Thus Spake Zuska has an interesting post on back-to-school memories, her example particularly related to the difficulties that international and non-English speaking students face.
When I went to Germany as a postdoc I spoke essentially no German at all. (Guten Tag! Ein Bier, bitte? Wo ist die Toilette?) I was welcomed by all my colleagues, helped to find an apartment, shown where and how to shop for groceries, integrated into the social life of my colleagues, assisted in learning my way around the research site, and treated with kindness at every turn. People excused my pathetic German, and begged me to let them practice their English with me. Do you think the average grad student or post doc from India or China has exactly this sort of experience here in the U.S.?
What a difference it makes when you speak the dominant language, eh?
Although my own experience living and teaching abroad was not *quite* so welcoming [ah, the French!], I imagine that it was far and away easier to be an American abroad than it is to be pretty much anyone living in America who looks or talks different. What do you think?