Chapter One: ‘Is that near Washington D.C.?’
It’s undeniably difficult to understand why someone would choose to live for half a year in an often-overlooked corner of the United States of America. Who would make a choice like that in the face of exotic options to distant lands that boast intense cultural differences such as foreign languages and festivals that we don’t quite know the meaning of but nonetheless provide us with colourful Instagram posts. If half a year in Hong Kong gives you the change to explore South East Asia and eat Chinese market food, then why would anyone ever put the same amount of effort and money into a placement in a city that known to most for Grey’s Anatomy and some movie that featured Tom Hanks living on a house boat. For many the idea that America has a culture doesn’t quite resonate as anything further than horrible fast food and possibly cow boys. Other than that, that big lump of land wedged between Canada and Mexico is pretty much the same, if not a lesser version of the UK, right? So why live there, why give up the beaches of Thailand and historic towns of Spain to integrate into a society that most likely will give you no cultural education. For a long time, I didn’t have an answer to this.
I chose to apply for my Undergraduate Position at Kings College London because I knew that one of their Linguistic study abroad placements was in Hong Kong. I was hell bent on moving to Asia and traveling that side of the world. It was ideal; far from home, recognisably cool as an overall experience and completely different from anywhere I had ever lived. Pretty much as different as you can get from England. However, when the day to put in our applications rolled around something happened. I believe the technical term is, I chickened out. In front of me on my computer screen was a long list of places that I could go live. For someone who is as restless and flighty as I am, this was one of those ‘kids in a candy store’ moments. How was I supposed to choose? I mean don’t get me wrong, Hong Kong is cool and all but now look at all the other places I can go! Imagine hiking around the South Island of New Zealand on your long weekends off or snaking through the cobbled streets of Alicante, Spain with an ice cream in hand and sexy Spanish guys carrying your bags. Why limit yourself to just one country when there are so many options out there. I feel I should mention at this point that I have commitment issues and this choice was only ever going to be made on a whim. So, that’s what happened. As I hovered my curser over Hong Kong, New Zealand or Melbourne, dreaming of the warm weather and frequent trips to paradise beaches, the name Seattle caught my eye and in some strange moment of love at first sight I threw caution out the window, or perhaps I threw caution into the window since Seattle immediately seemed like a much safer and more reliable choice. I sense of calm overcame me and I happily applied for a position at the University of Washington.
I later told my friends and family. My housemates excitedly gave me a summary of the entire Grey’s Anatomy storyline as if this was knowledge every true Seattle native was expected to have. My mother pronounced Seattle as ‘Seetle’ for the first few attempts but we got there eventually. Overall, I was met with the expected confusion and bewilderment and found that I didn’t have an answer to the questions on my rash decision. Sometimes things just feel right and Seattle felt like the choice I needed to make.