Beauty in the unexpected: Cambridge 2016
Dumisa Moyo is currently participating in Lee's annual United Kingdom Semester Study Abroad trip; an opportunity for students to fulfill their global perspectives requirement while earning 15 credit hours taking courses taught be Lee faculty in Cambridge. During the final two weeks of the trip, students travel throughout Europe in individually arranged tours.
Not many students get the opportunity to idly sit in the middle of Barcelona whilst quaintly sipping on cafe con leche in the middle of La Rambla on a bustling Spanish day ' but that is exactly what I am doing as I reflect on the past ten weeks of my semester abroad at Cambridge and traveling through Europe.
There is beauty in the unexpected.
No matter how hard you try, you can never possibly know the future. It is impossible. There is only the present. The current state of being that we all find ourselves in every day whilst wondering when our next vanilla bean macchiato will be available to us. That macchiato may never come, but we are still so consumed with the idea of the "next step."
For me, Cambridge 2016 was that next step. It was a chance to find my identity, my purpose and my livelihood.
After receiving my acceptance email in May of 2015, I spent every consecutive night looking at the stars; dreaming of my Odysseus-like journey through the European landscape of untold adventure. Of course, I had some serious fundraising to do due to my college-deprived, flex-dollar-reliant pockets.
I applied for ten summer jobs, received a call from three of them, and spent my warm Floridian days working in the back alleys and factory workshops of Ross and Universal Studios with women who were bilingual only when I was not present. The long hours, grueling work and Spanish soap opera gossip fueled my drive to escape to another world.
Long story somewhat short, I attained the money necessary, hopped on the plane, and began listening to the most overtly emotional, melodramatic cinematic scores most notably from Tron Legacy; a movie I value more for the sounds than the neon flashing, punk rocker hipsters flexing in tight latex suits. As I drifted off into uncomfortable slumber, I reminisced on the words of our trip leader, Jeffrey Sargent, chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
"This group, this group right here, this is the Cambridge Experience," Sargent said.
I looked around at the gleaming faces of 20 Lee students about to embark on what could very well be the most awe-inspiring experience of their lives. In that moment, nothing could deter me from believing that even God himself was smiling down upon us. Everything was perfect.
Nine sleepless hours later, I had successfully watched the Prestige after ten years of relentlessly fighting spoilers. The man next to me did not seem to handle the flight very well, as he lied face-down in his own regurgitation and my nose filled with an aroma that I would like to altogether forget. None of that mattered though, because we had landed in our new home. We had officially made it to the United Kingdom.
Upon landing at London's Heathrow Airport, there was a recognizable shift in the atmosphere. To a young Afro Brit who spent the majority of his life living in the United States 4,000 miles away from his home, returning to the motherland was a humbling experience. I could barely control my goofy smiling.
Soon we arrived at the Royal Cambridge Hotel in Cambridgeshire, England, which we embraced as our new home. The many colleges that make the great name of Cambridge a global example became our playgrounds.
We witnessed the birth of C.S. Lewis' imagination in Oxford, soaked in the Roman spas of Bath and studied their mighty ruins in Wales, and were charmed by the colossal cathedral that engulfed Wells. We conquered the mighty Irish Cliffs of Moher and King Arthur's seat in Scotland, barely straggling to the top with unyielding perseverance. We kayaked across the Lake District, performed Shakespeare in London, and hiked five miles across Hadrians Wall. In ten weeks, each of us accomplished more than we could have possibly expected.
Perhaps, these extraordinary feats were a direct result of an extraordinary group of individuals. There was a certain unforeseen connection that bound us all together, an unspoken understanding that we were all comrades along the same mission.
More than that, we became family; loyal to each other above all else. We realized early on that our temporary society of dazed and confused American students were in fact the "experience." Despite our differences, despite our upbringings, economic classes, cultures, ethnicities, and Kanye West taglines, we were united as brothers and sisters. Sure, we fought sometimes. Of course, we argued. Yes, we may have even become completely repulsed by each other (mainly due to the smell of unwashed clothing), but we always came together.
I signed up for the Cambridge trip in order to understand who I am as a person. Instead, I learned that the pursuit to understand oneself fully is pointless. Full understanding of the self cannot come about without first understanding others. My Cambridge experience was not found in the trips to Oxford, Bath, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Wells, or any of the other mesmerizing locations that we frequented. Instead, my experience was found in the community that I was appreciating these places with.
They are my memoirs, they are my memories and they are now my greatly valued friends. I believe there is beauty in the unexpected, and I can honestly say that I am grateful that I did not see these emotions coming. Cambridge 2016 will eternally live with me.