Secondary Education major
Book Arts in Europe, Italy, Belgium & Germany
Summer I short-term faculty-led program
Before leaving to study abroad, my biggest fear revolved around the flight to get there. In particular, I was worried that I would miss my connecting flight, that my bag would somehow get lost, that I would be stuck in a foreign airport where no one spoke my language, and that my plane would be infested with snakes.
After arriving, however, I realized now that my fears were unnecessary; I landed with hardly any problem, my bags were waiting for me, all of the flight and airport staff spoke English, and I could read the signs at the airport. During my flight, I watched Deadpool, ate dinner, caught up on some reading, and counted down the hours until I had landed on another continent. Overall, it was not a half-bad way to waste away seven hours, but as I drew closer to my destination, I could feel myself itching to be off the plane.
When the descent finally began, and the plane dipped below the clouds again, Ireland came into view outside of my window. After being above the clouds for seven hours and having never flown before, I was awed by the land that appeared so far below me, rising from the ocean in a dark green mass. To break free from the clouds and see the rolling hills, sectioned farms, and distant mountains etched on the horizon left me breathless, knowing that this was not only land again, but an entirely different continent. Seven hours prior, I was surrounded entirely by concrete at the Chicago O’Hare Airport. Now, I was descending on an entirely different country with different people and different customs, and all of this I would never find out, because I was only landing in Dublin to catch a transferring flight. I was ghosting in and out of a country without ever fully touching the earth, without ever actually encountering the different culture.
Watching the ground rise up to meet me and feeling the absolute insignificance that I had on the country below me, however, was astonishing, breathtaking, and left me hungrily staring out the window wishing that there was a way I could go see those mountains, that I could drive across the rolling hills, that I could be a part of this place. In the span of an instant, I realized how much a tourist I was of this place; I was here to take photos from the plane and try the ‘local’ food at the airport, but I would never fully experience this place. To the people below me, I was another tourist. I was nothing to them, even as I was mind-blown by the vista below me. While I was having an eye-opening marvelous experience, it was another Tuesday for everyone I flew past.
And that, if nothing else, made me feel that studying abroad was completely worth it; Ireland was not my final destination. It was only a gateway to so much more, and when I finally arrived to where I would be studying, I was not just another tourist. I was someone who lived among locals, who shopped at the local grocery store, who worked alongside them at the studio. Certainly, I was still a foreigner; but this time, I was able to become completely surrounded by a different country’s culture and experience it on a daily basis, not just from behind my camera lens.