Whenever I mention I’m a French minor, the question I always get (besides the good ol’ “How do you say ‘XYZ’ in French?”) is:
“Why are you studying abroad in England and not France?”
I considered it. I loaded up my arms with those whimsical red-and-orange brochures from student fairs and abroad office appointments. Bookmarked all the right articles. And threads. Playlisted all the right YouTube vlogs. Picked the brains of faculty, students and staff of assorted ages and varied nationalities.
But as much as I had gassed myself up to take the plunge and déménager en France, I remained torn between Strasbourg and London. Even up against the opportunity to study in a real Francophone country, London called to me.
Nothing about either jumped out to sway me. Except, maybe the fear of being basic and siding with (what had been disdainfully characterized by American and European classmates alike as) NYC But With Pounds. Cons of either choice seemed few, though, especially since a language barrier couldn’t deter me. And perspective: either way, if my application got accepted, I’d be studying abroad in Europe. Nuances aside, studying abroad in either location wouldn’t be an absolutely horrible way to round out my undergraduate career.
When it came down to it, choosing was a matter of returning to my roots. I don’t mean a distant cousin or tenuous bloodline. I meant the life-long adoration of Britain I had cultivated a young age.
I cut my teeth on Jim Dale’s readings of the Harry Potter books. From that point forward, obsessed doesn’t begin to cover it.
Fellow first graders could count on me to sneak them peeks at The Sorcerer’s Stone on DVD. In second grade, back in the states, I got moony over Daniel Radcliffe’s Nickolodeon appearance.
Shout out to CVS: I gave my third-grade crush the biggest HP valentine in the bunch. Fourth- and fifth-grade Caroline moved on and played pick-up Quidditch at recess. She also
microwaved brewed Butterbeer and brought it, poorly sealed, in a lunchbox.
Imagine her glee taking a swig of the authentic stuff in Orlando, eight years later. There’s a Facebook album featuring a rosy-cheeked nerd with Flexirod curls in Diagon Alley. The twinkle in her eye tells you she’s been waiting her whole life for something like this.
Over the years, I became more acquainted with English culture. I soaked up pleasantries like tea time and the pastries to match. I also was interested in the concept of a pub and its forefather, the tavern. For obvious reasons.
I decided Henry VIII was the original f*ckboy. Taking social studies and a Catholic church history class, I was intrigued by Henry making up the rules of the game as he went. Ah, yes! To be white, male and rich! But that’s #tea.
Would life have been as colorful growing up without the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll (and the thirst that they inspired)? Roald Dahl gets an honorable mention, too. Note that I took a shine to the “true-mors” about Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron and Virginia Woolf.
And all my feelings about Victorian fashion and Arctic Monkeys and Marina + The Diamonds and Florence + the Machine and Adele and Lilly Allen and AlunaGeorge and Ella Eyre and fka twigs and Amy Winehouse came later. At my very core, however, was a deep-seated love of Gurinder Chadha films and William Shakespeare.
Having received my show schedule for my Shakespeare class this semester, I’m already abuzz with anticipation. Among other preparations, I’ve made out a bucket list with the markets and boutiques and food stands and landmarks I want to hit. Bet your bottom dollar (pound?) a Warner Bros. tour made the cut.
It’s all too surreal for the kid who’s seen “Bend It Like Beckham” more times than she can count and who stayed up late reading Harry Potter with a flashlight.