Long story short: Lucy Kates, University of Oklahoma class of 2020, Global Engagement Fellow, Letters major and French minor. Never left the United States, hoping to travel to France, Italy, and a Francophone region of Africa.
Long story long: My name is Lucy Kates, and I was born and raised in Jefferson, Wisconsin, a town of about 8,000 people. Though Wisconsin is prolifically mocked (yes, people really do wear hats shaped like cheese), it’s an incredibly beautiful state, and I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.
I’m now a student at the University of Oklahoma. While I originally looked at this school because of their generous National Merit Scholarship, I decided to come here for a whole host of unrelated reasons. When I began telling my family and friends that I was considering going to school in Norman, they usually responded in one of three ways: 1) “That’s so far away!” 2) “What’s in Oklahoma? Why?” or 3) “Ohhhhklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plainnssss….”
I toured 11 colleges, and I am unequivocal in my conviction that I couldn’t have found a more appropriate place to grow than here at OU. I smiled and nodded in response to their singing and commentary on exactly how far of a drive it is from home (831 miles), but I am becoming able to precisely answer the quip “What’s in Oklahoma? Why?” I was presented with myriad opportunities even before arriving on campus, and I have quickly found a community of people who, by virtue of the state’s humility, are simultaneously driven, grounded, and curious about the rest of the world. This makes OU feel like home.
Aside from a thrilling jaunt into Canada for about two hours back in the day when you didn’t need a passport to cross their border, I’ve never left the United States. Thanks to OU’s Global Engagement Fellowship, that’s going to change.
I applied for the fellowship mostly for the obvious reason: the study abroad scholarship. But I was also excited by the notion of surrounding myself with people who are well-traveled, or who aspire aspire to be. Growing up in rural Wisconsin, you realize that many people don’t experience wanderlust. They don’t itch to see as much of the planet as possible. They’re not interested in the implications of globalization. These people exist in Oklahoma as well, but it’s also not an uncommon mentality even in the world’s most beautiful and culturally-rich places. It’s easy to be content with stability and routine, and it’s also easy to be stagnant.
With the fellowship, I plan to study abroad for a semester in France. I took four years of French in high school, forgoing other language options simply because my older sister told me the French teacher was really nice and the class would occasionally make crepes. Fortunately, my rather uninformed decision making led me into studying a language that I now love. By spending several months completely immersed in the culture and language, I’m hoping to eventually become fluent.
Besides traveling to France, I’m hoping to bolster my language skills in Africa. It is so easy to dismiss the entire continent as an impoverished place that needs aid from the Western world that we often forget about how vast and economically and culturally diverse Africa is. Spending even a few weeks in Morocco or Senegal could teach me so much.
Lastly, I’d love to visit Italy. I want to stand before Michelangelo’s statue of David and experience it in the city for which it was intended. I want to revel in Renaissance culture, luxuriating in a cultural soup of egg tempera frescoes and flying buttresses and garlic butter sauce.