Editor’s Column – Beyond the Bubble

Atit Amin

Wish you could be in Madrid by 3 p.m. on Thursday? Want to impress the ladies with an authentic English accent? How about making casual conversation with Kevin Spacey? Done, done and done.

I understand that spending a semester abroad isn’t for everyone, but if you have the chance, do not hesitate to take full advantage of this precious opportunity. It only comes at you once and you will only realize its full-fledged benefits after experiencing it for yourself.

Along with sixteen other ‘Gate students, I spent the fall in London where our study group was led by Economics Professors Kevin Rask and Jill Tiefenthaler. Because we were the only Colgate program in the city at the time, the seventeen of us got to know each other, as well as our professors and their two kids, very well. From organizing “class trips” to Bath, Stonehenge, Oxford and Brussels, in addition to providing several dinners at classy restaurants all on Colgate’s tab, our professors left an unmistakable embracive impression on us.

To be fair and honest, the trip did stress an educational component, that was unlike any type of classroom experience we would receive on campus. Although we were not officially enrolled in an English university, we reaped the same benefits because all of our classes were taught by top-flight British academics. Furthermore, rather than focusing on the U.S., we gained a strong perspective on the current and past states of European economies, due to a more secular basis in our economics classes.

One of our courses was a British Theatre class that all but forced us to develop a taste for the English arts and, in the end, I’m certainly glad to have taken the course. It was not only an enjoyable change of pace from theory-laden econ, but we also watched performances given by Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler from X2), Colm Meaney (Chief O’Brien from Star Trek) and, of course, the aforementioned and fellow Jersey boy, Kevin Spacey.

When we weren’t sifting through PDFs on the Thatcher regime, we were provided with the opportunity to roam the city and to take in the lifestyle of a mega-metropolitan. Not having to worry about the weather or rely on the Cruiser, we were able to wear t-shirts and walk the limits of the city. As we were all initially homesick, finding our British version of the Jug, “Printworks,” quickly cured our appetite for vintage Euro nightlife. Not interested in cricket, European football or rugby, we also yearned for some true American sports. Consequently, our next discovery was just as crucial, and the “American Sports Bar” afforded us the chance to take in the disheartening MLB playoffs and real, gritty American football, albeit on a five-hour time disadvantage. Lastly, the English experience would hardly be complete without partaking in its cherished pastime of pubs. I readily realized that the Brits devour pints of beer as Americans sip Starbucks lattes.

Comparable to most other study abroad programs, traveling and sightseeing is truly worth the price of admission. Unlike the States, Europe’s cutthroat, lost-cost airline industry is just taking off, which allowed us to take off during a handful of weekends. Given London’s ideal central location, spending the weekend on the continent or elsewhere in the United Kingdom is only a few clicks away. I know my econ mates and veterans of this group can similarly attest in saying that there is a wealth of opportunity and experience waiting to be explored, so make the most of your coveted time.

For interested underclassmen, one of the attractive features of the program is the ability to concurrently hold an internship during the term. Its purpose served twofold: firstly, we were able to gain another notch of experience under our belts, and secondly to see how business is operated and conducted from another hemisphere. And who knows, in the process, you might even be outsourced to an offshore jurisdiction that turns out to be a tropical paradise!

In giving a thorough assessment I also need to mention that it will certainly be an expensive semester. During parts of our program, the dollar’s value was cut in half, so to us Americans, Mickey D’s would boast the two-dollar menu. Eventually, at the tail end of the semester, having completed your vast journeys, your wallet will likely feel weightless, but it’s money spent wisely. You’re only a twenty-year-old college junior spending a semester abroad once in your lifetime. Don’t regret the missed opportunity another twenty years from now!

I’ll leave it to another famed American actor, Will Ferrell, in his portrayal of legendary anchorman Ron Burgundy to describe our collective experiences, when he memorably stated, “When in Rome.”