Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Broader Horizons


Academia: I work in a job that puts me in touch with nearly every continent on Earth every day. I have students from Europe, South America, North America, Africa, and Asia, so every day I learn something new about one of my students' many cultures. Having the world come to me every day makes me want to go out and see more of the world. I first traveled outside the US when I was 18, and while I was always interested in other cultures and countries before then, that trip is what began to make those other places real.

Sartorial: The t-shirt I wore yesterday is my favorite souvenir from that first trip. The summer after my high school graduation, I went with a high school study abroad program (which also included recently graduated seniors) for three weeks to Cambridge University, England. After poring over Shakespeare, the Brontës, and Harry Potter for years, seeing the country I had imagined for so long was a dream come true for 18-year-old me.

I remember how shocked I was that England really was foreign. It wasn't the US with a British accent; it was Britain. I remember another student talking about Walmart with one of our British counselors, who said, "What's Walmart?" It was the first time I realized that my culture and my way of life were not the way the whole world lived, and probably weren't even close to the way most of the world lived.

I've traveled to places that are significantly more different from the US than the UK is since then (Turkey being the most different so far), and now I deal with those differences every day at work, but it's no exaggeration to say that my trip to Cambridge, truly a baby step in terms of world travel, was a life-changer for me. And so, like so many tourists faced with life-changing events, I bought a t-shirt. And it's one of my very, very favorites.*

*But I might not feel the same way if my commemorative t-shirt had said "Mind the Gap." Thanks for having good taste, 18-year-old Emily.

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