Having been in Boston for nearly a month and a half now, and having gotten used to all the moving around, since I have been living abroad since age 16, I must say that the American college experience has been one of the most enjoyable ones so far. Studying in a typical American college campus, a Jesuit Catholic school, that also happens to be one of the oldest ones (1782), Boston College has one of the most picturesque sights filled with Gothic architecture, lawns to relax and take a nap on, while the sun gently distracts you from daily routine (of course – until the gruesome North Eastern winter kicks in)!
As enjoyable as this recount of my early days makes me feel, I would like to press on how I have encountered the atmosphere surrounding the political tensions of the more than infamous current presidential election. As a politics student, among others, who has been obsessed with US politics and this presidential election for far too long than I would like to admit, coming to the States in such a monumental time in political history, could only make me scream with excitement. Watching the debates, following the primaries, reading the news 24/7 and constantly talking about the election was something more than familiar to me, but I wanted to get a sense of what the people who actually had to own to this election, had to say about the unfolding of this quite unique time and figures in US politics.
And the answer came to me, and it was Uber. After leaving in the US only for a few weeks now, I realized how much I miss European public transport, especially the London Tube. Having found myself on numerous occasion, in which the Boston Train could just not get me fast enough in places, I had to relay on Uber – something that I rarely do back home in Bucharest, or in London. And Uber has been by far the most exciting social experiment social experiment so far – not only will I meet interesting people and I would engage in fascinating conversations with them, but once they realized I was foreign, they felt obliged to talk about the election and in a way apologize by saying that the American people are not all like Trump (Massachusetts is one of the most liberal, affluent and educated states – it has Democratic hegemony and this would be the sort of dialogue that I would usually encounter, although there have been exceptions).
The extent to which this election has managed to shape the international political conversation and has monopolized the entire national conversation here in the US, was something of utter fascination to me – since not only could I relate to it, since there are populist patterns in Europe, that have all occurred more or less simultaneously (Brexit, Podemos – Spain, Syriza – Greece, Austrian elections, Hungary and the list goes on). Uber did not only open my eyes as to how amazingly important apps and a bit of ingenuity are in such a media/technology – addicted society, but also how through such means, can we really get a sense of the raw, original way of how the people of one country thinking about their own country, and much more. One particular Uber driver, the second he heard I was Romanian, as it inevitably happens to me, started asking me whether I was a vampire and if I am afraid of garlic and mirrors.
Whether it is small talk, innocent cultural stereotypes or serious matters, these Uber rides sum up the reason for which I will be on exchange programs and studying abroad for the rest of my life, because discovery is a ceaseless domain.