I've been working over the last couple of days to summarize the implications of my teaching, research, and learning in Europe. I developed a PowerPoint that gets to the core of what this meant to me. Since blogger doesn't accommodate PowerPoint, I'll summarize the points in a couple of successive blog entries.
The first points I realized about my experience are: that I had become very accustomed to my surroundings in the USA, that I did not deal well with separation and lack of understanding in my new environment, and that the European experience had allowed me to see a fresh perspective on many things, primarily the result of becoming more acutely aware of my experiences. In my comfort as a citizen of the USA, I had been complacent and comfortable and had no particular motivation to attempt to question my beliefs and assumptions.
The next step was beginning to examine what I perceived of Europe and the USA. In analyzing this, I realized that the globe truly is shrinking and flattening (Friedman), that the EU is a very powerful emerging force in the global community (Rifkin), that EU nations share the USA’s belief in democratic ideal, and that the EU is creating a strong European bond after many centuries of conflict. The impressions related to the USA are that the role of the USA in WWII is deeply appreciated and remembered by Europeans, that the USA engages when it is in its own self-interest, and that the USA is perceived to be inconsistent in its espoused and enacted values (i.e. separation of church & state, protecting personal freedoms).