By Elizabeth Hardy (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA).
“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.” – Maya Angelou
I thought a lot about writing this blog entry. My experience at UCSB has been fantastic; but I certainly feel to not include the following would be an injustice to giving a truthful account of my time here.
On May 23rd, at approximately 9:30, Elliot Rodger began driving around my neighborhood and started randomly shooting at students. This is all I will say about him; I will not speculate on his mental health or personal details for fear of glorifying his name.
Instead, we should know of the people who died; Chris Martinez, Veronika Weiss, Katherine Cooper, George Chen, Weihan Wang, and Cheng Hong. I hope that these will be the names we remember.
It has been a difficult few days. Due to the nature of the tight-knit college community, the victims are only ever a few degrees of separation away. I personally knew two people who were shot, and I know many other people who knew the victims. It has been an interesting time to be a foreigner in the midst of various debates about US culture – particularly that of gun culture, the treatment of mental health patients and a culture of misogyny and sexism versus feminism. These debates are necessary; and will continue into the following weeks and months. It has also been a difficult time to be a foreign student, and the battle with homesickness was a hard one in the following 48 hours. Several memorial services have been held, and classes were cancelled for the school to have a day of reflection and mourning. The school itself has been fantastic, and has provided a huge amount of support to both students and faculty members.
When tragedy strikes it is impossible not to reflect. The past few days have certainly been a time of personal reflection. I have noticed that despite the horrors of Friday night, I keep hearing of stories that show the courage and compassion of my fellow students. These stories are small comforts. They are lights that shine in the darkness. They remind me that where there is suffering and heartbreak there is also love, and hope, and strength. The courage of the students who ran to help others demonstrates what I know to be true; where there is evil, there too will be goodness.
We will never forget what happened to the poor victims of 23/5. But I will never forget the heroes of 23/5, either. I do not regret my choice of exchange school at all. Whilst of course I wish the events of the past weekend had not happened, I have had and will continue to have a fantastic experience at UCSB. My experience has not been a constant high. It has been better. It has been wholesome. This is what you are not told about studying abroad – you will learn more about yourself just by sitting outside of your comfort zone than you could ever imagine. Change is hard, but usually good.