Since being back in America and telling all of my friends and family about my trip, I have received a lot of questions. The one I’ve been asked the most often is: was it scary?
At first, this irritated me. I would go to great lengths to defend my friends and explain how kind and welcoming every single person I met during my travels was. The question askers would politely listen to me ramble, and then change the subject, unconvinced.
The preconceived notions people hold about Syrian refugees (or about Muslims as a whole) are due to the way they are perceived in the media. The good, positive things that happen everyday never receive any news coverage; you only hear about the much less common negative things. A Syrian man I met in Darmstadt said himself that any time he heard about a crime that happened in the city, he would pray that it wasn’t committed by a refugee because he knew it would reflect badly on the whole community.
There isn’t much that can be done to stop negative stories about refugees from being written, but there is a lot that can be done to stop them from spreading. It is always worth it to take the few extra minutes necessary to fact check a story before sharing it, because the negative stereotypes that are often perpetuated by these sometimes untrue or sensationalized stories affect the lives of real people.