Pre-departure Jitters

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Sean Dix, Rome, PhiladelphiaI have traveled before with and without my parents, but still I can’t help but feel a little anxious about spending six weeks in a country on the other side of the world. What if I forget my toothbrush? Where can I buy a toothbrush in Rome and what is toothbrush in Italian? Google translate assures me it is “spazzolino da denti,” but can I trust that, and I how do I even pronounce that? I’m much more comfortable knowing one of my best friends is going. He is very Italian and still has family living there. His dad will only text him in Italian (my friend claims he can understand it). I’m sure he can help me get the most out of this experience.

For as long as I can remember I have loved to travel and explore. Whether just trips into the city or to another country, it was something I always craved. Even here in Philadelphia, I grow impatient when I haven’t gone into center city or found a new neighborhood to explore. There is something magical about meeting people and seeing places so different from the uniform suburbs I grew up in. When Pope Francis came to Philadelphia, I spent almost every waking moment in Center City and the Parkway. It was incredible to hear from a man who is just as much political as religious, advocating for the refugees and working as a mediator in US-Cuban relations.

I can’t wait to be close to Vatican City. I’ve learned political events can be so very different depending on the location. In high school I went on a German exchange during the NSA spying scandal. On a day trip to a Fasnacht festival in Switzerland, so many of the floats were dedicated to freeing Edward Snowden and criticizing the U.S. for spying on our German ally. I felt myself trying to hide in the crowd, unrealistically fearing I would be discovered as an American and booed. I know I never would have felt such shame and despise for the NSA if I had learned about the scandal in the U.S. In North Philly, it is easy for me to accept the Pope’s pleas to help the refugees, but, just like the NSA scandal, I cannot truly comprehend the crisis without being there.

Location, location, location. It is not just the anthem of real estate. As a Political Science and Global Studies double major, studying abroad was never an option. It’s a requirement. Politics is about interacting with people and understanding how they work together, which is greatly influenced by location. After months of learning about the European Union and trying to understand concepts like Brexit, Grexit, and the always constant refugee crisis, I felt something was missing. The media may quote big names like Angela Merkel or David Cameron, but there is still a distinct U.S. interpretation.

I am very excited to be able to study this with one of my favorite professors. Dr. Pollack, head of the Global Studies department, is heading to Rome this summer to teach Politics of the European Union. He has given me exposure to new perspectives and ideas, but in North Philly everything I have learned about the EU has been secondhand. It is time to step well outside of my comfort zone and gain a new view on European politics with the many field trips and guest speakers Dr. Pollack promises.

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