When I was in the eighth grade, my family lived in England for a year. It was an experience that was very influential in my life.
It was good to be exposed to another culture and another way of doing things, to learn that there is more than one way to be. Yes, you can drive on the left side of the road and still have a functioning society. You can go to an all-girls school and survive the experience, even if you have to wear a gray uniform every day. And there are places where history goes much deeper than it does in this young country. I learned quite a bit of tolerance from the experience.
But most importantly, it informed my understanding of what it is to be an American. I returned to the United States with a deeper love and appreciation for my country. But it was not a blind, unquestioning patriotism -- it was a love very much like the love I feel for my family and close friends. I see this country's good points and I see its flaws, but most importantly, I can see its potential -- everything that these United States could be. It would be unfair to turn a blind eye to these flaws, and approve unquestioningly of everything done in the name of the United States. My loved ones deserve better! It is my duty to use my perspective to indentify the problems, and help my country overcome its shortcomings.