Tag Archives: learn

Straight Ahead

Like a tumbleweed atop a spinning vortex in the middle of Kansas on an early spring morning– life progresses. Biding its time and darkly lit, summer came.  But alas, once it did…

The final weeks of May faded out like the aforementioned twister, each day like the morning I cranked out 10 pages on entrepreneurship in Poland during eras of crisis and then literally ran cross-campus to a meeting that started the same time the paper was due.

It was all like that, except doubly intense because of its speed and content.

A dozen quick decisions and lots of goodbyes later– I was back in Fort Wayne.

A curious location, given that I left three years ago with no real intention of coming back.  With high school blazing behind me and an east coast liberal arts education glittering in my eye, I let “oh” and “mmhmm” get me through year one.

I’m a proud Cardinal and if CSS isn’t the best thing that ever hit me, I don’t know what is, but.  But, it is Wesleyan and for all its prickly points, pain, and talk, it’s a long way from home.  And yet, it was.  It had to be.  What else would be if it wasn’t there?  Remember, I wasn’t coming back.

Fast forward, DC and bigger dreams than this nineteen-year-old could handle.  The city stopped being just a bureacuracy as soon as I was there and learned how it worked– where name-dropping and plastic niceties met actual work.   So  I ran, flying back and forth to every intern event possible and collecting lunch dates and business cards like it was my job.  But isn’t that the point?

I left with my Jimmy Stewart/Jefferson Smith loving heart beating clear out of my chest, ready to “fight for the lost causes harder than for any other.”  My pre-arranged internship for the next summer was put on hold when opportunity in New York rapped on my door.  After all, who doesn’t want to spend a summer in the Big Apple?

A second detour through Spain and a perfect day in Paris radically changed my trajectory again when “shoot, I really only have one summer left.” shot straight from my heart to my head.

With Chris Malagisi’s “Field of Dreams” networking lecture firmly engrained in my head, I took advantage of my month at home at Christmas.  I met, talked to, emailed, phoned, follow-uped my way through 14 informational interviews.  And would you believe it?  I’m here, minus the whole I-don’t-actually-know-many-folks-in-Indiana-and-that’s-kinda-annoying thing, it’s phenomenal.  I’m here.

Here. I ran to Connecticut, DC, New York, Spain, Portugal, France, and Morocco, but I find myself here, back in good-ole Fort Wayne.  And you know what?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Not because I’m so timid that I can’t make a home at Wes or any other place or because I couldn’t cut something different or because I have family here.  Not at all.  Quite simply, it’s just because.

How’s that for running in circles?

Worst of the Best

Life is good, but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Last week, in CSS junior econ tutorial, transitioning economies, we investigated the relationship between stabilization and economic growth.  I argued that the two are necessarily tied.

google calendar

Stabilization didn’t guarantee any specific results, but growth doesn’t come without stabilization.  It’s a painful process, but one that pays off.

See, pain comes before growth. You know, like…

1. When exhaustion tunnels through lethargic legs and I can barely lift my head— and I still make it through 8 1/2 hours in food service.

2. When the part of my schedule out of my hands self-adjusts— to fit my needs (academically & sleep-wise).

3. When I bust my tail, write with all I got in me, and screw up— and the professor patiently meets with me (every week).

4. When people who usually yell at me— start calling me by name and saying thanks.

5. When post-semester abroad bank account— starts to look like a financial-savvy, broke college account again (emphasis on the starting).

6. When amazon saves the day—again.

7. When people I was waiting on—-email me back.

8. When I needed more hours— and the librarian gives me an extra 20 hours during finals week and agrees to take me on as regular staff (for next year).




By Starbucks and Christmas lights

It’s how I finally learned these darn streets (and found my way home last night). I figure it’s finally about time I got a grip on the landscape here.

I’m officially almost 12 hours away from my 36 hour journey home.  It will commence in the morning with a trip to the airport, waiting at the airport, an 8 hour flight to New York, a 22 hour layover in New York (which will include a truly restful night’s sleep on a hard chair somewhere inside JFK airport), a flight to Chicago, another layover, and at last a short flight to Fort Wayne.

I’m ready.

Spain has been uneasily laced with an abundance of challenging frustrations, but at the end of the day, of course it was a great experience.  I think I’m a little too close to the situation to have any kind of an objective perspective though.

Right now, my heart is heavy with home and the ineptitudes of the educational system.  I’m remembering all the lonely nights and times that just weren’t quite everything I had hoped they would be.  But I think I only feel that way because I’m tired and thoroughly burnt out.

But even exhaustion can’t ever take away the magic week where I suddenly understood everything going on around me, what it was like to learn Paris all by myself in the middle of the night, or even what it was like in that taxi ride from the airport in Morocco.

My frame of mind is quickly transitioning to what I’m going to do next summer, where I’m going to live next year, my thesis, how I’m going to pay off school, and who’s going to hire me.  I think there’s something about going forward that will make looking back and recognizing everything I have because of this trip much more obvious.  Actually, I’m sure there is.

And I am truly thankful that I will have this blog as a record to go back and remember exactly what it was like, because, good and bad, it was all a learning experience.

In the coming months, there will be no spontaneous last minute cancelled trips to Ireland or tales of Moroccan orange juice.  So for the time being, the travel commentary has pretty much dried up (along with my bank account), but that doesn’t mean this blog is going anywhere.

I like to think that by writing things down, I’m not merely recanting inane facts from my day, but actually expressing what I’m thinking and learning along the way.  As such, I almost feel that converting the regular everyday to thoughtful text has more value.  A racing mind on a CSS Thursday night is truly magical, and coping with all the crazy stuff that goes down at Wes often takes all the energy I have.  Committing those experiences to text gives a whole new kind of long-term prospective.

All this traveling has convinced me that it in the end, it really is all the same.   As such, living someplace long enough to call it a real home  has got to really mean something.

So stay tuned, because I’m not going anywhere.  I’m just coming home.


wordpress officially stinks because it is not letting me upload the lovely photo I took of my host family last night.

Crisis with a Smile

The computer crash was proceeded by an intense weekend of very un-fun, energy draining studying, but here´s the thing.  Now that I can see the end of the tunnel, I got to say, I´m proud of myself for how I handled it all.

Perhaps that´s vain, but I´m not trying to be.  I´m just saying that my crisis response mode included a minimal volume of tears and a lot of clear thinking, more than I would have otherwise been capable of.

Old Mackenzie (name for my hard drive that I came up with in response to my mother´s comment on the last post), started dying out on me on Monday morning.  First it was was restarting, then applications started messing up, and then it was over.

But when it first started seriously going, I calmly went to class and completely took in a lesson on the various ways of expressing the passing of time in Spanish.  I asked for help from lots of people, and though my insufferable sense of direction prevented me from finding the appropriate metro stop to get myself to the Apple Store yesterday, I tried, and as a result, I have a much better sense of how to get around Getafe (outskirt of Madrid where my school is at).

I remembered an obscure warranty on my computer that, as it turns out, is still good.  Then, I made the appropriate inquiries to carry it out.

I could take Mackenzie to the Apple Store, but doing so would void her warranty.  If it turns out she’s got more problems than I think she does, that could be costly.  I could send her back to the States…for about $250 in shipping costs, and she’d be gone month and a half (only have two months left).  Ultimately, after talking to my dad, I made the choice to go ahead and buy a new computer.

My mom really needs a computer, so  I´ll use the computer I’m about to buy here, get Mackenzie repaired when I go home, and leave the new computer in Indiana.

So looking at this whole situation… inconvenient, yes.  annoying, definitively.  expensive, yeah, a little.

catastrophic, no, not really.


I had a halfway through meeting with my program director today.  1) We haven’t talked much recently, and I think I knocked his socks off in terms of how much better my Spanish is 2) He basically promised me that there was no possible way I could fail law class, because I’m busting my tail.  And that made me feel good.  🙂

To the man on the moon

A startling thought I had today got me thinking.

I was walking out of the library this afternoon, heading home to talk to my very-close-most-wonderful amazing friend Jenna, and I thought back on my arrival in Spain.  I thought about that feeling I had sitting all day at JRK, waiting for my flight to Madrid, and it shook me in an unexpected way.   It wasn’t the memory that got me.  I just couldn’t believe how long ago that was.

I’ve been pretty wracked up this week.  The magic of knowing what words means hasn’t fully yet transformed into the magic of putting them together and remembering the ideas those words make, and that’s caused a slightly unhealthy stress level.

Everyday’s taken a constant, real effort to maintain my disposition and keep my priorities in order (meaning no matter how bad I want Stanford, there’s a lot that matters more than my grades), but everyday there’s been a lot of prayer and that one thing that’s helped me get through it, like the library man, dinner with a few of the most amazing people I’ve met in Spain, and my host mom editing my homework with me.

And the cool thing about all of the peace-bringing moments is that they are just as intense as the moments of fear and uncomfortability.  They just have the opposite effect.  It’s like living in a world where every sight is brighter, smell is sharper, sound is louder, flavor is unknown, and there are more nerves in every touch.  Every fear is magnified, but the sweet moments are surreal, if only because you clutch on to them because more unknown is coming.

That peace moment tonight brought a realization just as startling as the thought of how far away that day in JFK is.

I’ve always dreamed about having a window seat in my bedroom.  I got the idea from the reruns of an obscure two-season Disney show from the early-90s I watched as a kid.  With a sweet southern accent, the girl sat on her bedroom window seat and talked to the man on the moon (0:00-1:20).

Now, unlike Dorothy Jane, I’ve never talked to the man on the moon, but I’ve spent many a night in my life huddled in a comfy seat next to a beautiful view, looked up, and talked to God.  And tonight I realized that while there is not place for sitting, my little Spanish window has a wide sill and is thus perfect for leaning on.

Behind the clotheslines obstructing my view, I heard silverware clanking on dinner plates, laughter, and scattered bits of conversations from the adjacent apartments, and I thought about that feeling I had when I realized JFK airport was a long time ago.  And it felt good.

And then I said to myself, “Welcome home.”  This is home.

Study Corner

My quest for the perfect corner continues, and you’d be surprised how much it throws off my ability to study.

I am seriously aching for my nook in the history alcove in PAC, the little room on the 4th floor of PAC, the colloquium classroom,  the CSS lounge, the CSS library, Albritton 3R, the CFA lab, the terraced hill behind Olin overlooking the baseball field, and the lounge couch that was in my room last year.

All of these places have the perfect mix of mumbling activity and quiet.  The majority of them also have outlets and internet.

I can’t find study places in Spain.  School is 1 hour away, there’s no place to plug in at the local library and internet is temperamental, Starbucks only has 45 minutes of free internet (assuming I could figure out how to logon), and we all know trying to study in your room is about as effective as giving a hungry six-year-old a Reese’s and telling them not to eat (sleep always beckons).

I don’t mean to sound petty, but the absence of study space really throws me off.  Just when I think I’m getting a grip of all of my studies, I get all uncomfortable trying to figure out where I can sit down and crank out 4 hours of non-facebook interrupted productivity.

The last couple of weeks are largely a giant blur.  I’ve been going lots of places, meeting lots of people, and dealing with a lot of minor frustrations that the entire world hinges on (or at least that’s how it feels at the time).  So, missing that study chair, is hard, but I’ll figure it out, even if it means that I have to learn how to be productive and study in my room.

Where’s my Minnie ears?

I spent my 5th birthday at Disney World, and I remember it quite vividly.  Disney World.  Every little girl’s dream right?  I remember my dad hurting his back because he carried me as we ran all the way to Splash Mountain, swimming with my Papa at the hotel, and the phone call my parents arranged from Minnie Mouse welcoming me to Orlando.  But more than anything, I remember my Minnie hat (which by the way was way different/better quality in 1995 than the kind they have today.)

Anyways, despite loving everything, I was scared of every ride.  My dad always held me and, since I didn’t want my hat to fall off on the ride, I held Minnie.  By the end of the trip, poor Minnie’s ears were about rubbed to death, because I’d put the hat on my lap and run my fingers back and forth whenever I was nervous.

Today, I was walking around Tui (Spanish border city), and I realized that I was rubbing the cuff of my shorts just like I used to rub poor Minnie’s ears.  Just like Disney World everything is new and I was loving it, but I was nervous as all get out.  Figuring out why I was nervous went a long way though.

The program goes on a series of day trip excursions throughout the semester, and today was our first one.  The day started off with a tour of the Cathedral in Tui.  Unlike yesterday, I actually understood the talk there, which was great.  It was started in 1120 and finished in 1232.  It is unique because it was built while architecture was transforming.  It has Romantic and Gothic influences (I think).  The best part of the Cathedral was its view from the top, which overlooks a beautiful garden and view.

It was great, but about the time we left the Cathedral I was getting really frustrated with my language skills.  I realized that the reason I was having such a hard time was because all the students were speaking English.   It takes a lot of effort to think in Spanish, and when I hear English it’s like my brain has to reboot to Spanish.  Figuring that out helped me a lot.

The whole relaxation thing got a big boost at lunch, you know, since it was on top of a beautiful 18th century fort/mountain in Portugal.  

That's Spain in the background

A short while later we were off to a really tall mountain with a ridiculous view.  It was very frightening driving up it in a bus.  Once we got up a little bit, I stood up to look out the window on the other side, and I thought I was looking at clouds.  I leaned further and realized it wasn’t clouds, just the ocean and a lot of rocks that were many, many feet beneath me.  It was a huge cliff.

I asked a lot of questions about the history of the area while we were there, climbed around a bit, and had a good conversation with someone about all that we were seeing.  I really enjoyed the afternoon because I was able to prove to myself that I really do get this.

Later, we headed to Santa Tecla.  There were a bunch of ruins from were the Celtic men built small homes that they would stay in to protect their village from invaders, like the Vikings, which by the way, I thought was awesome.  I love going to historic places, but in the US it’s hard to go back so far in time.

It took us awhile to get out of Santa Tecla, but afterward we headed to Baiona.  This is the city Christopher Columbus set sail from and returned to.  Some people went swimming in front of a model of the Pinto (one of Columbus’s ships), but it was freezing water and I’ve been in the Atlantic Ocean before, so I skipped out. I headed with a group straight to dinner.  

Most important part of the evening, I had a real conversation with a couple of the guys who are showing us around here.  In one day, I went from totally blanking out whenever a native speaker addresses me to asking questions about local perspectives on history.  Score. I will undoubtedly blank out many more times, but I’ll get better with time.  If I keep on this this track, the hem on my shorts stands a better chance than poor Minnie’s ears 🙂