During my fourth day in town, I decided to take a walk through Colonial Williamsburg. Law Week was in full swing and the overwhelming anxiety of starting law school placed a permanent raincloud of terror above the Wythe building. I needed to get away, and eighteenth century America was my only option.
Strolling along the cobblestone sidewalks, I became disturbingly aware of my surroundings. I was in Williamsburg. I was standing in the birthplace of America. For someone who avoided all things American her entire life, this was just too weird.
Although I am originally from Florida, I never considered myself American. My Moroccan mother and Canadian father raised me as an international citizen. By my sixteenth birthday, I had been to every continent (excluding Antarctica) and lived abroad in places that seemed more “me.” That’s why my decision to go to McGill University in Montreal for my undergraduate education was so easy. I knew I didn’t want to go to America, so I attended a school that was close to my parents and far enough from Florida to make me happy.
At McGill, while unpacking boxes and boxes (and then some more boxes) of winter clothes, I told my Ottawan roommate that I am from Florida. Her jaw dropped. “You’re not American!” she insisted, “They’re different.”
Were Americans really that different?
My entire life, I avoided my American identity, but now that I am in Williamsburg, surrounded by the oldest law school in America and one of the oldest settlements in American history, I realize that Americans do have something. If I were asked to name the King of Spain, the President of Colombia, or even the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, I would respond with silence. If I were to ask any Spaniard, Colombian, or Ethiopian to name the first President of the United States, they would respond correctly without hesitation. America may not be the greatest country, but the entire world is envious of our past and interested in our future.
There is one simple piece of advice I have for all American travelers: remember where you came from. When you’re studying abroad, you will meet the most interesting people and see the most beautiful things. Some of you, like me, will never want to come home. But always remember that your American passport is something special. Treasure it. And have fun!
Nadia Abramson majored in Political Science and English Literature at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She has lived in dozens of countries, including Thailand, Australia, and France. She is currently a first-year law student and hopes to start a career in international human rights law.