Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lessons from Summer #2

So after that first, hard but growing summer came my second college summer.
This was essentially the complete opposite.

Instead of being responsible for the well-being of ten girls each week, I was only responsible for myself.
Instead of eating rushed meals, keeping a strict schedule, and packing in hours of work and exhaustion, I held all my time captive, able to spend and use it at my leisure and for my pleasure. Instead of crisscrossing the beautiful campground I had become familiar with over the past decade, I was experiencing brand new footfalls, exploring a brand new place.

Yes, living and studying in Spain during the summer of 2013 was one of the best decisions of my life.
There were hard moments too, though, and lots of growth. I was homesick a few different days, most especially when the heat was oppressive and there was no AC to be found, or when I had so much to say but frustratingly was unable to express myself fully.

I became the craziest version of myself. I learned to relax and "go-with-the-flow" as well as being open to trying new things and saying yes more often than no. It was an exhilarating feeling. I felt like I had control of my life and decisions in a way never given to me before.
I also learned how to live and converse in a foreign language (duh, the reason for going), how to make friends in a completely new place, how to stay out late and get up early, how to navigate a city solo, how to be confident in myself.

I understand that every summer can't be like that summer, but damn do I miss it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lessons from Summer #1

My three college summers could not be more drastically different. They each carry a unique location, group of people, purpose, and collection of feelings and reactions.

After finishing my freshman year I headed off to the camp I'd grown up loving, only this time as a full-fledged counselor. I felt like a big deal, and was ready (I thought) for my dream job. And in some aspects, it was great. Living in Western Michigan was beautiful, I was able to be outside the entire time, I swam in lakes, tubed behind boats, shot bow and arrow, and participated in a variety of fun activities daily that most people only experience a few times a year.
But it was an incredibly hard summer. I didn't fit in with the other counselors as I would have hoped, often opting for much needed quiet time instead of laughing at goofy jokes and trying to force friendships that felt too manufactured, since we had all only known each other for a few exhausting weeks. The kids in my cabins each week were a lot of work, needing my constant attention for every physical, emotional, and social dilemma. Sometimes this was rewarding; often it was overwhelming and draining. Additionally, there were bugs everywhere, mundane food, cramped showers, sweaty afternoons, and everything camp.

I learned to set realistic expectations. I learned that my life is so much more than my selfish desires and immediate needs. I learned that working with children and youth is not my life calling. I learned that I didn't need to be friends with everybody, but I did need to be kind, sympathetic, and helpful to all around me. I learned that I loved the state of Michigan more than I had realized. I learned to be responsible, for many people beside myself. I learned how to bring Christ to where these kids were in their own personal lives. I learned to be the adult.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On to the Next Adventure

I never intended to make this a "travel blog." I never even intended to travel this much. While it would be a complete lie to say I would be perfectly content to just stay in this corner of Ohio and read about the great big world, which actually does occur in copious amounts for my major of choice, I also realize that I am a college kid, on a college budget. And sometimes I wonder if it's selfish to want to go everywhere. After all, I'm only 20, who do I think I am?
Except I love it. I love seeing new places, doing new things, learning about the world. I love that even though a trip may last only a few days, the memories (and pictures!) last much longer.

Within the past year, I've been privileged to travel, both internationally and domestically. Spring Break 2013 was Venice, Florida. One weekend in April I got to see Cincinnati. Summer 2013, of course, was the life-changing summer of Spain. In August I toured Washington DC. I trekked to Indianapolis numerous times. There have been drives out to Iowa. Christmas Break 2013 ended in an unforgettable retreat in Chicago. Looking forward, I will be spending a week in New York City for the national conference of Model United Nations. But first? I'll be headed, in exactly 11 days, down south to... El Salvador!

I haven't even left yet, and this trip is already challenging me. But I'm also brimming with anticipation.
The last minute decision to leave the country for spring break, the vagueness of the details, and never having been south of the border all combine to leave me with virtually no idea what I'm in for. But I am headed there with some of my closest friends, an experienced traveler to this region, and a laid-back, come-what-may attitude. Also, it helps that last week the temperatures there were literally 100 degrees warmer than the temperatures here.

Oh, and I am beyond thrilled that I once again get to employ my Spanish language ability! Though I'm a bit rusty since August, it will feel so good to be back in that environment again, and I'm hoping I can improve immensely in a short time.

Here's to Spring Break 2014!