United Kingdom Arrival


One of the many aspects of studying abroad I was looking forward to was traveling because I had never traveled across the North Atlantic Ocean. The thought of flying across the North Atlantic Ocean was scarier than boarding a more than eleven-hour flight. Although it was uncomfortable to have on a mask for that long period of time, I was still able to take advantage of my time by cleaning out my laptop and sleeping. Upon my arrival, I was exhausted, and in disbelief, I was finally in England. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, instead of immediately meeting my homestay family, I arrived at a hotel where we will be in quarantine for 1-2 weeks to avoid the further contagion of the disease if we were to have gotten it at the airport. However, in two weeks, I am optimistic that we will all test negative for covid-19 since we all took precautionary measures while traveling and are vaccinated. In the meantime, the positive aspect of staying in a hotel is that I get to enjoy alone time and have more space than I would if I were at my homestay’s family house. In addition, I have started my course ALD 379, “Exploring UK Education,” to gain a comparative lens to understand issues of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and immigration status. In preparation for volunteering at the Gretton School in Cambridge, United Kingdom, when covid-19 restrictions get lifted, in class we learned about the “white savior complex,” which I had never heard of before—for example, taking pictures and selfies with local residents of the country that showcase us Americans as the protagonists or heroes of the story that is being presented. Although we might innocently take these pictures with locals of the country we are visiting, it can rob subjects of their agency, dignity, and privacy. Especially in places where foreigners go to volunteer, it is common to stumble upon a white western person putting themselves in the middle of others in need. These photos from individuals or non-governmental organizations often lack context, playing on stereotypes, focusing mainly on the negative aspects, and oversimplifying the truth. Despite being in quarantine and not beginning the ultimate study abroad experience I had imagined pre-covid, the time I have spent in my virtual classes here in Cambridge thus far has been of many benefits so I can prepare myself more when completely being immersed in a different culture than I am accustomed to such as the United Kingdom. Regardless of people’s race, socioeconomic status, and disabilities, now more than ever due to the global pandemic, we should be more cautious and self-aware when visiting a different country to avoid overtaking pictures and showcasing any acts of superiority. With these new learnings and self-awareness, I am looking forward to continuing to test negative for Covid-19 to go out soon and explore more of the United Kingdom!