The title of this post was originally going to be a fairly generic, “How My Uni Changed Me” sort of thing, because I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’m almost three-quarters of the way through my senior year of undergrad, with spring break (!!!) and graduation (a whole different kind of !!!) looming, and recently I’ve been growing more aware of how much university, and specifically my university, has changed me in just four short years.
When I say “university’s changed me,” I mean this atmosphere, on- and off-campus life, the friend-groups I’ve found because this is the place we all chose, and the opportunities that have been available to me here. It’s all very interconnected, I think, but it all boils down to this. To being here.
The most obvious change, in many ways, has been a hugely expanded worldview. There’s some satirical humor and some profundity in that. For example, when I’m talking to someone at uni or elsewhere, and we may casually mention the transcontinental journeys we’ve taken. Casually. The fact that I, or even anyone I know, can talk about country-jumping casually shows on a superficial, but obvious, level how small the world’s become to me. I know it’s a first-world, privileged thing to say, and I’m so grateful for the crazy opportunities I’ve had and the fact that I’ve been able to work to support them (let’s not forget the six-job summer of 2011), but I am still amazed that I and people I know can casually talk about the mountains we’ve climbed in Southern Italy or the restaurants we loved in Florence, or the fact that I know a girl who recently played with lion cubs. It’s amazing, and it’s made the world seem a much more manageable space for me. All joking about jet-setting aside, it’s also really, really made me less ethnocentric. It’s so neat to think about conversations I’ve had with Italian or Irish men about politics and history, drunk driving laws and wars and what defines success in our cultures. It’s crazy. I don’t think about things the same way anymore, especially in regards to world politics. Studying abroad changed everything. (Note: Sometimes I now refer to university as ‘uni’- just one more superficial thing I picked up from time/people abroad.)
Being at this university has made me think critically about American politics and hot-button issues.I go to a private, liberal-arts uni which, as you might imagine, is largely liberal, but there’s also a very vocal and educated group of conservatives. Talking to people on both ends of the spectrum who really, genuinely know what they’re talking about, makes it hard not to have an opinion. And if you have one, you need to know why. So I’ve had to figure out what issues I care about, what bits I care strongly enough to really vocally support, and when it’s best to say that I’m not really sure yet (which is much of the time, as it turns out).
I’ve gained a number of very dear girl-friends. Growing up, I had several, but more often than not I was spending time with guys, or mixed-groups. Between going to a uni with a 65-35 female/male ratio and figuring out living arrangements, I ended up finding a whole bunch of women I genuinely love being around, of all different personalities and interests. That’s really lucky, I think, and I’m thankful for it and for them,
I’ve grown more flexible. I’m less set in my ways. I was so sure – as it seems some first-years always are – that I had it all figured out when I got here. I knew what I wanted to major and minor in, what I wanted to do after I graduated, and how I was going to get from A to B to Q. That’s all changed (maybe not drastically, but it sure felt drastic at the time). Now I want to go to grad school, write poetry for days, and I honestly am not sure how long it would have taken me to figure those things out without this uni, these amazing professors, the things I’ve gotten to do here. I am so much happier for discovering these things.
Most importantly (and looping back to the study-abroad bit), I fell in love. The circumstances being what they were, I’m inclined to believe in God, the universe, all the fates, the stars aligning – whatever you want to call it. And there are so many variables mixed in there – from where I got to live in London to exactly what environment induces me to want to go anywhere near a club – that I have to attribute it all at least in part to the uni that took me abroad in the first place. I went to this uni and studied abroad with this program and with these people and went to that club and met him.
Now that’s fate, or something like it.