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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Global Garments: A giveaway

    We live in a jet-age world, and with UA-sponsored study abroad opportunities, three month summers and a comfortable four week winter break, it’s to be expected that many students will go out and explore the world.

    What’s more, it has never been cheaper or easier to travel internationally – $500 and a day of travel each way can get you as far from Tucson as Beijing or Moscow.

    Globalization has put international travel well within the grasp of students. Many make the most of the opportunity to attend a foreign school by studying hard and exposing themselves to new, challenging situations. Others spend their time and their freshly exchanged currency in bars, pubs and clubs, ditching classes they never intended to take and relaxing with fellow American students.

    Spending time in a foreign country can be a character-building endeavor: The Office of Study Abroad and Student Exchange touts “”cross-cultural communication”” and “”critical thinking”” as potential benefits of a semester overseas. It’s not coincidental that many people expect to see development of these skills in a student returning from abroad. All too often, though, students come back not from an educational experience (as do true study-abroaders), but from a hyper-vacation of carefree drinking and souvenir shopping. These people are “”party-abroaders.””

    How can you spot one? Party-abroaders, and even a few wishful thinkers, have the prudence to make themselves known as “”world travelers:”” with souvenir shirts, caps and purses bearing the name of a place they’ve been. This visual feast is at its richest in foreign language classrooms, where one might see Turkish students returning from Istanbul, Francophones fresh back from Paris and Spanish students with newly learned lisps from Zaragoza, all decked out in pure patriotism and ripe for ridicule.

    It’s great that many of us can see the name of a country on a T-shirt and actually know where it’s located; this geography-inspired wardrobe is an excellent reminder of just how “”globalized”” our generation is. These geo-clothes, however, also serve as a Darwinesque warning about their bearers. Like the brilliant colors of a dart frog, a yellow soccer jersey with “”BRASIL”” emblazoned in 600-point font might as well say, “”Trust me, you want nothing to do with this.”” The distinction can come in handy, however, in a language class, where it’s tempting to ask one of these party-abroaders for help (after all, their time spent immersed in Brazil ought to equate to fluency, right?) In Portuguese class, I sometimes can’t help but give in to my curiosity and ask for a bit of help understanding or pronouncing a new word.

    Nevertheless, the alcohol-hazed memories of a hip Rio dance club or the slickest slang learned from the illiterate panhandler on the local subway are not useful when discussing Baroque Portuguese literature. In true Darwinian fashion, those who can resist the siren song of these colorful Brasil-themed jerseys and shirts are those whose sanity survives; those who glance too long or, God forbid, comment on them, risk hours of mind-numbing commentary about the wearer’s “”awesome”” experience puking upon the beautiful beaches of Copacabana.

    As I lie in my bed at night, I wonder what it would be like to be a party-abroader. I fantasize about buying a complete, autographed, game-stained and unwashed Pelé soccer uniform, of bursting into the Modern Languages, Room 202, my authentic jersey brilliantly shining in the fluorescent limelight. Bow down before me, party-abroaders. I have learned your art.

    I don’t mean to rain on your Carnaval parade, but when it comes to letting others know about your adventures, it couldn’t hurt to be subtle. UA students are lucky to have access to a well-developed study abroad program and relatively inexpensive travel. It’s great that many students make the most of this arguably once-in-a-lifetime experience – they have earned their right to wear the occasional souvenir shirt. But as for those who are looking for a lazy booze cruise in the tropics, and the souvenirs to prove it happened, do yourselves and the world a favor by staying home.

    Mike Hathaway is a senior majoring in geography and Spanish and Portuguese. He can be reached at letters@email.arizona.edu.

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