For those of you not embarking on fabulous study abroad opportunities this summer, relax. It is in fact possible to gain an international cultural experience within the local vicinities of our dear University rather than toil with transportation, passports and those pesky little things called classes. Also, staying here beats having to carry around a pocket dictionary and live with a group of complete strangers thousands of miles from the comforts and amenities of home.
Why take the vaccines, pay all that money for airfare and enter a continent of serious political turmoil when you can simply watch the wild wonders of Africa from the comforts of your own computer? Last year, my dearest roommate used to wake me up at all hours of the night alerting me about the appearances of different safari animals on a clever little Web site called Africam, a live streaming camera capturing the action of different wildlife areas. I must say, I became quite the fan. Grab your Panama Jack hat, turn up the air conditioner and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Let's face it; the only tidbits of marginal utility we may gain from Australia's cultural universe are platypi and the late Steve Irwin ... and Heath Ledger. A little-known yet absolutely lovely museum, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum, exists right outside our hallowed Grounds, and it is not only an interesting way to spend an afternoon, but if you are as proficient in Australian art knowledge as me -- you can learn a lot. Go armed with a cup of coffee, stew in artistic and intellectual discourse and walk away knowing you saved yourself an 18-hour plane ride.
There's a reason we parted ways with our British brethren back in 1776. Good riddance, I say. You can, however, learn anything you want about the English and their ways thanks to the BBC's copious collection of DVD boxed sets; you have to hand it to the English for turning everything into a miniseries or enlightening movie event. Trying to study literature? Watch the monumental "Pride and Prejudice" miniseries (and Colin Firth in a soaked white shirt). Looking to take a biology or geology class? Pop in the "Planet Earth" series instead. Modern history? BBC's "History of World War II". The list is endless. Avoid the bad teeth, weather and unfavorable exchange rate for an enticing bowl of popcorn and "lessons" that can be paused every time you need to go to the restroom.
The Pantheon may be nice, but we've essentially got something similar on our hands. I believe that Jefferson modeled our own Academical Village off classic architecture just so we wouldn't have to venture off Grounds out of curiosity and wonder. I say take a historical tour and let the University Guides enlighten you with the many wonders of the Lawn and Rotunda. If in doubt, just leave your glasses at home and let your mind wander with the ambiguity of the blurriness.
I feel like you can gain everything there is to know about the Swedish people simply by popping in an ABBA CD in the car stereo and heading to the nearest IKEA. Weary travelers be warned -- going into this behemoth of a store is not a light experience meant to take a couple of minutes. You'll not only find yourself fascinated by the furniture names you can't pronounce and the totally bizarre models that don't look architecturally sound, let alone comfortable, but you'll revel in the low prices and beat your contemporaries to stocking the apartment for next year. Don't disappoint yourself, however, when you realize you have to put everything together once home and the directions are completely in Swedish.
There's nothing like experiencing life in a different country, and this is definitely the time in life to explore the world. But why go anywhere when you can soak up just as much substance right around here? If you are one of those individuals counting down the days until leaving for an international study extravaganza, just remember one thing: I love getting postcards.
Bailee's column usually runs biweekly Thursdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.