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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Now, for someplace completely different”

    Lillie Kilburncolumnist
    Lillie Kilburn
    columnist

    Have you ever felt that you were so bored of living in Tucson that you could scream? Have you ever said to yourself, “”I have to get out of this place””?

    Have you ever dreamed of moving to a far-away, exotic country?

    That’s okay. Most people have. It’s funny that, in a nation that other people used to travel to in order to begin anew, we have such a culture of idealizing an escape to other nations. We make films about it – “”Under the Tuscan Sun,”” for example. Even our most famous celebrities vanish to Namibia for months.

    Yet, for many people dreaming of escaping to a different place, the dream is only that – a dream.

    On the first day of class, as we all forcedly introduce ourselves to one another, I’ve heard people say their dearest ambition is to visit – or even move to – England. Sometimes people say it as soon as I say I lived there.

    Well, I can attest that the United Kingdom is really not at all like people think it is.

    The image of England that Americans hold has been largely received from the media, who make a habit of distorting everything. When Americans extol the virtues of England, they list aspects like its original music, its dry humor, its “”cool”” accent and a way of life they perceive as very different from their own.

    It’s true that some British bands are really great. However, England isn’t a haven from America’s plastic pop. Go to England and you’ll find a large part of their popular music is squeaky synth-pop and dance music.

    What’s more, a ridiculously high proportion of British characters in the American media have accents from the London area. There is a huge variety of cultures and accents in the U.K., a truth that often surprises foreigners who visit there. The accent you imitate from TV is only found in one part of Britain.

    As for “”Harry Potter,”” it omits a few aspects of growing up in the U.K. In a 2005 survey, 22 percent of British 11- to 15-year-olds said they had consumed alcohol in the previous week. Harry Potter is now the only 17-year-old in Britain who hasn’t ever gotten drunk.

    Of course, this kind of misperception isn’t unusual. The British have an equally inaccurate idea of the United States.

    When I lived in the U.K., my English friends had no concept of what America was like. They wrote a song for me when I left, and the song mentioned hot dogs, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Tom Cruise. Well, I only encountered one of those things when I moved to Pennsylvania, and it wasn’t Tom Cruise.

    True, most of the people who actually make it across the Atlantic are a bit more realistic. According to Lindsay Rossman, the UA study abroad adviser for the U.K., most students who are proactive enough to arrange a semester or two in England are smart enough to have researched the country thoroughly beforehand. All the same, she said, it’s very important to know what the country you’re going to is actually like.

    Life would be boring without the capacity to dream of escaping somewhere different. That’s good, and sometimes it can keep you sane. Realistically, though, it’s important to realize that what you’re dreaming of often isn’t a real place. It’s an ideal, a concept. People dream of getting away from the hassles of real life, or from the dull normalcy of the place where they live.

    And many British people dream of living in the U.S., just the same way that Americans dream of going to Britain. It might seem crazy to you, but to them, America is still a land of opportunity.

    In fact, if you have to escape from the banality of it all for a little while, there’s a place I know that you could consider. It covers 3,537,438 square miles, and has cities and wildernesses, deserts and snowscapes. What other nation has so much to choose from as the one that you think of as your own boring home?

    Then again, perhaps traveling away is the only way to really appreciate the place you left.

    People I spoke to who had studied abroad for a year in the U.K. agreed: When they were going to England, they couldn’t wait to be out of America. Once they were gone, they realized what they were missing.

    And they were glad to come home, because by then they knew they were Americans at heart.

    Lillie Kilburn is a sophomore majoring in psychology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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