Today is my last day in England; currently I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to Dublin. I’m happy to be moving on to the next leg of my journey but am going to really miss the friends I have made at the UEA’s international summer school.
Over the past month, I’ve met and become friends with people from Australia, Mexico, Serbia, China, Uruguay, Brazil, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Thailand, Russia, Poland, USA, Slovakia, and more. My biggest takeaway from this experience, of living, hanging out, and studying with people from all over the world, has been how similar we all are. Despite coming from different countries, having cultural and sometimes language barriers between us, what I’ve learned is that if you talk to anybody for long enough, you can find something in common with them. Maybe you both love history. Maybe you share a passion for late-night comedy shows. Maybe you’ve both travelled to the same country. Maybe you’re just both travellers. Maybe it’s something as simple as both liking chocolate. But there’s always something, no matter where you are from or how different you may initially think you are.
It makes me think back to the first day in Norwich, when we had afternoon tea at the cathedral. Our table got into some serious tea-time discussions about the world and its people. As one of the student ambassadors sitting at my table pointed out, we’re really all from everywhere. People have moved around the world and mixed so much that there’s really nobody who’s solely from one country. For example, look at me – as my friend Mary pointed out that day, my name, Caelan, isn’t a very typical Canadian name. It’s actually Gaelic. My family’s heritage on my dad’s side, when you go far back enough, is Irish, Scottish, English, French, and German, and my mother’s parents were both immigrants to Canada from Holland in the 1950’s.
And it’s like that whether you look at individuals or at countries. Learning about English history for the past month has been really eye opening for me, because what I didn’t realize is that England is in so many ways a country of immigrants. In my head it was always a body of English people, but in reality, there were Celts, there were Romans for a while, there were Britons, and then Anglo-Saxons came, and then Vikings, and then the Norman Conquest happened in 1066 and took over the united kingdom of England, and England was ruled by Normans for a while…. and so on.
Looking at the world this way – not as separate bodies, but as inextricably linked by their histories and their peoples – many things that happen in the world start to seem strange. International conflicts. Isolationism. Because these actions aren’t just “protecting X country’s people” or “fighting Y country’s people”… Country X has people from X, and Y, and also W and V and Z countries. And so does country Y. No country is ever, or can ever be, completely separate from the rest.
The world is big, but the connections are vast.
Thanks to UEA and my experiences here for helping to teach me this lesson.