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The rest of the world hates us. We’re cocky, loud and obnoxious.

Before I came to Europe, this is how I thought the rest of the world viewed Americans. So for the first few weeks of my time here I made it a priority to find out if this were really true.

To my surprise, it actually wasn’t! I asked the British, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians, even the Australians—people from any different country I could find. The consensus answer was that most of the world has nothing against Americans. They actually enjoy being around us and find our passion for life to be inspiring. Yes, they admit we can be loud. However, they don’t see it as a bad quality. They enjoy our positivity and how friendly we can be to those we’ve never met before. It made me really happy to hear that. A big fear of mine was that no one would like me because I’m an American.

With this experience, I’ve never been more proud to say I’m an American. So often people forget to stop and realize how fortunate we are to live in the country we do. Despite what some may think after the election earlier this month, the United States is still the best country on Earth. You can be absolutely anything you want to be and live whatever kind of life you want. That’s why I love it so much.

The Europeans here dream of visiting the U.S. The ones I’ve met that have been to the States speak very highly of their time spent in places like New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas. When people ask me where I’m from, I say New York. And then I get the reaction, “Ooooo, rich boy.” Then I have to remind them that New York is actually a state and not just a city. Sometimes I let it go and let people think I’m loaded. When in Europe, right?

Before I studied abroad, I had never needed to identify myself as an American before. As the semester has progressed, I’ve really taken great pride in introducing myself as one. I admit I talk about life in the States way too much. Well back home this is what we do…And nobody is ever annoyed by it, so I keep doing it. Everyone in classes, pubs and get-togethers is fascinated by the things I have to say about America, good or bad.

Before I came here, I had a list of things I wanted to find out about myself. Do I like to travel? Can I live in a city? Can I survive so far away from home for so long? Do I really want to live in the U.S. for the rest of my life, or do I want to move elsewhere? The U.S. is having some issues right now and everyone talks about how much better the standard-of-living is in Europe

I’ve found answers to all of those questions. But the most important one is that last question. My answer?

I want to live in the United States for as long as I live.  Don’t get me wrong–I have gained a new love for traveling and seeing the world. This will definitely not be the last time I come to Europe. Europe has so much to offer and I honestly can’t wait to return in the near-future, hopefully with some close friends or family. Maybe I’ll even go to Australia.

But I wouldn’t rather live anywhere besides the United States. It’s home. It’s what I know and it’s who I am. My nickname in the group chat for my flat is “Uncle Sam” because everyone thinks I’m super American. One kid from Wyoming, who chastises me all the time for being patriotic, acts like it’s a bad thing.

What’s wrong with having pride in where you come from? I love my hometown of Clifton Park, NY. I love the University at Albany. I really missed autumn in upstate NY and I’m bummed about missing Thanksgiving this week; no one celebrates it here. And I miss American sports. UAlbany’s football team is wrapping up a strong season and I didn’t get to see any of it. I couldn’t watch the historic World Series this year. I haven’t gotten to see any of the NBA or college basketball games, including UAlbany’s. I’ve managed to watch some football because the United Kingdom does show two games a week on SkySports. Unfortunately, I usually have to stay awake absurdly late to watch.

Regardless of missing some things back home, life is good here. I’ve got some great friends and made some great memories. I’ve dreamt for years of coming to Europe and in 2016, I finally made it happen. I will never forget these four months and I will always look back with a smile, in amazement that a kid from a New York suburb went to so many unreal places.

But this life I’ve led over here isn’t my life. I can’t wait to return to normalcy and get my real life back. Good news is, it won’t be much longer until I have the chance to do that! Mark your calendars because I’m coming home Dec. 19.

But until then, I’ve got some business to take care of. Two easy final exams and a week-long trip to Italy which I cannot wait for! The Colosseum, the Pantheon, Vatican City, pizza, gelato!? I can’t wait. Just a few more adventures and I’ll be back where I belong. And thanks to my time abroad, I now know where I truly belong, and that’s in the United States of America.

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