How I’ll probably be acting all week until we go to Paris.

I have been living in the United Kingdom for over a month now, but it feels like just yesterday I arrived in the dark. It was cold and rainy. The house we were dropped off at that was supposed to have our keys was not the right one so we ran around like maniacs lugging two heavy suitcases each behind us. But now, I can direct you to anything on campus and can navigate a good part of Swansea due to random bus routes. Has it been easy? No. There’s definitely a learning curve to this study abroad thing. It’s not just, “Oh my gosh! I’m in the United Kingdom, home of Stonehenge, Shakespeare and castles!” But has it been worth it? Yes, because I’ve seen things like castles, Big Ben, and next weekend I’ll finally see le Tour Eiffel. I’ve also met some really amazing, wonderful people.

So that’s awesome. I also went to the Doctor Who Experience this past weekend in Cardiff and explored Cardiff Bay more, so check out Facebook photos for Doctor Who and other shenaniganery because we explored a lot of beautiful places. We saw a lot of costume and set pieces for Doctor Who while also going on a mission of sorts. Cardiff Bay was freezing, but the Millennium Center and Wales National Assembly building are beautiful feats of architecture. And there was a building with a beautiful clock tower right on the water that I know my father would have enjoyed called the Pierhead.

Cool traveling things aside, the one thing I’ve noticed about study abroad lately is that’s given me a much deeper respect for other cultures and societies. The other day, a colleague sent me a very interesting article about the development of a chip that could be put into the human brain so that those who are blind would be able to see through some quite complicated biological, electrical and neurological means. My first thought like everyone else who just read this was, “That’s fantastic! I hope it gets implemented as soon as possible.” My second thought followed immediately. “Do blind people want to see?”

Let me explain myself. My sister and I have always enjoyed watching ABC Family television series together, even though they’re not necessarily high quality television. It was a wonderful bonding, sisterly activity growing up. One of the shows we still watch together, on the rare occasion where I’m actually in Ohio and the show is playing a new episode, is Switched at Birth. Until I started watching that show, I was unaware of the deaf community and their pride. I learned about this in a linguistics course (LING 250 Language in the USA at the University of Illinois with Dr. Terkourafi) I took freshman year to finish my require social sciences classes. Up until the 1980-1990s, the deaf were treated horribly in the American education system by forcing them to try to learn in classrooms of hearing children and forcing them to learn to speak. Now, they take pride in American Sign Language, which they actually think in, and the deaf culture. For this reason, even though cochlear implants to help deaf people hear exist, many deaf people choose to remain in what many hearing people would (unfortunately) consider a disabled state.

To deaf people, they are not less of a person nor are they weaker because they cannot hear. They are empowered. So I wonder if the blind feel empower by their lack of vision. They do not have a language to take pride in, but they do have other parts of their culture such as Braille. Here in the UK, I’ve become more aware of people who are not like me: Many do not share the same customs, values, language, etc. that I do, but that makes them more wonderful and interesting. The main club I have joined to meet people here is the Swansea University Catholic Society. Since the UK is not the most Catholic of countries, most of the Catholic society is composed of international students from the following countries: Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Nigeria, Ghana, the US of course and only one or two UK students. To top it off, our head priest is Philippino! This sometimes causes communication problems, but it’s also led to some of the best home cooked meals I’ve ever had (Italian food cooked by real Italians!) and interesting conversation that show me what daily life is like in others’ home countries.

The Swansea University Catholic Society after Ash Wednesday service at the university with the bishop of the diocese. Swansea University chaplain and priest of St. Benedict’s.

It has been a blessing to be here and get to know so many people.from such different places and backgrounds. I was a girl from a predominately Caucasian suburb of Toledo, Ohio before I went to Illinois where I could spend a ten minute bus ride listening to three different languages and was sometimes a minority in the dining hall. I thought that was different. However, there is a difference between diversity at Illinois and living here in the UK. At Illinois, I was exposed to multiculturalism, but in Wales, I’m completely immersed in it. Everyday I’m exposed to new experiences and new people whether it’s a small thing trying a full English breakfast (which is actually quite large) or watching a French tourist group pass me in Picadilly Circus. Life is truly amazing and I still have three more glorious months of this! Bring it on, world, bring it on!

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