Letter to the Editor – We Were Only Trying to be Polite; We Don’t Care About Your Trip Abroad

This is in response to the column last week by Andrew Wickerham, who expressed his anger over the Colgate population’s ignorance in our language towards his semester overseas. Apparently we made him angry by narrowing his whole experience down to the silly question, “How was Abroad?” Well, before you condemn all of us Colgate students to the depths of hell, let me say this in our defense- we were actually only being polite and couldn’t care less how your trip Abroad was.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a different example: Say that you’re standing in line to get food, and you see an acquaintance. “Hello,” you say, and they say “Hello, how are you” back. To this you reply, “I’m fine, how are you.” Quiz time – did you actually care how the other person is generally doing? Of course not! Now, I think I can speak for the entire population of Colgate when I say we feel this way when we ask you how your trip overseas was.

So you see, our question, “How was abroad” is not born of ignorance, but it is actually an attempt to get you to say as little as possible about your cliché of an experience. In this, we obviously failed.

When you say that all of us Colgate students narrow the entire outside world to one proper noun, Abroad, you’re making a generalization yourself. Like any generalization, it may have some root in truth, but usually isn’t fair to apply to an entire group. For example, I’ll make this statement: Already-pretentious Colgate students go abroad for five months, and when they return they have the same narrow perspective on life; the only thing they’ve gained is a disdain for people who aren’t as “worldly” as they. Is this true in all cases? Absolutely not. Is it true in yours?

We Colgate plebians don’t know because when we asked you how your trip was you responded with a 10 minute rant about our use of prepositional phrases. But then again, we didn’t care in the first place. We were just being polite.

We didn’t invent the laws of courtesy; we just follow them. If it were up to us, we’d say neither “How was abroad?” nor “How was your time abroad?” We would say, “Hey, if you really want to be worldly, go play landmine hopscotch in Kabul. When it comes to your cliché of a trip to Europe, though, keep it to yourself.” But that’s not how things work.

And by the way, didn’t you take up a sizable section of this paper for all last semester updating us weekly on your trip? It’s obvious that anyone who cared enough about your individual experience could have read about it already if they wanted to.

So next time someone asks you how Abroad was, consider this: In all likelihood, they care about as much as the Colgate student body cares to hear your opinion on how they should phrase their questions towards you — not at all.