Sitting in my seat on our United Airlines flight from Boston to London, I wonder what we will do, who I will meet, and what new experiences I will have. I’m also slightly nervous about missing two weeks of school, but I’m more excited at the prospect of traveling internationally with the school, and in general, for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven other students, two faculty chaperones, and I were on our way to the United Kingdom for the annual Round Square International Conference this September.
Traveling has always been something that I’ve enjoyed, from the thrill of taking off in a plane to landing in a foreign place. Ever since I was young, I’ve been fortunate to travel with my parents and school–some of my favorite trips are Dubai and Greece. Those trips were mostly for fun and a change of pace. The trip in September, though, brought some other benefits that I especially appreciated because we’ve been isolated for years due to the pandemic.
After sitting at home during remote learning, looking out the same window in my room and back at myself over Zoom, I suppose I’ve wanted a change of both pace and place. When I learned about the Round Square trip in May, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get that change of place, and also to meet people from across the world. One silver lining to the pandemic was that it instilled in me this goal to learn about other cultures and communities, and to connect with people after being disconnected for a long time.
For context, the Round Square trip brings together students from over 50 countries to talk about major issues facing the world that our generation will have to address. This year’s theme was “Take less, be more,” focusing on sustainability and climate change.
This trip was made further unique because of the timing of Queen Elizabeth’s death. With the long-standing monarch passing just about two weeks before we were due to depart for the U.K, we were left with questions about what our visit would look like. We happened to be in London when the public could leave flowers and notes as a tribute to the Queen. Visiting the tribute garden, it was interesting to see much of the country united under this situation.
Outside of the historic moments we experienced in the UK after the death of their monarch, we got to learn experientially through a number of other activities and travel. From meeting BB&N alumni/ae in London, to the conference in Oxford and Essex, to exploring the British countryside in Salcombe and Bristol, I was delighted to learn so much about people from across the globe. During our other excursions, I learned about Britain (and some of their food preferences, like beans on toast). In addition to meeting other students from around the world, I was able to bond with BB&N students outside of school life. The trip was a welcomed experience to step outside of my comfort zone, which I’d been missing during the pandemic.
The Round Square trip increased my desire to travel and learn about different countries. I’ll be traveling to France on an exchange trip with BB&N in March, and I’m excited to connect with the family I’ll be staying with and learn more about French culture.