A Brit abroad: its true, dreams are made in the Big Apple

Itunu Abolarinwa

Political science and international relations student
University of Birmingham, studying abroad at Pitzer College, California

Itunu Abolarinwa had the opportunity to travel to New York City after completing an exchange in California

In my house in the U.K., there is a huge framed picture of the New York skyline. I don't know why my parents bought it, but I used to stare at it growing up, telling myself I would go there one day. I didn't think that day would come anytime soon, but during spring break, I got the wonderful opportunity to spend a week in the concrete jungle.

When travelling with new friends, there is always the slight fear that you will have disagreements. Whether that be choosing where to eat or where to go, there are plenty of opportunities for conflict to arise. However, when my friends and I arrived at Grand Central Station in Manhattan and started screaming and jumping in unison, marvelling at the fact that we were in the Big Apple, I knew this trip would be full of laughs and great memories.

The niggling thought that my year abroad was about to come to an end made me certain about enjoying New York. The city embodies everything I imagined America to be: fast-paced, with bright lights and lots of interesting people. From sparking conversation on the train with a former art teacher, who spoke to us about politics and what it means to be a true New Yorker, to watching a Republican and Democrat argue in front of the White House on our day trip to Washington, D.C., the eclectic vibrancy of the American lifestyle so often portrayed in the media was apparent.

New York screamed dreams and opportunities, much like bustling London. Cities certainly have a life of their own. As my friends and I negotiated through each street and avenue, with the cold winds assaulting our faces and the bright lights beaming in Times Square, I was confronted with the allure of America, which tells you anything can happen. For the first time since studying in the U.S., I felt a world of possibility.

My choice to study abroad in the U.S. was an intentional one. Many ask why I chose America, wondering why I didn't opt for Asia or Australia. Truthfully, I believed that for a girl with a dream, America was the place to be. Perhaps there is a slight idealism in that mindset, and after spending almost a year here I realise that there is an array of socio-political issues that prevent dreams from being birthed, or even conceived in the first place. However, it has been evident to me is that many Americans operate with a mentality that encourages them to dream.

Through my many interactions with fellow students, and the in-depth conversations I have been privileged to have through my podcast, I have seen that being a dreamer is hard-wired into many young people here. The sky truly is the limit. People here want to see the world change, see justice being served and actively pursue these goals with passion. I often sit in admiration when I see how students allow themselves to not only dream, but dream big.

Perhaps this dreamer mentality is derived from my environment, which is an amazing college part of an academically rigorous Claremont College consortium in California. However, a little bit of me thinks it is deeper than that.

In the U.K., people dream, but in my experience few people confidently vocalise their passions, or dreams for society at large. Maybe there are limits: real and self-imposed. Maybe there is a push for being 'practical'. Maybe there is a stigma against boldness that exists in our awfully polite, never quite say what you mean or mean what you say culture in the U.K. I'm not sure.

What I am sure of is this: as a young person, a passion to pursue your dreams or change the world can and should be your driving force. Seeing stars like Zendaya and DJ Khaled flash on the bright screens in Times Square and gushing at the sight of 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' at the Rockefeller Center made the idea that dreams can come true feel so tangible.

Perhaps it's dramatic, but my trip to New York has caused a shift in perspective for me. I aim to adopt the 'anything can happen' mentality that New York City, my time in the U.S. and the Claremont College system have given me. With a dash of British practicality and American wistfulness, I truly believe that we can all make our dreams come true.

Itunu Abolarinwa is a writer passionate about creating content that challenges thoughts and initiates change. She is currently in her third year of study and is a political science and international relations student at the University of Birmingham. Itunu recently returned from studying abroad at Pitzer College, part of the Claremont Colleges group, California. This is her second blog in a series for UUKi.

This is an edited version of an article first published in The Student Life magazine.

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