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Changed perceptions

Reader comment on item: Do Exchange Programs Improve Muslim Views of the United States?

Submitted by Kay (United States), Apr 14, 2006 at 14:09

I am currently completing a master's thesis titled, "U.S. Public Image: a study of international students from predominantly Muslim nations." Narrow in scope, the qualitative study explored whether students' perceptions of America and/or Americans changed once residing in this country.

Results showed most of the students experienced improved perceptions of Americans once they'd resided in the U.S. for a period of time. Americans were seen as more honest, moral, direct, friendly and accepting than expected. Perceptions of our nation's government -- especially its foreign policy -- did not improve, however.

The most dramatic findings occurred with two respondents who were living in the United States on September 11, 2001. One, in fact, was attending a university in New York City. The kindness of American friends and acquaintances astounded the respondent, who said that -- had the tables been turned -- Americans would most likely have been killed in his predominantly Muslim nation.

All respondents did not offer such accolades. Nevertheless, the findings suggest a need to explore this question further in light of U.S. public diplomacy efforts.
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