Episode 100 │ Good Wherever You Go (LONDON/PARIS/ROME)
Updated: Jun 16
"I know that, me personally, I wouldn't be open to going overseas anytime. But now I am. So, first off that just shows how being open can change your whole perspective on how effective something will be at broadening your horizons." (Reilly, Episode 100)
WOW. THE! 100TH! EPISODE! That's three digits! I have some things to say about reaching this phenomenal milestone, but I'll save them for the 4th anniversary episode that I'll be putting out in a few days (on Juneteenth!). Episode 100 is long enough with the announcements I made at the beginning, which are:
June 19th: The 4th Anniversary Episode will be out! After that, this podcast goes on hiatus until 2023.
I was recently on White People Won't Save You for the second time! Thanks to Jordan and Cameron for having me.
The 2022 recipients of the Diverse International Women of Color study abroad scholarship were just announced, and one of them is someone whose application I reviewed! Thanks again to Alhia (episode 35) and Christina (episode 92) for the chance to be involved.
Now, on to our 100TH GUEST, my cousin, Reilly!
Even as late as April this year, episode 100 of Young, Gifted and Abroad still seemed so far away and unreal when I was considering who to have on it, that I allowed myself to entertain a far-fetched idea (or so I thought): I would ask my cousin Reilly Conwell to be my 100th guest! I knew he went on a high school trip to Europe, and since the guest of episode 1 was my cousin Kayla, I figured episode 100 could feature Reilly. Keeping it in the family, you know? That idea seemed far-fetched because I'd assumed he would be uninterested; he's almost a decade younger than me, he's a busy college student, maybe being on his cousin Danielle's podcast would be too uncool, I don't know. But thankfully I was wrong! When I texted Reilly about it, he replied, "Definitely! That sounds amazing," and last Wednesday I got to interview him about his trip to England, France, and Italy.
A little background about our family, for anyone who's curious. As siblings, my mom and Reilly's dad (my Uncle Rod) grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, but they each started their own families in other states. So while I am from Metro Detroit, Michigan, Reilly is from Indianapolis, Indiana. During his time at Pike High School, he was eager to move on to the next phase of his life, so he wasn't the least bit interested when he heard about an upcoming week-long educational tour of Europe (with a very limited amount of spots). Reilly's mom (my Aunt Daune) knew one of Pike's trip organizers personally, and even after hearing some of that teacher's stories about previous trips, he remained unconvinced.
But no matter! His mom decided that he was going to Europe whether he wanted to or not. "She said that a million times to me and everybody else. She told me I was going. It's not like I had an option... I literally was made to go." After all, this was an opportunity that not a lot of students his age got to have. And Reilly himself gradually warmed up to the idea through successive info sessions. At this point he already had a passport from going on a few Caribbean cruises with is family, but this trip was his first time traveling such a long distance without his folks.
In June 2018, Reilly's European adventure began in the UK, where his chaperoned group of approximately seven Pike students joined up with two other high school groups from Illinois and Texas. The tour was facilitated by a company called Education First (EF Tours), and being led by their trusty tour guide, the plan was for this combined group to visit London, Paris, and Rome together. Reilly was most looking forward to London at first (hearing British accents in an authentic context), but he came to appreciate the merits of each city as he discovered how different they were from Indiana.
In London, people walked or took public transportation like the Tube to get places, buildings were more compressed together, and football (our "soccer") was a huge deal. Paris had tons of impressive tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre (museums aren't typically Reilly's favorite but he was amazed by its massive size and the variety of artwork there). And Italy's scenery was breathtaking; Reilly specifically recalled the fields of flowers and old yet still beautiful and functional homes that the group passed by while on a bus from Paris to Rome. Each destination also had something to offer when it came to food: fish and chips in London (to my personal disgust Reilly confirmed that peas were served with it, as is custom), macarons in Paris (his favorite food of the entire trip), and of course pizza in Rome (surprisingly, cheese isn't always a required topping). And as a young man interested in fashion, how could Reilly not be blown away by visiting the Louis Vuitton store in Paris, or spotting designer stores in the Rome airport before flying back to the States?
Of course, the purpose of this trip was for all of the high schoolers to learn about European cultures through exposure and immersion, but Reilly got to learn about regional US cultural differences within his tour group as well. He hadn't anticipated that his peers from Texas (which he'd never been to) and Illinois would have such different ways of speaking and even different food preferences from what he was used to in Indiana. But getting familiar with those specificities made the trip that much more enjoyable! In fact, bonding with his peers was one of his favorite parts of the trip, from laughing together while seeking refuge from the rain after a visit to Rome's Colosseum, to keeping up a group chat during and after their time in Europe. Understandably, that group chat fizzled out over time as everyone has moved on and followed their respective paths since that trip. But Reilly still values the moments they had together, and for that reason he still considers some of those peers to be his friends.
So in short, even though Reilly was initially frustrated about being forced to go to Europe, it was worth it in the end. He admits that his mom was right to push him out of his comfort zone, "I thank both her and my dad for allowing me to take that trip, 'cause it really did expand my horizons. It really broadened it."
Reilly graduated from Pike in 2020, and now he's an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati, having just completed his sophomore year as an industrial design major within the world-renowned College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). As he explained to me, industrial design is about designing just about all the various products that people use every day, with the goal of making said products faster, more efficient, and more fun to use. He aspired to become an architect when he was younger, and then gradually looked more into user experience (UX) design, and he found industrial design to be an excellent balance between the two, "It's a happy medium between where I wanted to go when I was younger and where I wanted to go now."
"I just know I'll have a good experience wherever I go."
Currently, Reilly is open to the idea of going abroad while in college, and thinks it'd be interesting to spend an entire semester somewhere. However, he's not in any rush to take that idea further right now. The same applies to traveling for leisure; he doesn't have any set destinations in mind. Reilly simply knows that he'd like to travel in the future, and his approach is to go with the flow, "No matter what, 'Cause I just know I'll have a good experience wherever I go." Like when he randomly went to Minnesota in summer 2021 with his friends to check out the Mall of America and see what other fun they could get into.
As for this summer, he's taking summer classes and continuing to balance his academic obligations with being a student ambassador for DAAP, making time for relaxation and enjoyment, and his frat activities. (In March this year he crossed into Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest of the "Divine Nine" historically Black fraternities and sororities, and the same fraternity that our grandpa is a member of.) Reilly welcomes people to check out his design work on his continuously-evolving portfolio website (reilly-conwell.com), and he can also be found on Instagram (@_reilly.c_), Twitter (@TheeRiles), Snapchat (the.flatz), and LinkedIn (Reilly Conwell).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Good Wherever You Go (LONDON/PARIS/ROME)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
The Condiments (Reilly's chess board design)
Eurostar (train trips within Europe)
Danielle G. is the creator, host, and producer of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.