Notes From Abroad
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
In my mom's undergraduate years, it wasn't standard procedure to go on a "junior year abroad" as it is today, but my mom did. She moved to Copenhagen, where her host mother told her that Jesus had appeared in the cupboard and asked her to take in an American student. My mom feared she'd never again have the opportunity to travel and seized every minute to go from country to country throughout Europe. Desperate to absorb the many cultures nearby, she studied and wrote about Giacometti sculptures and befriended young Greeks she met on trains.
Nowadays, the majority of Kenyonites choose to spend a semester away from the Hill, but only a few of us leave for an entire year. Don't get me wrong, I miss Gambier all the time, but having grown up listening to my mom's stories, I needed a full year to acclimate and to earn my own anecdotes with my own independent experiences. I chose the Exeter program so I could immerse myself in British culture, since we don't study with other American students.
Unlike my mom, I've had the privilege to travel to Europe before, but I have never experienced travel so immersive as I have this year. Going abroad for a year has enabled me to live entirely differently than we do at Kenyon. After budgeting, doing my groceries and planning as many dinners as I can manage to cook for myself in a week, I finally can make more than scrambled eggs, tea and pasta.
Apart from these adventures in domesticity and preparations for the "real world," London is just a hop, skip and a leap away from Exeter, so the New Yorker in me rarely feels far from my natural habitat of the big city. There is always a new exhibit to see, a street I haven't yet wandered, a corner I haven't turned or a restaurant I haven't tried. I've been to a Degas exhibit, a secret sample sale and even a puppy show. I've discovered a host of blogs to help guide me and between these and the help of new British friends at the University, or "Uni," I never feel like a tourist (at least by now — I'm already five months in).
Since studying at Exeter is a year-long program run by Kenyon, I have the support of Professor of English Sarah Heidt when I need it, but also the freedom to go off on my own. This semester, I have the incredible gift of a four-day-weekend every week, which I will be using to travel to a Florence + the Machine concert, Greece, Sweden and, of course, Copenhagen, where I plan to retrace some of the steps my mom took on her year abroad.
While adjusting to life here took time, and I miss Kenyon and my friends on the Hill all the time, living in Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime, I-still-can't-believe-I'm-doing-this sort of opportunity. I've made British friends who laugh at my pronunciation of "tomato" and "aluminum" and teach me about British culinary specialties (anyone heard of spotted dick?), one of whom will even visit me in NYC this summer.
Even though sometimes I want a bagel or a stack of pancakes (you miss Peirce when you're gone), and even though I am frankly still baffled at why I am handed a receipt when I turn in a paper, and even though I still (almost a full year later) complain about missing the Bushnell lounge, I'm already trying to plan a trip back to Exeter next winter break to visit the site of one of the most unforgettable years of my life.