TRAVEL: The United States of America
A wise classmate of mine once said: “The only thing which money can buy that will make you a happier person, are travels.” Traveling and exploring new adventures, horizons, another environment and cultures, are all something that will shape you and create memories that money cannot replace. And on that note, our class went to USA.
EXPECTATIONS AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
No journey starts without expectations. Yes we had a couple, no wait, we had a lot. Our entire life we have been marked by American norms through television and several other media. And with that comes a handful of expectations and prejudice. You totally create a personal opinion about the huge landscape full of power, story and greatness from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. And when it comes down to prejudices and expectations towards the American people, I have compiled two of the most general in one single list.
Please keep in mind that this list is created from my space of mind. If you find this list offensive in any way just remember that I never had been to the USA.
- Fast Food — The fuel of the American people. Fast food is not only what feeds the Americans, but also what feeds the American wealth and fame. And I believe that because of food chains like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, I had some sort of insider knowledge about the American fast-food-lifestyle before we took off. But when I arrived in Washington, the concept Fast Food got a completely different meaning to me. Because fast food isn’t only food from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s also ready-cooked food from local supermarkets, which Americans in fact eat a whole lot of. The supermarkets will meet you with 1000 different variants of yogurt-to-go and an encouragement to make the customer buy Coke instead of water, simply because it’s cheaper.
- A population full of extroverts. Before going to America I’ve had some American acquaintanceships from my time in Greenland. And specially from my father, who had certain oponions about “them”, and which he have confronted me with a couple of times. So I must say that I had some sort of idea about how the people would be. And because of me being so sure about their way of behaving, I was very surprised when I first stepped into a coffee-shop an early morning in Washington. The woman behind the desk was so nice to me. She met me with a big smile and the line: “Good morning, how are you?”, where I would be like: “Yes, good day, oh fine, ehmm thanks I think.” And by that time she would already be asking for my order. At that time I would be very fascinated by her kindness. Though when time passed and we got to New York, I found that the kindness went from fascinating to slightly annoying. Not that being kind is annoying! Sometimes I just feel like they don’t mean it all the time. And then the line seems unnecessary and the person turns out really superficial.
All in all it’s really difficult to compare your general expectations with the experiences, because nothing is the same, whether it’s the people or the circumstances, and especially not in a city like New York where everything constantly is under change.
In Washington we visited Bethesda Chevy Chase High School for a day. We had the pleasure to “shadow” a student the entire day, to observe and ask questions for them to answer. The expectations from my side were tremendously big, because of the (slightly) old Disney movie “High School Musical”. Yes, I thought that movie was reality, and so, I thought that Bethesda Chevy Chase was just the same. And I must say it really lived up to my expectations at first glance. The hallways were decorated with their signature colors and signs, student produced posters and trophies. It was actually only in the way the halls looked, and how the students (and teachers) were dressed. But the school attitude of the students, were really similar to the attitude of a general Danish student; it all comes down to your own effort in class. Though I felt like there was a different kind of “energy” in the classes I went to. One class I specially remember was an English class where the students had to do a presentation about a certain subject. The class had to prepare presentations about the subject “The American Dream”, and had to base it on the movie “The Great Gatsby”. I saw to presentations, but one of them specially stood out to me. It was presented by a little confident girl, who did her job very well, with a well-made Power Point and a fluent language. Very similar to what we do in Denmark. Though that wasn’t quit what caught my attention. The part that surprised me the most was the “after party”, the part where the classmates had to discuss the subject and add other main points. At this point an entire Danish class would be quiet as a caterpillar. None in the classroom would have anything to discuss and it would be the teacher’s job to ask tricky questions. This was totally different! The second that the little girl had finished her presentations, the classroom was full of hands, who would like to share their opinions on the subject. Suddenly, the presentation got more interesting to watch, and it wasn’t just another ordinary presentation (like the ones we do in Denmark!) The students got really involved in the discussion about “The American Dream”, and I went from the classroom full of inspiration.
After a trip like this you are left with so many different impressions. You have visited historical, power- and meaningful places, and are overwhelmed with impressions that you can’t even explain in other words than: “great!”, “good” and “amazing”. It’s really difficult to describe the different feelings you felt while experiencing a whole new country.
It’s funny how your mind is set to only remember the great parts of the trip. When you look back, the only things that immediately pop into your mind are the good ones. And as a matter of fact, I was actually home the very last day in New York and missed the opportunity to see Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. Bearing this in mind that is actually not the first thing that jumps into my mind, when I look back at this trip.
It is all the lovely coffeemakers who made our days shine on the greyest mornings in Washington. It is all the lovely people on the streets of New York who took time to help a bunch of really confused students from Denmark, on the streets and in the metro. It’s all those great sections of the whole experience that I’m left with, and which I will protect until the day I land in America again. Those memories are the most important, and therefore also the ones that create the loveliest memory of all times.
And now you sit here, back in Denmark. You sit down, and try to come to terms with the impressions that have had the largest imprint on your memory. I collect them all as images. It’s not quotes that blow my memory, but certain atmospheres, faces, pictures and little sequences worth saving for later that gets a special place in my memory.