Heather Southwood | email@example.com
“From somewhere different?”
“No, not like Europe”*
*War of the Worlds
Maybe it’s all psychological or maybe it’s just that America is so much bigger but, for some reason, in the run up to my trip, it seemed like a huge undertaking. There was so much to do, so much paperwork for the visa, so many forms to fill in for the university and so many hours to sit on a plane. It did not help that each time I spoke about my trip, someone had some horror story about the journey there: going through customs, immigration, or just the flight itself, everyone had a story to share and advice to impart. If you Googled transferring flights at my connecting airport, forums were filled with horror stories and complaints.
Yet, when I stepped off my plane, immigration was rather easy – I was greeted with a smile, not the surly face I had been promised. Customs was just the handing over of a paper card filled in on the flight and, at security, the security guard complimented my boots. In fact, since landing in America until arriving at my apartment, six different airport employees complimented my boots! So, even though I had heard all these stories about getting in to America, it was actually very easy and really friendly. Yet, I definitely breathed a sigh of relief once I had got that bit out of the way and I could continue on my way.
“Borders” is a word we hear a lot in Europe; having no borders, the Schengen agreement and of course from reading Balibar. I wonder if ‘Fortress Europe’ to those non-Europeans is almost like my psychological experience of entering America. Of course, as a European those borders to me either do not exist or are pretty easy: there are no visas, interviews, paperwork, forms with different numbers, handing over of financial evidence, or health insurance. Just the wave of a passport, some security procedures and knowing your final destination is all you need (and from experience, even if you get the destination wrong, they still let you through!). Of course, once you enter Schengen countries you can travel country to country without even those questions. I remember the first time I travelled to Germany: I was amazed by trains going to Amsterdam or Geneva, but maybe that was just a British thing.
Borders, or the lack of borders, I think may be a luxury that we Europeans may take for granted, whether they are physical or just physiological. An American girl, in the run up to my travels here as I envied her ability to walk straight in said, “I wish I had your passport”. My friend with dual nationality would never give up her European passport, it’s too valuable. The European passport: it’s like the golden ticket for travelling.
Heather Southwood, Copy Editor
Heather is from Manchester, UK, and completed her undergraduate in Law before studying Euroculture in the University of Göttingenand Jagiellonian University, Krakow. She is currently completing a research track in Indianapolis. Her research interests include citizenship and the promotion of belonging in citizens. She also attempts to discover a new national dish she can cook every time she goes somewhere new.