You’ve heard it before. “Well when I was abroad… (insert slightly pretentious sounding experience here)”. You’ve also heard the condescending “Did you go abroad???” any time anyone who did go abroad explains something they learned or did.
Being a recent abroad returner, I have dealt with this a lot and have developed some pretty strong feelings on it. At times I feel like I can’t talk about my semester away and all the things I’ve learned. I see people getting bored with me when I describe the things that (no hyperbole) changed my life. If I mention “last semester” or “in Cape Town” or really anything that you can’t find in Gettysburg, I get that “Oh yeah, did you go abroad???” garbage. I’m tired of shutting up when I hear it. Yeah, I went abroad. I lived in another country for 6 months. I adapted to a different culture. I moved 8,000 miles away from everyone I’ve ever known and thrived. I saw things and had conversations about things that many of you have not. That is okay, and I shouldn’t feel like a jerk for trying to share my experiences with others. I should not feel like I have to pretend I never left Gettysburg.
Being back has also made me realize that it is just as shitty for me to think that because I went to South Africa instead of Switzerland or Denmark or even just staying in Gettysburg that I have some special wisdom that others couldn’t possibly have. I cannot reckon the relationships and stories others have made that may have evolved and grown their personhood. Just as those who cannot speculate what I learned in my adventure, I cannot assume that I know that those who went to places more similar to the U.S. and those who never left haven’t also grown and experienced things that I can’t totally understand.
This shit has to stop. Going abroad is an incredible experience that should not be underestimated or talked down on. Going abroad does not, however, make you a master of everything and grant you the ability to say you know french toast and red wine better than everyone else. Accept that everyone’s experiences are different and equally valuable.
This article was written by Executive Editor Haley Skinner ’19