At Home in Virginia

Jackson Berkley
May 17, 2013

In my first blog before heading to Spain, I wrote that I hope the hills surrounding Charlottesville will start to look like Montserrat.  Well, they don’t, at least not quite yet.

But I am happy to be back in Virginia regardless.  People keep asking me about culture shock.  All I can say right now is that I’ve only had three distinct episodes of it.  The first was realizing that the strangers who awaited me in the Newark airport were not nearly as lean or beautiful as the strangers who I passed by everyday on the streets of Barcelona.  The second was driving from Reagan National to my home in Great Falls, and remembering how beautiful this area becomes in Spring, how much time I’ve been spending in dense gray cities, how many pink blossoms line the streets less than a mile from one of the biggest shopping malls in North America.  The third was, perhaps, the most shocking: getting a cerveza with lunch here is a tad pricier than what I’ve grown accustomed to.

Upon returning to UVa days after getting off the plane in Newark, I stopped by one of my favorite professor’s office to chat and catch up.  Of the many nuggets of wisdom he shared with me, one stuck out as something I could completely empathize with: he said whenever he travels he’s reminded of how American he is.  So many of the conversations I had with friends abroad concerned what it means to be American — what we eat, what we wear, what we waste and take for granted, what we do wrong and what we can learn from our travels.  What we can change.

What excites me most about the future is not just figuring out the what, but the how.  Travelling for an extended period of time is always an identity trip, but being back in America, I feel like I haven’t missed a beat.  My experiences over the past few months will always occupy a tender corner of my thoughts, though it’s no use lamenting the fact that I’m not Spanish, or Italian, or German, et al.  Just as in Barcelona, I’m surrounded once again by friends and people who are excited to learn, work, have fun, make mistakes, make art — that’s how it should be in any community, no matter where you are.  Oh, Old Rag sorta looks like Montserrat, I guess.

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Jackson Berkley

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! I&rsquo;m a third year English major and film enthusiast at the University of Virginia. I grew up in Great Falls, VA &ndash; a suburb a few miles outside Washington, D.C. &ndash; but have always wanted the chance to explore a city like Barcelona independently. In recent years I&rsquo;ve travelled through many cities in Western Europe &ndash; including Berlin and Prague &ndash; and I spent three weeks this past summer visiting my sister in Kuanton, Malaysia, where she was teaching English at a state school. The blog she kept up during her time in Kuanton inspired me to blog for IES. I hope you enjoy my musings!</span></p>

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