family and friends.
  2. Differentiate Stereotypes & Generalizations. Reviewing the two lists, differentiate between stereotypes and generalizations. Facilitate a discussion of how and why stereotypes emerge, emphasizing that if students consider only stereotypes when learning about a culture, they limit their understanding of the host culture. Clarify that generalizing can also be based on incomplete or false information, but that it involves constantly testing and revising ideas while searching for general patterns in the culture. One never assumes that every person will act in the same way.
  3. Understanding & Dispelling Misperceptions. Expand the discussion to how stereotypes can impact students’ intercultural encounters while abroad. Discuss how their “identity as an American” may influence how they will be treated in the host country, both positively and negatively. Then, brainstorm ways to dispel misperceptions or combat negative stereotypes held abroad of U.S. Americans (e.g., distinguishing between constructive and obstructive criticism, demonstrating consideration for local customs/dress, learning/speaking the language, etc).

Optional Assignment. Part One: Have students submit a 1-2 page reflective essay answering the question: How might you go about discovering how people in the host culture would like to be treated? Part Two: Upon return, have students submit a 2-3 page reflective essay on how their attitudes toward the U.S. and the host country changed as a result of the international experience. Or for greater difficulty consider, “The Decline in America’s Reputation: Is it our Values or our Policies?”

Tool Evaluation:

The optional assignment could count for 10% of the overall course grade – 5% for each reflective essay.  Students should be assessed on the completeness and thoroughness of their writing.

Tool Time Requirement:

One class session for Open House (optional, post-study abroad)

Tool Author(s):

Adapted by S. Knell & A. Ogden, 2009 from Paige, R. et all (2006) Maximizing Study Abroad (2nd Ed.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.

Tool Handouts [.doc or .docx]:
U.S. American Identity Abroad

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

Subscribe to Gateway Edge Newsletter & Spotlight Episodes

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.

Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.