Veni Vidi Vici

Tomorrow is my last day in the UK (for now) which is great and tragic. This semester abroad has certainly not been conventional but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I’ve learnt more about how to think than I could have doing anything else. At the risk of sounding like a flyer for study abroad, I have learnt so much more about other cultures from living here than I thought I would. I had no idea Manchester was so diverse culturally, linguistically, and religiously before I got here and at first it wasn’t a nice surprise. There was a lot more culture shock than I was expecting but after talking to and getting to know so many study abroad students with all kinds of backgrounds, I became really interested in knowing about culture variation. Not only did it help me connect dots and make sense of how people here live and where they come from, but it truly helped me realize that you just don’t know anything about a person until you ask. It’s not safe to assume anything because people here come from all walks of life.

Of course, I’ve learnt a lot about British culture too. I’ve been keenly aware of linguistic differences between British and American English since I got here just because it interests me. But there are so many cultural differences too and I’ve had a great time talking to my friends about them and figuring out things like why the only cold cuts you can buy are ham and why people never talk to cashiers. It’s interesting because they’re small things, but they make a big difference in people’s lives and especially attitudes.

I think a lot about the interactions I see every day and I think about why people are the way they are. I’ve thought a lot about ideas I have of other cultures and how they affect interactions that I have before I even have them. I’ve been asked a lot about American stereotypes since being here and it’s made me think about how we’re seen by non-Americans and to what extent our stereotypical notions of other countries are true.  It seems that Americans think that other countries view us as ego-centric, rude, and maybe even self-absorbed. In reality, thinking that does make us those things because the average non-American 20 year old doesn’t know enough about the US to have a non-television based opinion of us. Every classmate I’ve talked to about the US has asked if my high school was like High School Musical or Grease. American media is so prevalent in other countries that most people’s ideas of Americans are based off what they see. Which is fair, as media aim to represent society to some degree. That said, very few people here consciously maintain a negative image of Americans like we think they do. Frankly, they have better things to think about. So, not so surprisingly, none of the people I’ve met have assumed anything about me before getting to know me. In my opinion, going abroad and expecting people to think you’re a jerk is a lot less productive than acting as if you have nothing to disprove to people.

My favorite thing that I did while here was visit Edinburgh, which was breathtaking and cute at the same time. My least favorite thing was “Fresher’s Week” in the halls where I learnt to sleep through the sound of kegs rolling down cement steps. The most valuable thing I did was spend time at the International Society and get to meet people I never would have known otherwise. My favorite class was Morphology for which I plan to finish the final essay during the probably extended period of time that I will be in Heathrow on Sunday (due to the impending snowstorm).

My next goal is to travel home smoothly and eat something that I’ve heard of before. And ski. Although Manchester has grown on me quite a bit, I have learnt to appreciate Mary Washington so, so much since being here, as if I didn’t already. There truly is no other community like it and I cannot wait to be back.

Thanks for reading my blog this semester if you’re not my parents who are lovingly obligated to.

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