Growing up in the United States is most definitely a privilege, but unfortunately one that leaves us largely ignorant of the world around us. Unlike Europe, South America, or Asia – where many different cultures are constantly interacting and living amongst each other – the US is homogenized in both language, tradition, and culture. This results in a lack of worldliness that is most apparent in young Americans, some of whom are even surprised by meeting someone who doesn’t speak Amuric’n.
When I first came to college in 2010 I was your average American student. Decent grades, thought Australia had nothing but Kangaroo’s, and the only time I had traveled outside of the states was senior year spring break in Cancun. My idea of culture was drinking Budweiser at a sports bar, and the only thing I had ever really heard about Europeans is that they were a bunch of pussies. However, by attending an international university my eyes soon opened to a world I never knew existed.
On a daily basis I was meeting people my age from all over the world. Italians, French, Germans, Koreans, Venezuelans, Lebanese and many others. At first I was scared that they were all gay, but soon learned that in their home countries it was normal to dress like a stereotypical American homosexual. After spending much of my time with such a diverse crowd though, I soon realize that I was getting only a small glimpse of what the world had to offer. And that is why last spring I decided to embark on an new adventure by spending a semester abroad in London – opening my eyes to a variety of different culture’s drinking habits.
London was incredible and now seems to have gone by in a blur. I barely slept for an entire semester because every time I tried laying down I’d become infected with cultural FOMO (fear-of-missing-out). Knowing that at every second, somewhere close, someone was soaking in culture by the pint, I kept myself focused on ingesting as much of the city as possible. And as a result I got the most out of the experience by getting the most substances into me.
It wasn’t only London where I immersed myself and learned a new culture, though. One weekend my American friends and I made our way to Paris where we all drank wine and took these amazing pictures that look like we are holding the Eiffel Tower in the palm of our hands. I even learned to say “Bonjour!” before I’d ask the waitress if she spoke English. To say the least, it was eye opening.
It has been difficult being back in the states after such a rich experience – specifically because the drinking age is once again 21 and the bars close so much earlier. But even more-so because I am surrounded by people who are ignorant of what more the world has to offer. There is no point in me trying to share how I almost got arrested in Prague, smoked weed in Amsterdam, did a Pub crawl in London, took ecstasy in Ibiza, saw the Eiffel tower, drank Absinth, or pushed the envelope by staying in a hostel one night – because at the end of the day they really just can’t to relate to priceless exposure I’ve experienced.
Going abroad allowed me to become a citizen of the world instead of remain an ignorant and entitled American. All the adventures I embarked on and alcohol I consumed gave me a deeper understanding of the world we live in. And I cannot wait until the next time my parents allow me to return.
~ Henry Base ~
Class of 2014