To come from where I come from, to have the opportunities I've had, to have access to the resources (intellectual and physical) I've had, to have the people I have supporting me.
My mother is from Hemingford Abbots, Cambridgeshire (United Kingdom) while my father is from Florham Park, New Jersey. They met in Pompton Lakes, NJ in 1990, after my mum (a newly graduated physical therapist) came over to work as a counselor at the camp where my dad was director: Elks Camp Moore. This was not unusual, as there are plenty of couples that met at this camp and ended up getting married (coincidentally, I don't think any of them have been divorced). This cross-continental marriage is one of the biggest reasons I am who I am today.
My mum and dad made sure my siblings and I grew up knowing our families on both sides of the pond. I have been able to grow up understanding two cultures as an outsider and an insider, often switching between the two "seamlessly" (with difficulties at times) in dialect and mentality. This can certainly lead to some confusion, like when I forgot the American words for "cinema" and "car park" after a few months in the UK, or embarrassment, like when I referred to my white uniform "pants" (trousers) in front of about sixty four- to seven-year-olds at a small primary school in Rowledge (who reacted with a great deal of giggles I can assure you). It has led to a strange accent at times, especially after Skyping with my best friend in Yorkshire while at The Citadel or after leaving a voicemail for an American friend while in England, but above all it has given me the unique opportunity to understand, appreciate, and love the differences and intricacies of two cultures.
This international, informal education has been a blessing in so many ways, but has also been difficult at times. Due to the very nature of having lives thousands of miles apart, I must spend months at a time away from friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and sometimes siblings and parents. This is tough at the best of times, heart-wrenching at the worst. God forbid there was an emergency on the other side of the Atlantic, because it's at least a $1000 plane ticket and seven hours away.
I wouldn't trade this experience of growing up on two continents for anything, as it has shaped not only my perception of the world but also my ability to understand and empathize with others. I have studied the education systems of more than just the United States and England (Wales, the Netherlands, Norway, etc.) as a result, and had the drive to pursue a Fulbright fellowship in Norway and graduate study in the United Kingdom.
In addition to my families in England and New Jersey, I also have my family from The Citadel and in Charleston, South Carolina. After spending four years with them, my classmates definitely constitute members of my extended family. They have all helped me in a myriad of ways they may never know, and to all of them and those I have gotten to know in Charleston I thank you.
Now, on the eve of my impending trip to Norway for ten months, I'll be away from all of my families, ready to start a new adventure. While I will certainly miss them all, they have all helped me and will support me no matter where I am. I love them all, and want to thank them all for making me who I am today.
If you'd like to keep up with me while I'm in Norway, please like "An English American Abroad" on Facebook and check out my blog here!