Wednesday, October 27, 2010


There are days when I love my editor and there are days when I'm glad she's on one side of the Atlantic while I'm on the other. The latter usually happens when I'm supposed to have an article in, I don't, and am more or less scrambling because she's usually got empty space to fill and is looking with all the fury of nature at the screen waiting for an email with an attachment. Well, I did good yesterday. She graciously extended the deadline, and lo and behold, in her inbox sat an email with an attachment.

After I had accidentally emailed myself of course, since I'm still more or less getting used to working the new-fangled version of Exchange the school thought prudent to upgrade to.

And because I'm writing about my experiences abroad, and because I haven't done a meaningful post that introspects in a while, you get my martini article. Sadly, when the issue comes out tomorrow, I'm not going to get it until I come back from London on Sunday.

I'll just have to have a martini before I go to my internship on Monday. Which should be quite fun.

So, without further ado, the latest bit of publishable shenanigans from The Abroadest.

There are a few different types of people in this world, if you couldn’t already tell. You can start to see the divides in high school, if you look right. You can tell the ones that are bound for Ivy League schools, those who will wind up in some private institution much like ours, those who will enter the SUNY (State University of New York) system, and those who will, upon graduation, be entering the workforce because that’s what they need to do. Due to goals, expectations, finances, and a whole host of other factors, some paths might not be accessible to certain people.

A college like ours, however, puts you on a semi-level playing field. I say semi-level because not all of us are athletic enough to play on the varsity sports teams, talented enough to be in Chorale, or have the slightly psychotic and almost overwhelming patience when dealing with kids to go into the teacher education program.

And not all of us are able to step outside of our comfort zone to do something like study abroad. If you’re fully willing to step outside your comfort zone, but you just can’t make it happen with your major, that’s understandable. Your situation is different than mine. Just like that kid in high school who thought it best to enter the workforce straight off the stage, my decision to enter into four more years of academia was what was best for me.

I respect all those on campus that don’t have the right situation to study abroad, or simply haven’t go the interest. For those of you who do, welcome to the club our campus truly enjoys flaunting.

But being on home soil and saying, “Yeah, I’m going abroad” is way different than being on foreign soil and going “Holy shit, I’m here.” What matters is what you do after the latter – whether you stay in the little circle of what’s become known to you – your room, the other internationals, your fellow students from your home university – or if you step completely outside that zone and cease to become a spectator in the whole study abroad experience. The CGE tells you before you go that you make of the experience what you will. This is one of those occasions that you will reap what you plant.

I went on a little shopping excursion last weekend with another international from Texas and I wanted to know if she thought of Carmarthen as home. There’s this habit I have where I tend to make home wherever I go. When I move back to Geneva in January, wherever I live on campus – and that’s still up in the air, by the way, which is going to get real interesting next month when I get to deal with Res Ed – will become a home. First and foremost home is a little town in central New York that nobody’s ever heard of unless they’ve looked at my Facebook page, but since I’ve been living on the opposite side of the pond? Home is a certain flat in Carmarthen.

So when I asked her if Carmarthen was home, she looked at me like I was nuts and said, “Hell no. Home is in America with my boyfriend.”

Alrighty then. I mean, I’m used to the whole lookin’ at me like I’m crazy thing, but I really wasn’t expecting that. And for a moment I really floundered how someone who was thousands of miles away from home, in a foreign country, seeing and experiencing things they might never again get to do, could say – reading between the lines – that they’d rather be home with their significant other. Granted, I don’t really have that problem, but I do have a niece that I get to see on a regular basis. And I get a little homesick every now and then where I miss my parents.

Then I look around, realize I’m not in New York, and want to know where we’re going next for a weekend trip, or what I can do in the spare time that I have to further explore. Where can I further break out of my comfort zone? And the one that I have, it’s not the one that I came with.

When you go abroad, you build yourself a new place. A new comfort zone. It becomes your flat, the people you live with, the classrooms you have class in. Hell, even the mile walk to the grocery store becomes normal. I’ve been here not much more than a month and when I watch movies set in the States, I think the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the vehicle, and they drive on the wrong side of the road. French fries are chips; potato chips are crisps; and everybody drinks enough tea to have a second Revolution. That’s normal. It’s also normal to hang out in the kitchen or in the lounge with the Wii. It’s normal to pull pranks on each other, accidentally sneak up on each other, and regularly take the piss (make fun of) out of one another about the foods that we like to eat and therefore eat too much of. My flat mates have named me Wallace from Wallace and Gromit because I really like Welsh cheese. I think they eat too much pizza and way too many sausages.

To be honest, I spend about ninety percent of my time with my flat mates, our mutual friends, and others whom I have class with. Ten percent of my time is spent with the other internationals be it in the Welsh heritage class that we’re in together or on our weekend trips, or if I randomly see them while out on Wednesday nights. Am I purposefully snubbing them? Nope. I’m simply choosing to meet other people. I’m choosing to meet the friends of my friends and get a better experience. Some of us went bowling as a flat a few weeks ago. When I go out on Wednesdays, I go out with the girls I live with. All of us look after each other in a way.

I know that situations like that don’t happen often. I know that I can probably consider myself lucky. Incredibly lucky since, even though it’s not a holiday they readily celebrate over here, they’re ready and willing to do a Thanksgiving dinner and then help celebrate my twenty-first birthday. I’ll tell you right now that what I remember of that night will be epic.

When you break it all down, it becomes choice. You can choose to go to college; choose your major; choose to study abroad; choose where to study abroad; choose to meet new people and expose yourself to different things; choose be an adventurer instead of a spectator, and choose to make the most out of what you’re given. Yeah, it’s going to sound corny and cliché, but, honestly, you get one life.

What exactly are you doing with yours?

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"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz