When I went to England, I went as part of a program that included 20 people from my university. Many of the people in the group were very close, but my day-to-day life didn’t really include most of them. I only had a couple of friends with whom I shared my kitchen, and eventually an apartment.
When the program ended, we had a final weekend in Wales and a goodbye-type session. My friends Cassie and Matt played and sang a Bob Dylan song many of us better know to be covered by Lifehouse, “You Belong to Me.” ( I wish I had a way to put it on here)
At the closing session, they played the song and I gave the following address. It may seem overly saccharine, but is my closest thing to the thing that is the MVA senior speech:
The next song is called “You belong to me.” Listen to it, and before you let it remind you of Shrek, or Bob Dylan, or a cheesy unfitting love song, let it remind you of what it means to “belong.” When we left, even the bravest, most independent of us was scared. We were scared to leave what we knew, scared to leave those who loved us: we knew we belonged at home. Moving here drowned our sense of belonging in the confusion of our “Foreign Country Syndrome” and… sometimes drowned it in the pub. But look at where we are! Look around you! Look how familiar the faces have become. It goes beyond knowing everyone’s name and major, or what class they teach or to whom they are married. It goes beyond knowing what sport people played in high school or where you are involved at UMD. Those groups to whom we belonged gave us labels and those no longer apply. We are the ones who know best what each of us has become. We have become the travelers like the one mentioned in the song. Look how what was once exotic has become familiar. We know the smell of the Rendezvous chips. We know that a pint in the Manor bar, or Manhole, costs a pound sixty. We know our way up and down Broad Street. Do we remember when calling them chips instead of fries, buying beer by the pint, and going to a black-shoes only clubs sounded so foreign?
We belong in England, and this sense of belonging freed us from fear. We are not afraid to sleep on a train-station floors. We are not afraid to attempt another language. We were not afraid to wander Barcelona, though we probably should have been. And German Beer by the Liter definitely does not intimidate us. We now belong to the exclusive group known as Travelers—not tourists—travelers. These are people who understand HOW to understand other cultures, how to cope with inconvenience, people who see how quickly companions become friends, and who see how to live life as the journey it was meant to be. Everyday here, whether we realized it then, or not, was extraordinary. Every person here, whether we hung out together or not is extraordinary for coming, extraordinary for what they did when they came, and extraordinary for what they have become. The time is coming soon when we will not longer belong in England. We don’t belong to Cassie and matt when they are singing the song, and we won’t belong in our old lives as our old selves. Coming here could have been the hardest thing we ever did, but leaving is about to be harder. Remember that each one of you belongs to us, and with us: you have flown the ocean in a silver plane, and gotten your photographs and souvenirs, but you have also found family in your fellow Travelers.