Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself

During the IFSA Butler study abroad Wales orientation in London, the day of the Presidential Inauguration came and everyone was very excited, not just the Americans but basically everyone we met that day. The orientation leader thankfully changed our schedule around so we could all watch the ceremony. Around four, after the IFSA Butler staff helpfully informed us on what living in the U.K. would be like and how the education system differs from the U. S., we walked to a pub off the busy streets of London. Not to my surprise, the pub was packed full of people whom all had the same agenda of watching the U. S. president being sworn into office.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that U.S. politics are as popular to the British people as their own politics. I believe this is the case because the U.S. is still the world super-power and the way that the U.S. is run will ultimately affect the U.K. in some form. A perfect example of this is the recession that is currently taking place in both nations.

As we were watching the inauguration, a prayer was said during the ceremony before the president was sworn in. Being that there were Christians, atheists, and Jewish people in the orientation group, the discussion of religion came up. It was said that in Britain, religion is completely left out of politics, which is very different from the U.S. Many members of the group were expressing their opinions of bringing religion into politics and disagreed with the idea completely. Five minutes later I looked outside the pub and noticed a red double-decker bus with an advertisement on the side which read “There probably is no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Later, I realized that this quote was on almost every red double-decker bus in London. I was taken back by this because I was so used to seeing “Jesus Saves” quotes around so many places in the U.S. which has a completely opposite meaning. At this point I realized how the views of the majority in the U.S. compared to the views in Britain are very different when it comes to religion.

A recent poll taken among 1600 British school children showed that the person the kids looked up to the most was Simon Cowell with God coming in at sixth on the list behind Harry Potter and Santa Claus. If the same poll was done in the U.S., it would be interesting to compare the views of the children among the two nations. I wonder how different the ratings would be if religion was left out of U.S. politics as well.

Another part of the British Government that struck my attention is the political party of the majority. Britain is overall a liberal nation. For example, the issue of abortion is rarely brought up in British politics because it is generally accepted by the people so there is hardly any discussion on the topic. If I was at my home University talking to a group of my peers and said I was pro-choice I would have to defend my position because the majority would be pro-life. On the other hand, If I was at Cardiff University in Wales and said I was pro-life to my peers, they would wonder why because most of them would have views of the opposite. When looking at the extremes of the left and right wings among the political parties of both nations, the extreme right wing that exists in the U.S. cannot be found in Britain. For instance, if Sarah Palin tried to run for any position in the British government, they would think it was a joke. There would never be a spot for someone like Sarah Palin because her beliefs are too far right wing compared to the other views that are held in the British Government.

In so many ways, the U.S. and Britain are very similar but different at the same time. After living here for almost 2 months now, the differences are becoming very clear. One of my Psychology instructors at Cardiff said that by only living in another culture can you understand your own more clearly. I am currently finding this statement to be very true. All of the different views on politics and religion have made me re-evaluate my own opinions on such topics and have helped me define who I am as a person. Before I came over here, everyone said that you will find yourself while studying in Wales which I thought was kind of cliché and cheesy at first but you really do. Now I am living by this quote that I came across the other day that said “Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself.”

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