Return from abroad reveals shallow campus culture

By Lauren Muliawan || Contributing Writer

This fall I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland. I accomplished one of my oldest dreams, to study abroad in college. Everyone who studies abroad comes back and says that they had the time of their life, and I can only concur wholeheartedly. It was the first time that I was on my own, and the first time I left the North American continent.

I studied at a prestigious university older than this country, under some the top political scientists in Scotland and the UK. I interned in Scottish Parliament, and was fortunate to meet the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. I stayed up all night watching and witnessing the groundbreaking Independence Referendum.

My adventures took me up to the Isle of Skye, to the Scottish Borders, over to Glasgow, down to London, and across the English Channel to both Paris and Amsterdam. I became great friends with the seventeen other Americans in the programs. We grew so close that we called ourselves a family by the end of the semester. There were ups, downs, tears, smiles, and so much fun.

My four months in Scotland were filled with growth and memories that will forever be part of who I am. As I flew across the Atlantic back to my small hometown outside of Philadelphia, I felt ready to be home and to be back at F&M.

What I wasn’t ready for was the “abroad sickness.” No one ever talks about the transitioning process back into the F&M bubble. You either get with the mentality, or you fall behind. None of my experiences prepared me for this challenge. How does one conform back to a culture without regressing? I felt that all my friends were concerned with trivial things. About that party, or that one boy, or someone’s outfit, or a stupid mistake. The list is endless. I found myself wanting to scream as loud as possible. Why was a silly text more important than the President’s Union Address, the movements of ISIS and America’s counter attack, the Black Lives Matter movement, or how the Labour Party in Scotland was without a leader until the day I flew back.

I could not make sense of the dumb trivial drama when there were and are bigger issues that we should be concerned with and up to date on. Maybe I am just a cranky world traveller who wants to go back (some days I am), but I think that as a campus we forget about the larger world. We forget that outside our protective bubble there are people, events, and other places that we should take a moment to care about. In ten years when I hopefully have a job, I will be more concerned with the current leader of the UK, if it is still the UK, and with the equality in this country than with what Susie’s outfit looked like last week.

I suppose that the beauty of college is that we don’t have to care. Most of us don’t have to make a living wage, pay taxes, find health insurance for ourselves, or really worry too much about the basics. We can be obsessed with that awesome party, that boy in our intro econ class, or the latest drama with our best frenemy.

I am not asking that we stop caring about the little things that take over our whole lives, but I do think that we need to relax a little. We ought to pull back our protective bubble and think about the wider world outside of campus. Think about international and national issues for just a few minutes. Be an engaged citizen now, in between all the fun, crazy, and weird that makes up our best memories in college, because soon we won’t be able to practice or ignore it anymore.

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