Anteaters Abroad in Azeroth

Like many of my peers, I decided to take advantage of the wonderful study abroad programs on campus; but I didn’t want to go romping around Europe like an aimless college stereotype. No, I wanted something more exotic, a place whose war-torn landscape and complicated politics would challenge my prejudices.

After countless paperwork, an injury/probable death liability waiver and a rather intrusive US Customs search, I arrived in sunny Azeroth, and for the last quarter I’ve been gleefully studying in the World of Warcraft.

The first thing I noticed on my goblin zeppelin flight was how darn cold it got! I quickly invested in heavy animal furs, still slick from their recent harvesting. Boy, if only UCI students could train in Skinning, we could drive down the rampant bunny population and open up student job opportunities to boot!

I chose to study in the Horde-controlled city of Orgrimmar. Now, I know what you’re thinking – that’s not quite Human-friendly territory. But I’d decided strive for new experiences, and studying the conflict from the Orc, Troll, Tauren, Undead and Blood Elf point of view would really expand my horizons… so long as I didn’t get worn down by over-griefing.

It was a hard road to walk, but I felt like just the level one Human Scholar to do it. Once I got settled, I jumped into the curriculum, taking political science classes in the Horde-Alliance conflict, a business econ course in the world economy of the Auction House and some advanced Leatherworking to round out my schedule. But like any study abroad experience, my real education lied outside the walls of the Ivory (Horde) Tower.

I cautiously stepped outside and found myself at the mercy of the meanest streets in Azeroth: The Barrens. Tauren bounding by would scream “STFU NOOB” in my direction while meandering Orcs debating who was, in fact, sleeping with Your Mom. My field study assignment required me to descend into the Wailing Caverns; alone amidst the chaos of zebra-colored unicorns and dancing armored warriors, I tentatively mustered my command of the native tongue and bellowed out, “LFG!”

Over the weeks, I’ve seen a lot more of the Horde-Alliance conflict than I ever thought existed. From revenge Ganking to open warfare in the bloody Battlegrounds, I saw firsthand the effects of complete dialogue breakdown. These disparate factions refused to set aside their differences and see the common interests that bind us all, the complexity of the argument that extends deeper than black-and-white, and the necessity to unite against the dreaded Lich King.

Where there wasn’t outright bloodshed, non-union laborers trudged across Azeroth acquiring “phatty loots” to sell; only later did I learn these laborers were paid slave wages to farm for hours on end for the currency of the realm. If we’re not careful, Goldfarming could spread to our wonderful city and take good jobs away from hardworking Americans. Ignoring this abuse of interdimensionala labor laws won’t make the problem go away.

It’s been a busy quarter, but I’m glad I chose Azeroth over my close second, France. How many Draenei shaman could I trade stories with in the cafés of Paris? How can Bastille Day compare to the inebriation-induced dancing extravaganza of Darkmoon Faire? Kalimdor may not have world-class restaurants, but at least I have chicken.

Maybe I won’t ever get to climb the Eiffel Tower or walk in the Sistine Chapel, but when I woke up every morning for a week at the crack of dawn to see the sun rise over Booty Bay, I knew I made the right choice.