With The Associated Press internships available all over the world, I felt the need to pick one with a little prestige – not everyone can put “worked in a foreign country” on their rÂsumÂ. The AP Israel job listing did specify that interns weren’t sent to cover stories in the Israeli-Palestinian territories. Dad and I discussed it, finally deciding I should intern in a country where I was less likely to be the victim of anthrax or a shoe bomb.
I picked London instead of Jerusalem.
I’d spend the fall in a cushy residence hall in Chelsea, my every need taken care of by the TCU London Centre. My main worry would be how to get my mountains of bags from Gatwick Airport to my dorm.
My friends and I debated which prince I should go after. William was heir to the throne and obviously more attractive. Harry was younger, with big teeth, thus less sought-after and much more attainable. We went round after round.
Needless to say, these dreamy discussions ended with a bang. The attacks on the London transportation system were a slap in the face for my friends and family, who had convinced themselves that I would be okay. I’m determined and ambitious; no one doubted that I could arrive in a foreign country, set up residence and complete my internship. It’s the randomness of terrorism that frightens them. I show up in the wrong place at the wrong time and even my unfailing stubbornness might not be able to save me.
I’m told that anti-American sentiments run rampant abroad, regardless of what country you’re in. I figure I’ll be all right as long as I keep my mouth shut during political discussions. I like my country just fine, but I’m not about to get into any fist fights defending its leader or foreign policies. I’m trying to eliminate the “y’all”s and “fixin’ to”s from my speech, hoping my accent can pass as Canadian.
I’m scared I won’t be able to communicate while traveling in continental Europe and I’m embarrassed by the fact that I only speak one language fluently. I worry that Europeans will view me as another stupid American girl who expects the rest of the world to adapt to her. I can say “Hello” when I’m in France and Spain. In Italy, I’ll be limited to the faux Italian-English hybrid I’ve picked up at Starbucks. “Dessert,” I will say happily when presented with any question. “Beautiful.”
I’m also worried that my rudimentary high school and college German won’t get me very far. I feel confident that I can make a basic introduction: “Ich heisse Lacey und ich bin eine Americanerin.” I can ask directions and tell time. Beyond that, I’ve mastered “I like cheese very much” and “You, Sir, are a fruitcake.” I fear it’s all downhill from there and that others will judge me because of it.
I’ve started having nightmares about my first trip abroad. Some of the dreams are silly. I forget my flight information and can’t get out of Kansas City. I leave my coat and sweaters behind and freeze to death in the harsh London winter. I get stuck next to a screaming child during the nine-hour flight in coach. The French spit on me. That kind of thing.
Some of my nightmares are legitimate. I get mugged on the bus. I fail at my internship. Nerve gas is released on the Underground.
Could these things actually happen? Of course. Could they also happen anywhere in the United States, as well? Yes. I am probably safer in Emporia, Kan. than in New York City, but anything is possible.
Millions of British citizens are still living and working in the Isles, and there is no report of a mass exodus from major cities in England. I guess I will have to take my chances.