I went on a yearlong exchange program to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was everything the people at IEEP told me it was going to be, and more. I drank my weight in Guinness; I partied like it’s 1999. And I am happy that I made great friends, saw much more of the world than I planned on, and am now wildly enriched as a person. There was just one massive downside I was not prepared for: coming back.
After living on my own for a year, I had to move back in with my parents. I had a curfew once again. I had to answer questions about how, when and where I was going, and with whom. I have chores again-I can deal with that.
After having a great job that paid well and afforded me chances to see Italy with my boyfriend; to stay in a 16th century palazzo in Florence and to see Michelangelo’s David, I have to return to an internship that pays minimum wage and takes up all my time. I can deal with that.
After spending 10 months with the greatest man I’ve ever met, being with him morning, noon and night, waking up to his smile and falling asleep to his breathing, I have to sleep alone again. I can deal with that.
I’m not dealing with being back. I could live without all those things, gladly, if I were still in Edinburgh.
In Scotland, I had no car. I only went as far as my legs could carry me-always far enough. Within a 1/2-hour walk, I could get to as many pubs as I could stomach, the Firth of Forth, Princes Street, the shopping hub, and more museums than I can count. A train to Glasgow was six pounds, ($10), and a flight to Italy was 99 pounds ($160), round trip.
To get to a decent museum exhibition, excepting the Lowe, I’d have to drive over an hour to Ft Lauderdale. To see a foreign or independent film that hasn’t already been embraced by the masses, I still have no clue where to go outside of campus.
It’s sad to say, but Miami has no culture, no palpable substance. All that matters is what car I drive, the name on my clothes, and how much I dropped on a pair of sunglasses. Few care about the books, films, places, or things I know about and talk about. Most care about how much I drank, how hard I partied, how good my tan is, and how much I spent.
Maybe Europeans are more conscious of other cultures, and make more of an effort to get to know someone. It was common for someone on campus to speak three or four languages. Maybe because Scotland as not as big and powerful as the US is, it is forced to shine in other ways. However, I have the sneaking suspicion that it has a lot more to do with our (lack of) culture than theirs.
I recall the commercial where the guy says how great his life is, how big his house is, how new his car is, and how much debt he is in (up to his eyeballs, if memory serves). Do those things really matter, in the grander scheme?
When I’m dead, will it matter if my car was new or used, or if I went to the right clubs? I’m pretty sure it’ll matter more if I had good friends and good memories; I’m pretty sure who I am will matter more than what I owned.
Rebeca Oliveira is studying English and Creative Writing. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.