11 January 2013

ignoring the weakness

A dear friend challenged me in an email today.

Your blog has shown the happy moments but what about the transition?...Is it weird being an American at a European school? 

I am uncomfortable with being weak and so I myself have somewhat been ignoring the transition. However, it is such an important aspect of what I am gaining on this trip that I would like to share. Also, it could be a wonderfully useful warning as well as an encouragement to those of you who may be considering studying abroad here or elsewhere.

I have a crippling desire to be thought of well. Combine this with the fact that Americans generally don't have a good reputation here in terms of either tact or intelligence and you have yourself a sticky situation. As soon as I open my mouth, I feel as though everyone is sizing me up. Suddenly I'm not only representing myself, but my whole country as well. Not only that, but all the mistakes of my country are laid at my front door. No, not everyone is doing this in their minds. It's impossible to tell with the British who will tell you that "that's quite good" which really means "that is horrid...don't ever do it that way again."

I keep finding myself slipping into a British accent at the grocery store, while asking for directions, or trying to find the library information desk. I so love observing and so hate standing out that I can't help but hide behind the cushion that the language gives me. This chameleon talking leads to more anxiety however because of the horrible fear that I'll be found out and humiliated. Because of this, I have tried to talk in an American accent no matter what. Mostly I've just been ending up with a British twinge because I'm able to suppress the rest. Perhaps they won't hear it at all. It makes me feel a little better at any rate.

So what am I struggling with? My pride. Even at home it so quickly strangles my joy in academics. I become so concerned about what my professors, tutors, and peers think that I freeze up and become unable to focus or re-orient myself in accordance with how the LORD sees me and my academics.

It's an ongoing struggle of mine and one I saw somewhere on the horizon. I just didn't think about how pervasive the speech would be. But who am I kidding? Here I am, in the center of one of the most prestigious academic communities in the world and I don't think about how I'm going to be surrounded by words.

I'm determined to glory in them though. I want to chase after these riddles Shakespeare has left and begin to grasp the world...parts of the world that only a few can see...and share it with others.

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