When I first decided to study abroad, I thought the experience would be the perfect excuse to continue blacking out at the pregame and waking up the next morning to find I had, in fact, thrown up in my purse but now in a totally new environment. Probably because I misread ‘Bozeman, Montana’ as ‘Boozeman, Montana.’ What I didn’t expect was the life-changing adventure that Hannah Montana’s namesake would be.
Before going to Montana, I was so uninformed about the culture there. I was expecting most of their 75-person population to be three elks stacked in a trenchcoat, but some of them were human just like me! Before this, I had only ever surrounded myself with racists from the South. My worldview was completely turned upside down when I encountered racists in the North. I didn’t realize how much diversity existed in my own country!
I returned to Florida a changed man. None of my friends even bothered to ask me how living, breathing and immersing myself in the culture of Montana was, but I’ve learned that I don’t need to rely on anyone else to be pretentious and self-absorbed. Staring at nothing but mountains and goats for 30 days straight has given me a perspective that none of my peers seem to understand. Reverting back to these normie Floridian ways is difficult, and honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever fit in again. Before I left I was just an ethnocentric dude. But now, I am an ethnocentric dude with delusions of my own enlightenment. While my shallow, self-absorbed friends wasted their time watching Game of Thrones, I was exploring the wonders this world has to offer in the confinements of the continental United States. How am I supposed to connect with people that don’t romanticize and steal from other cultures the way I did?
The best thing that I gained from Montana is the cliche expressions about traveling I saw on Pinterest whenever the horse I rode everywhere wandered into a Wi-Fi Hotspot like “the world is an open book and those who do not travel only read one page,” and “I’m better than you.” I yell these phrases in the free speech zone in the Union every Tuesday and Thursday between my back to back classes in the business building, just hoping that these words of wisdom will shape other students’ future travel plans so they too can experience the world. Nevermind that college in itself is an expensive privilege that not everyone has access to, absolutely everyone needs to go abroad some time during their college career. I can’t wait for my trip next summer, where I’ll be using my parents’ money to visit Iowa and learn how the locals shuck corn.