At the risk of creating a very unappealing, ignorant reputation for myself on this blog, I want to begin by admitting something that has induced the most anxiety for me as I prepare to leave for Amsterdam on Sunday. I know very little European history. I'm a relatively well-informed person and I enjoy knowing what's going on. I've never been one to sit back and let an experience wash over me, I like to know exactly where I am, why I'm there, and what it means. So preparing to live in a historical European city for four months, attending a European University where I know much less background information than the average student, terrifies me. I am horrified of coming off as stupid, or even worse: as the uninformed, entitled ugly American. I went to high school in my tiny but beautiful coastal Massachusetts hometown which has a lot of history to speak of, and I could tell you all about that. Somehow I managed to get through my education there with three years of United States history, and no world history whatsoever. When I arrived at University of Rochester I planned on filling the gaps in my knowledge with a Western Civilization class, but I got carried away with the lack of required classes and intimidated by the highly specific history classes offered. So I dove into my Anthropology and English majors head first without a second thought. Yes, it is absolutely ridiculous for an anthropology student to lack a background in world history. My parents and friends have been sure to point this out to me many times.
About a week ago my fear of ignorance hit me like never before and I realized something must be done about my knowledge gaps quickly. Luckily I'm a huge nerd and I love podcasts and audio books more than anything. After a quick search with the help of my textbook-publisher father, I discovered a two-part lecture series from a professor at Rutgers breaking down the world of Western Civilization. The first part begins around 3500 BC and ends at 1600, where the second half of the lectures begin. Okay, I got this! All I have to do is listen to 50 hours of lectures and I'll be just as informed as everyone else! Unfortunately, 50 hours of lectures is a lot to listen to in two weeks when you're working everyday desprately trying to save for an adventure of a lifetime. So I've resolved to listen to as much as I can, but also to cut myself some slack. I'm not completely naieve, and afterall, what better place to learn about European history than in Europe?
So it seems the greatest challenge for me on this trip will be learning to accept my own ignorace, and ask the silly questions. I plan to visit all the museums, read all the plaques, and spend time in all the historical spots. Of course, I'm also thrilled to just be in Europe. In the fall of 2014 I travelled to India for three months, and that experience completely ignighted a love of travel within me. The following summer I was lucky enough to travel to Malawi to take an anthropological research class in a village for three weeks and my love for travel was confirmed. Since then I've been dreaming of a trip to Europe. I've never lived in a foreign country before and I feel so lucky and excited that the opportunity is only one week away.
As I listen to my Western Civilization lectures (by the way I'm currently in Egypt in 1300 BC... so you could say I've still got some gound to cover) I am so thrilled that I'll be able to actually be in those places I'm hearing about. Okay I won't be in Egypt, but as soon as I cross the threshhold into 1600 AD and beyond things will become a lot more connected to my European experience. I hope that when I return to the United States at the tail end of December, my understanding of the world will be developed into something I can only imagine now.
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<p>I grew up in Ipswich, MA an incredibly beautiful (though much too small) town on the northern coast of Massachusetts. I began college in 2013 at the University of Rochester, planning to major in Brain and Cognitive Science. I ended up having to take some time of of school for health reasons and I was lucky enough to travel to India for three months where I backpacked with a gap year program called Carpe Diem. It was the most incredible experience I've ever had, how could it not be. But to be honest it feels surreal now. I am so excited to get back to living far away from everything familiar to me. When I came back to U of R in the winter of 2015 I decided to major in English and Anthropology and now my dream is to work for NPR. These days I'm usually listening to a podcast or book on tape, reading, or writing.</p>