Back In Kansas…Wooptiefrickindoo

Andrew Wickerham

Well, I survived. Made it through Europe all by myself. Flew across an ocean. All so I could come back and regale the curious hordes with stories of the Continent and have enlightening discussions about a host of international viewpoints. And to a certain extent I have done so, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

But honestly, there is one question I have started to ignore. There’s one innocent little question that makes me grit my teeth and wonder how on earth Colgate students could be so daft. If one more going-out-top wearing, Beta-Sigma-3A mixing, iron pumping, prep school donating, $50,000-a-year paying Colgate student asks me, “How was Abroad?” I’m going to make a reservation on the next flight across the pond and never look back.

It utterly astounds me how Colgate’s 2,800 rather bright students have reduced the other 191 countries in the world to a single, capitalized proper noun. Abroad. Fabulous country, you really should visit some time. About half way between America and the Moon, Abroad is a wonderful Constitutional Republic with a Parliament, comprised of two houses: Commons, and Robber Barons. You can reach its capital on Lufthansa or United, stay in one of its Small Leading Hotels of the World, or visit its various Points of Interest: the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London or Tokyo Tower. Unfortunately, the various exchange rates in Abroad — namely, the Euro, Pound, Peso, Real, Yen and Yuan — aren’t so favorable to those of us with U.S. Passports these days. But hey, there’s always American Express or Visa to help you out in a bind. Although, I supposed TARP has put a damper on that sort of behavior.

It’s honestly as if we all started speaking German, but got stupider in the process.

I hate to burst your bubble, boys and girls, but there is no Abroad. I don’t expect everybody on campus to remember where I or anybody else went – i.e. disappeared to – for an entire term, but I do expect supposedly worldly Colgate students to construct sentences in a way that doesn’t make an eleventh grade English teacher cringe.

Take for example the equally thoughtful, but actually correct, “How was your time abroad?” It implies recognition of return, of knowing that the other was away, and even sounds a bit more charming than the common former version of the question. I suppose the addition of the extra syllable may be hard to remember when balancing the demands of a Mary Special and one’s next appointment on the evening’s social calendar, but in this era of economic hardship, we’re supposed to be focusing on the simple things, right?

Lately, as I walk around campus and listen to sophomores currently filling out their applications for Abroad, I’ve started to think about the culture surrounding our Office of Off-Campus Study. Do you ever get the feeling that Colgate students have lulled themselves into a feeling of deservedness or certitude regarding Abroad? Sometimes I get the feeling that inside our little bubble we expect almost everybody to go Abroad, that we have minimized what was once a unique opportunity touted by the Office of Admission during the College Process into “just another part” of the college experience. Call it Recession Guilt, but I want my time abroad to be recognized, and indeed justified, as a rewarding term spent in Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom. Language matters, especially when dealing with people Abroad.