Reflections on life after studying abroad

Megan Petersen ‘15Copy Editor

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to travel. I played with globes, and I read lots of books, dreaming of the places and people inscribed on their surfaces. I tried to imagine traveling the world, traveling through time, being a grown-up, being somewhere else, wading through time and through the words on the pages of my books or the countries of my globe, and it was all so desperately far; adulthood and world travel were destinations beyond the scope of my eight-year-old imagination.

It had never occurred to me to think of myself this way, that is, in the context of my childhood dreams, until I’d studied abroad in Morocco. Traveling to a country as different from America as North Africa can be was terrifying, exhilarating, beautiful, and thoroughly confusing. There’s nothing that can prepare you for it. What does a serious (and seriously broke) student do when her blonde hair tags her as either a rich tourist or a flirty Westerner? What language does a deist use to negotiate proselytizing by good intentioned Muslim friends? What does an American feminist say when people keep asking her why she shakes hands like a man?

This summer, as I went to the other side of my little globe, I kept thinking back to my childhood, to the dreams that I had of traveling, of meeting people from foreign countries, of wanting to Save The World. Every so often now I step back and think about how far I’ve come, and what little-girl-me would say if I told her what her life would be like in ten, fifteen, twenty years. You will live in California someday. You will speak German and Arabic. You will know people all over America, all over the world. Your writing will be published, and people will like it. Things will be hard. Sometimes you’ll be very scared. But someday you will find yourself doing everything you ever hoped you could do, and you will have stories to tell.The world is as big as you want it to be, and soon you will be too.