UNIVERSITY of Wollongong Shoalhaven Campus arts student Sharon Solomon will fly to the US on Thursday to see Barack Obama inaugurated as president.
“I’m feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement,” said the history major from Greenwell Point.
Ms Solomon will attend the Collegiate Presidential Inaugural Conference in Washington DC, a five-day bonanza of seminars, workshops and guest speakers, beginning on January 21.
She was chosen as one of 1000 top students throughout the world to attend.
Since finding out she was among the chosen few in June last year, Ms Solomon has made contact with other students attending.
“We’re all very glad that it’s Obama that we’re seeing. Every one of the students I spoke to was watching the day [he was elected] on tenterhooks,” Ms Solomon said.
“We had wondered if we’d be as enthusiastic if it was Romney.”
Ms Solomon is also waiting to find out if her question to one of the guest speakers will be chosen.
“I posed a question to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, around why voting isn’t compulsory. As a country that holds itself up as a pillar of democracy, just over half voted in the election; more people watched the Super Bowl,” she said.
She will be attending two workshops.
“I picked out ones I thought would relate to me, one on American foreign policy and America’s relation to its allies, and the other was about the age of communication – Facebook, Twitter, 24-hour news cycles and the role these play in politics.”
Ms Solomon hopes to return with a better understanding of Australia’s relationship with America.
“I’ll be boarding with an American woman. I could have chosen an Australian, but I really want a better understanding about things like their gun laws and their attachment to their right to bear arms and why so many Americans are against social policy,” she said.
“The other side of the story, we don’t hear about – and I’d really like to know what they think about Australia too.
“And, of course, fly the flag for the Shoalhaven and the university.”
While she’s there, Ms Solomon will also fly to New York, where she and a travel partner have a few things to cross off their bucket list.
“I want to see the Empire State Building. My grandfather visited when he was a young man and had his photo taken there and I want to do a recreation of that; the 9/11 memorial, I think that’s a given for anyone going to New York,” she said.
“My friend wants to see whether the Naked Cowboy in Times Square is naked in winter. We’ll do all the New York things – get a hotdog from a hotdog stand, see a show, skate in Central Park, a ferry ride.
“I am a bit disappointed that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are shut because of Hurricane Sandy.
“Being a history student I’ll be seeing as many museums as I can.”
The mature-age student will return on January 31.
“You never know where going back to study is going to take you,” she said.