Prior to moving abroad, I would have never described myself as being patriotic. I've since discovered, when you start to travel extensively and work with international colleagues, you can suddenly find yourself referred to as "the American". It also can be a bit startling when you first realize how something as simple as your accent can affect how strangers perceive you. The good news? You're in a position to do something about it.
When you travel, you automatically become a representative of your homeland (whether you want to or not). I know, it's a bit of an obvious statement, but how many really embrace this opportunity?
First, make local friends. Let them know there is more to America than fast food, big cars, and whatever other stereotypes they might throw at you. Real friends will see the person that you are and will not define you solely by the place that you come from. You can return the favor, by being open to experiencing their culture. As we all grow increasingly more connected, this exchange is valuable. Increasing your cultural understanding and comfort level will take you far, whether in your career, studies, or personal travel.
And sometimes, you just have to stand there smiling and let that grocery store clerk belt out her best rendition of the chorus to Jay Z's 'Empire State of Mind' at you, over and over again as she swipes your items. In that silly, awkward moment, while the others in line behind me were waiting impatiently to make their purchases, I actually found myself a bit proud to be an American and thankful I've been to New York several times. Maybe living abroad has made me a little more patriotic than I realized.
As a female traveling through areas where gender inequality effects day-to-day life, it has made me realize voting is a right I will never take for granted. If you're an American living abroad, it's really easy to submit a request for an absentee ballot for our upcoming election. More details on obtaining your absentee ballot can be found online or you can start the process by signing up on the Overseas Vote Foundation.