It’s with great sadness that I’m writing my last column for The Daily Gamecock.
Before I departed for South Carolina last August, I was asked to write an article describing my feelings about the year ahead. I called my piece ‘Great Expectations’, and listed all of the weird and wonderful things I wanted to see and do while studying abroad.While my year as an honorary Gamecock has fulfilled the aspirations of my bucket list twice over, it’s the lessons I’ve learned within myself that have been truly life-affirming.
There are two things that I’ve discovered in the mighty Palmetto state, for which I’m forever grateful. The first is my vocation as a writer. Writing viewpoints columns throughout the year has not just been life changing because it’s transformed my resume, but it’s been life changing because it’s transformed me as an individual.
Part of the job description as a viewpoints columnist is to stay in the know about local and national news and events. As a small fish in a very big pond, engaging with my host country in this manner has been an essential way to connect with the world outside when everything around me felt unfamiliar.Forming my own opinions about my new surroundings has taught me to be my own person, to know myself, and to know where I stand. At many points during the year, writing has been a lifeline- the only thing that felt like concrete under my feet when everything else was like sand running through my fingers. In one year, writing opinion pieces has taught me more about life and about myself than all my years in school and university put together.
The second thing I’m eternally grateful for is a feminist enlightenment. To me, feminism the very simple belief that women and men are equal human beings who deserve equal rights.
Taking women’s self-defense classes has taught me that I don’t have to rely on anyone else to defend myself in the world. I have the right to defend myself, but what’s more is the inner belief that I’m worth defending.
Before I moved to South Carolina, these were beliefs that I held close to my heart. Thanks to my feminist awakening, they’re now part of a living reality than runs through my veins.
But what I’ve come to realise while reflecting on my year, is that these two facets of studying abroad are seamless. The year has not transformed me as a writer or as a feminist, but as both.
Renaissance poet Sir Philip Sidney once ended a sonnet with the words: “Look in thy heart and write.” Writing is not simply about using imitation and sophistry to come up with something entertaining to say. It’s about being in touch with what’s in your heart and sharing that on paper. As a woman and as a writer, never have I felt stronger than when realising that people are listening, and that they value what I have to say. Writing is my empowerment.
Becoming a columnist has allowed me to create my own space in the world and believe in my entitlement to that space. It’s my right as a woman to the freedom of expression, to the freedom of speech and to the rights of the first amendment. It’s my right to write.
In ‘A Room of One’s Own’, Virginia Woolf once said, ““Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” Thanks to my foremothers who fought tirelessly for women’s rights, I’ve been able to explore the freedom of my mind at the same time as exploring the world.
I’ve always believed in the saying that, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” My Appalachian adventure in writing has given me ‘A Room Of My Own’, a room in which I’ve started chapter one of that book, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of it takes me.