Eggs on toast: a semester abroad

by Amanda Landwehr / Arts & Culture Editor

The author, engaging in London tourism at Covent Gardens.

Originally, this week’s column was supposed to be about my personal observations and some of the things I’ve learned since moving to London. Like how Londoners love ale, shop at Tesco and say “cheers” instead of “thanks.”

But, while brainstorming a draft of what this column would look like, I couldn’t get my mind off of one, sinking feeling: the overt privilege of my situation.

Sitting at my desk about to press the confirmation button on a weekend trip to Amsterdam and Bruges, I paused.

I felt guilty — how was I lucky enough to even consider a trip like this? My cursor lingered over the “confirm” key with dread, the same kind of dread that trickles into my mind after going out to eat, buying concert tickets or new clothes.

In what should be the time of life, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was spending too much money, that I was too frivolous with my decisions, that I was frankly overprivileged. 

In last week’s article, I joked that Grand Tours were designed for the wealthy ruling class of the Victorian era. 300 years later, and the ability to travel abroad is still somewhat of a luxury. 

Look, I’m fully aware of the stereotypes surrounding the American “study abroad kid.” The rich, never-worked-a-day-in-their-life college student who’s constantly updating their Instagram page with photos of their recent trip to France. 

And honestly, that’s not too far from the truth. A lot of the exchange students in my circle of friends are living in London with all expenses being paid for by parents and relatives. I’m under the impression that only some of them have jobs back at home, and yes, Instagram is, in fact, the center of their universe.

But does that make them inherently bad people? Of course not.

Privilege is not the mark of a bad person. However, choosing to be unaware of the freedoms that accompany financial stability can be damaging to everyone. But being appreciative, understanding the merciless barriers that exist between each socioeconomic class — these are some of the only things that those with privilege can do.

I don’t exactly fit into the aforementioned niche of the study abroad kid. My mom is a public school teacher, and I have a single-parent household. Like most of my peers at Roosevelt, I juggled school and two minimum-wage jobs this past semester. The only reason I can afford college is through FAFSA.

But flip that statement on its head, and the true duality of privilege is exposed: I have a living parent, my mom has a job and is able to support me, I have a job and can somewhat support myself, and I’m able to attend college.

So, in the convoluted mess that is privilege, I can make out one clear message: I am lucky to be here in London, to be enrolled at Roosevelt and to put food on the sticky table of my communal kitchen (no matter how weak my cooking skills are). 

Privilege is a two-sided story. It has many faces and many different manifestations. Recognizing that privilege is what makes people human, and building a relationship with my own privilege has been a challenge. It sometimes makes me feel sick when I go out to eat with friends instead of reheating my leftovers in the fridge. It makes me feel like I’m bragging every time I post to Instagram or Facebook when I’m truly just excited to be abroad.

So yes, I’ll press the “confirm” key and book that weekend getaway. My bank account won’t be happy with me, and I will indeed flood my social media accounts with photos and videos of my travels. I’ll cringe at the fact that my summer will be spent working, but for now, I’ll enjoy this memorable time in my life.

I can make peace with that.

Categories: Columns


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