For the first time in a long time, I headed to the Charlotte airport yesterday without boarding a flight myself. I was there to see Eliza off. David and I took her there, along with her jam-packed suitcases and guitar, so that she could catch her overnight flight to Dublin, Ireland. She will spend the next four months studying at the Gaiety School of Acting and getting to experience life in another country. I am so excited for her… and not just because she provided us with a great excuse to go there to visit her in October!
I think it is so important and enriching to spend time outside of the United States. Being around other cultures and ways of life, getting out of your comfort zone, and being able to see history that is not taught in textbooks … no class can rival what you learn from getting out of your bubble, whatever or wherever that may be. Eliza is looking forward to being able to focus on nothing but theatre for a semester, but it is the setting of that focused study that excites me. I am so glad she will get to study abroad – really anywhere will do for my purposes – and travel. She will eat new foods and navigate new streets and meet people (with great accents!) whose paths she would not otherwise cross.
What I most want her to get out of this semester abroad is to appreciate how very lucky she is to be able to experience it at all. We were in a store together recently and the middle- aged woman who was helping us told Eliza how envious she is of Eliza’s opportunity to go to Europe. She told us she’d never been outside of the United States and had always wanted to go. She said this without any trace of bitterness or resentment, even though it would be hard to fault her finding it unfair that Eliza gets to go while she probably never will. And it made me think about how many people never even leave their states or regions of the country, let alone leave the country itself. It is easy to lose sight of this fact when you are surrounded by other privileged kids at private liberal arts colleges, where studying abroad is a right of passage (the majority of Eliza’s class will be abroad this year). but It is, in fact, an incredible opportunity that Eliza is privileged to have.
I was truly touched by this saleswoman wishing Eliza a good trip and asking her to say hi to Europe for her. I wish everyone who wanted to travel could do so, and I wish there were an affordable and manageable way to make it accessible to everyone. I think we’d have a lot less xenophobia and folks wanting a stupid wall if everyone got to experience being an other. I am so grateful that I got to live in so many countries and appreciate so many cultures in my formative years and I know it had a huge impact on my perspective and world view. I hope Eliza takes full advantage of this amazing adventure that awaits her, and I can’t wait to hear about what she learns and experiences. I know she will come back across the ocean to the rest of her college career … and life…with the maturity and perspective that you get when you see the world in a different way. And I hope she will have an appreciation for not just pints of Guinness, but the fact that she got to have them in Dublin.