I was born in Switzerland to two U.S. diplomats, which meant that I grew up speaking French with my friends at school and English with my family at home. As I got older, I began to favor my American side over my Swiss. Regrettably, I wanted to be as American as possible, taking up baseball and eventually switching out of my bilingual program at school to study only in English. When I moved to London at age 13, I pushed my parents to send me to an American international school so I could finally immerse myself in American culture. At a certain point, though, I realized that baseball was not fun and neither was my friend group. So, at 17, I realized I had enough of American school abroad and moved to a small British boarding school. Thankfully, I found my people among the international students there, and the last two years of high school flew by.
During those last two years of high school, I became curious as to what was going on in the world politically. I found myself reading the news, speaking French again and, most importantly, rediscovering my identity as a global citizen. Needless to say, I became happier. For my graduation present, I solo backpacked through China, a life-changing experience that I can highly recommend for broke college students. Delving into a culture so far from my own gave me a similar sense to being a child, absorbing all this newness like a sponge.
At Ithaca College, I came to feel equally Swiss and American. I have to admit that the college culture sometimes felt alien to me. For example, I thought that the expression “That’s whack,” meant “That’s good” for the first month, which I can only assume caused a lot of unnoticed miscommunication when I started using it. The transition to only white or orange cheese was also tough. It’s the same when I’m back in Switzerland — I don’t stand out as different, but I often misstep when it comes to cultural things.
When people used to ask me, “Where are you from?” I would make up something on the spot. I said New York for no good reason for several years. Then, for a while, I would choose either Switzerland or the U.S., depending on my mood. Now, I feel more confident about myself and my identities, and I always say I am both Swiss and American. I know deep down that I am from more than one place, and that fits me very well.
I’m grateful for the unique experiences I’ve had and the firm opinions they’ve given me. In an information era where the loudest and most controversial opinion often is the one disseminated throughout our American society, none is addressing the multiple global crises that need our attention the most. Having grown up in different cultures, I’ve learned to be more attuned to what is happening beyond our country.
In his column, World View, John Tagliani writes about national and global issues that college students should be aware of. He is a sophomore cinema and photography student and has lived in Switzerland and the United Kingdom before moving to the United States.