In case you are not aware, I will be studying in Europe next semester, along with a group of other students from my university. The other day we had another meeting about it, and after each of these weekly meetings I always leave with much excitement and anticipation. This time I had just turned in a sheet of paper which I will receive back after we return, on which I had written the reasons why I wanted to go to Europe.
I did not put a great amount of forethought into what I wrote on that sheet of paper, but as my thoughts flowed into slanted italic letters, I noticed that each of my reasons had to do with two main ideas: people and culture. You see, my impression of the past groups who have gone to Europe is that they went, they saw, and they came home. Granted, there are many amazing things to be seen on that continent, but I want more than that. I want to get to know the people there, their languages and their cultures.
Our home base will be Verviers, Belgium, a decently sized town in Wallonia. When I get to Verviers, I want to explore. Whenever I am not tied down with class or other scholastic duties, I want to go out and see what there is to see, and also talk to people and begin making myself accustomed to a new culture. When we worship with the church there, I want to know enough French that I can participate with my whole heart. I also want to befriend the saints, since I’ll have such a close connexion with them already.
In short, I don’t want to be a tourist. Tourists go places and take pictures, and hope that whenever they need information, there’s someone handy who speaks English. I certainly want to learn of the extensive history of Europe, but my priority will be on getting to know the people who live there now.
This may seem a bit odd to you, especially since I am definitely not the outgoing type and my favourite conversations tend to be those that are profound and on specialised topics. But given my great love of languages, I am realizing that I can do much with my abilities in the way of communication, and that naturally involves people. My few past experiences of being a foreigner learning a new culture have been fascinating, and I hope to be able to do this again when I go to the land of my ancestors.