Today we had 13 Senegalese university students come to our Country Analysis class and it was so interesting to hear about their perceptions of the US. It was the first time where I saw that their image of Americans were somewhat negative, associated with violence, power, and wealth.
For an activity we were divided into small groups of 5 (Senegalese with Senegalese and Americans with Americans) and we were supposed to draw what we associated Senegal (or America) was before we came. The things that kept repeating were: Obama, sky scrapers, violence/power connected to the Iraq/Afghanistan war over petrol, Hip Hop and guns (what they saw in music videos). It made me realize that these are the type of images America projects to the world and how our worldly affairs and involvement is what defines us. Wow. One student said he thought that 95% of Americans have guns.
I was a bit embarrassed every time our group went up because almost all 3 American groups’ perceptions of Senegal were derived from our perceptions of Africa in general. We drew things like lions, the sun, a grass hut, a woman with a basket on her head, a soccer ball, and etc. all of which were really generic and I couldn’t help but see the huge contrast between their interesting but somewhat correct perceptions of the US. I realized that what gets portrayed on TV and through the media are really what people believe to be as reality. It was a really interesting activity and I learned a lot, plus our discussions didn’t seem forced and I felt the opinions were really what the students thought. They liked discussing and asking questions (especially about dating in America!) and we also laughed at cultural some cultural differences throughout our discussions.