Letters to Home: Abroad Does Not Have to Be a Place

By: Jack Houghteling | Feb 07, 2013 | 239 Views Life |

As I sit here in my flat on a typically gray London afternoon, I am left with an assortment of conflicted emotions. Naturally, I miss my home state of New York, am all too aware of the annoying eight hours’ time difference that separates me from sunny California, and am weary of the trying circumstances that come with not having a Claremont meal plan while living in the most expensive city on Earth. Yet I’m constantly reminded of the things that drew me to London to begin with: the ethnic and cultural diversity, the open-mindedness, the sports fanaticism, the oldness, the cheap museums, the literary tradition. As Kendrick says, “Ain’t no city quite like mine.”

Looking back, the two things that brought me to London were a) the fact that I didn’t take language seriously in high school, and b) that I wanted something new and different. Newness is essential to the abroad experience—and anyone who’s gone abroad or lived in another country knows that physically being somewhere isn’t enough. In other words, you get to choose how abroad you really want to be. Two people can live in the same city in Europe, for example, and have experiences that are miles apart.

“Being abroad” isn’t just about going to another country. Really, it’s about expanding your horizons. It just so happens that physically going to another place is a great way to get you out of your bubble and all-in-all force yourself to inhabit a place and state of mind that are entirely unfamiliar.

But in reality you can go abroad, so to speak, without actually going to another place. It’s not just about physical displacement. If going to another country is ultimately about the aforementioned things (enlarging your sphere, expanding your horizons, etc.), there are ways of doing that without leaving SoCal. I’m not saying don’t go to another country; after all, here I am in London. What I am saying is that if you’re set on being in Claremont, you can achieve similar ends as you could abroad simply by switching up your routine and trying new things—whether it’s discovering a hobby, hanging out with a different crowd, or taking an elective in a department you thought you’d never find yourself in. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you’re doing something new, foreign, weird, or even a little frightening.

For example, I have a number of things that I woefully regret not doing when I was younger. The three that immediately come to mind are skiing/snowboarding, learning another language, and (undoubtedly my biggest one) playing a musical instrument. Yet not having developed those passions then gives me the opportunity to do them now. And although I’ll never be Sean White, a polyglot, or Johnny Greenwood, that’s absolutely not the point. The most important thing is that I’m trying something different, and by doing so I have the chance to open up doorways to experiences that I have never been aware of.

The other important thing to remember, especially for CMCers, is that doing something different and challenging yourself with new hobbies should often be about finding meaning in non-work-related endeavors. Most likely, the reason you are here is because one day you will thrive in the workplace. Yet while the workplace is important, it is too easy to forget about the possibilities that appear in the fringes of everyday life. Filling out the fringes makes you a more wholesome person and therefore a better employee, colleague, boss, etc. It is these endeavors that provide us comfort outside of the confines of our future careers, which is a necessity because the simple fact is that Obama gets bored of DC, Zuckerberg gets bored of the Valley, and Blankfein gets bored of Wall Street.

So go abroad, or stay here. What’s most important is that you embrace the opportunity to change and re-create yourself because it will get harder and harder to do so. But even though the clock is ticking, the time right now is ripe.

About the Author

Jack Houghteling is a senior History & Government dual major at CMC from Hastings on Hudson, NY. He enjoys Boston sports, sandwiches, and cross-cultural interaction.