Tag Archives: study abroad

or forever hold your peace.

Yes, hold onto peace with everything you got, even if you have to fight for it.

In a world where salt is a side dish and fish and chips go without ketchup and tartar sauce, something new emerges…

When I first went to college, I said I was never going to study abroad.  I can remember deliberately tuning out every time the questions in a admissions Q&A turned again to foreign studies programs and telling myself how exciting it would be to go to the same school with the same people for a whole four years.

Man, that’s changed.

It was so random that I ended up here.  I know how I want to spend my retirement, where I want to work, what I want to name my kids, where I want to go to law school, and I’ve been planning my thesis since freshman year, but I broke out old grammar textbooks to dust my mental cobwebs and write a 300 word Madrid application essay two days before it was due.

Coming into Wes, I wanted roots and stability.  I wanted all my close relationships to last.  In retrospect, I don’t think that’s even possible in college.  It violates the basic nature structure of the educational system.  Wes is 13 hours from home.  I get four months there, one month in Indiana, four months back at Wes, four more months wherever I so choose (so far, DC and NYC), and even if I hadn’t up and left this semester, my friends still would have.

Yes, I finally have those close relationships I wanted.  I know everyone in my net of people who would drop everything and run if I needed him or her, but knowing that your loved doesn’t mean the people that love you are always around, like, I don’t know, when you skip the pond and temporarily move to another country.

Life is transitory, and sure, someday, soon enough, I’ll find George Bailey and let him lasso the moon, have 2.2 kids, and live in the same place for fifty years, but before I get there, I’m going to see everything I can.

Because I think there is something special about short-term transitory relationships too.  I think about the hundreds of people I’ve met in my four-month-long homes and wonder about the impact I am having on them.  Is it even existent?  What will they remember?  These questions aren’t coming from a narcissistic point of view.  I’m just wondering if who I really am is reflected to everyone, and if it’s not, what’s wrong with me.

I want people to see Jesus in me, and not in a preachy Jaimie in a pink sweater kind of way, but in a way that shows that I care more about them than myself.  That’s a lot to live up to, and a lot to show when you only have a short time with someone.

If I’m serious about living for the good of other people thing, it really ought to be obvious.  Daily life doesn’t seem like that big of deal, until I think about it in a bigger picture.  I know a lot of people who have literally never interacted with a real Christian before, which means my freaking out about missing class because I mistakenly went to the wrong classroom and then not not knowing how to gracefully excusing myslef, sat stuck for and hour and half look a little out of perspective.  My every reaction ought to be reflection of Christ.

I’m around so many people who really don’t care about God or acknowledge His existence, and I totally get that, but in the very least, I want them all to see how I serve them because of what is happening in me because of Him.

So, I’ll grip every moment I have, knowing that the difference between short term and long term relationships, is that now, in the short term, I’m never going to get another chance.


Que sera, sera…

Tonight, I walked into an Irish pub that was playing a song from Going My Way with decor irrefutably reminiscent of one of the best scenes of a movie I watched with my father at least once a month in my childhood.  It’s amazing how far something as simple as a familiar looking barstool and old song can bring so much comfort.

Then again, it might have just been that the signs on the wall were in English.

This week has been overwhelming, but I don’t think it’s because any component is necessarily more than I can handle.  I get really frustrated with my Spanish, but truth be told, it’s not actually that bad.  It’s just that I’m not comfortable using it.

At first, the whole immersion thing was a novelty.  Then, I found myself unable to fully operate in a world that was in both English and Spanish.  Now, I’m having to actually deal with emotion in Spanish.  It is so limiting to be frustrated and needing to consciously think about the words necessary to express it, or even just to recall a colloquial expression to convey how awesome something is.  There’s no real time out for a break.

On Wednesday, I had class from 9am to 5:30pm with only two 30 minute breaks all day.  The awkward part was sitting in class, understanding what most of what was going on, but daydreaming in English.  I don’t even know how that happens.  I also am beginning to find myself lost for words more and more often.  I’ll be trying to say something, unsure of the Spanish word, yet can’t remember what it’s called in English either.

Today, I let myself get wrapped up in wholly frivolous frustrations, because our course registrations were officially due.  I had the bright idea that I don’t actually want to take a grado class (regular full-length direct enrollment course, as opposed a partial semester direct-enrollment class or a class for international students).  To be honest, that is a little ridiculous, but as I reviewed the syllabus, I just got really scared of the quizzes.  I can learn material, but what if I don’t know what the words in the questions mean?  What if I fail? (fyi: I signed up for the grado course anyway)

Situations can get quite unnecessarily exacerbated in my mind, but when I’m impeded by limited language skills and the continued absence of a regular routine, it’s hard to find ways to express them [hence: an accumulation of ridiculous ideas in my head].

But tonight was the remedy.  I hung out with some friends after class and spent the night dancing downtown at a Bomba Estereo concert.  I’d never heard of them, but I’m so glad I went.  Because it great, and it helped me realize how ridiculous my frustrations about class really are.  I needed a break, and I got one.

So que sera, my friend.  I’d say hakuna matata, but Doris Day, Jimmy Stewart, and Alfred Hitchcock are so much classier than Timon & Pumba.

Flashback, nosedive, no pavement (yet)

This week has been a flashback to every Spanish 1 exercise.  You know, the ones that seemed really stupid at the time, but now that you actually need them seem invaluable?

Example 1: The telephone conversation.

This skit is an eternal Spanish class favorite.  The task?  Write a phone conversation between two friends.  Arrange a time and meeting place for an event.  Do it memorized.

It seems simple, but when you actually have to do it… ay.  When leaving Santiago today we were all instructed to call our host families and let them know when we would be arriving.  My face drained white as I tried to figure out what I would say.  Understanding Spanish is hard enough in person, trying to do it when you can’t see the person’s face is much harder.  After about 15 minutes of conversation with a couple folks on how we would handle various situations, I just did it.

After going through my spiel, I realized that I wasn’t talking to Claudia (my housemother), but one of her daughters.  She passed the phone off, and I went through it again.  Important information learned from this conversation: a couple people in my host family can speak English.  Claudia said something twice that I did not comprehend at all and after a minute, she translated for me.   This lovely fact isn’t something I’m going to rely on, but is nice to have.

Example 2: Transportation

I distinctly remember airport vocabulary freshman year of high school.  I also remember thinking about how pointless it was.  At 15, I had never even been on a plane.  Today, that airport/transportation vocabulary was invaluable.

After a week of schedules and of being shepherded around in groups, they sent us out on our own today (relatively).  We were given addresses and told to find our own ways home.  I’ve only been in a taxi a couple times in my life, so taking my own taxi in a city I know nothing about, to an apartment I’ve never seen, in a language I barely know, to live with a family I’ve never met was a little intimidating.

I sat in the car thinking that there is no way I could have ever done this even a year ago.

Example 3: Greetings

Unit 1, Chapter 1 of every Spanish textbook is greetings.  It is by far the most-repeated lesson, and now from experience, I can say this is for good reason.

My housemother and her two daughters met me this afternoon.  Introductions were mildly awkward because I couldn’t figure out how to open the door to the apartment building.  I later found out that I really wasn’t that dumb, because the door really was locked.  However, I did neglect to see the doorbell right next to the door, so….

a little bit of home

The apartment is nice and clean, and there is more storage in my room than I have stuff to fill.  I very much appreciate the anti-clutter feel.  After I unpacked, I joined my housemother and her five-year-old daughter for some leftover chinese food.  We chatted for a bit, which helped the whole place feel more familiar.

As it turns out my housemother’s mother is also a student host, so another student in the program came over this afternoon because his family (grandparents to the kids in my family) was at work.  Having another student here for a couple hours, helped me feel more comfortable too.

We were given careful instruction on how to find our way to our meeting in the morning and how to get to school.  Then, my family physically took me to the metro station where I will have to transfer to a commuter train to get to campus and the bus station I need in the morning.  (this was really nice).  The five-year-old turned out to be quite the cute, little tour guide, because she explained absolutely everything on the way.

Example 4: Participation/Immersion

That’s what it’s all about, right?  All those awful weeks of forcing myself to come up with something to talk about in Spanish class, so I could earn my participation points are actually coming to mean something.  I have to talk, and I am.

I was a little embarrassed at dinner, because they were asking me which meal I wanted on the weekend. (They provide 2 meals for us each day.  Program provides daily stipend for the other meal.)  I understood what they were asking, but I didn’t know how to say I don’t know yet in a polite way.  They have to plan meals, but I still have no idea what my day-to-day schedule will be like.  I don’t think this is a big deal, because we are going to Toledo this weekend.  I’m sure I can talk to them when I have a better idea next week, but it was still embarrassing.

Guess it’s all just part of the nosedive experience.  Tonight, I hung out with my house sisters watching a little TV before bed.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my favorite show, Bones, is on here all the time.  It was fun, because the little girl kept running in and out of the room.  We talked about our favorite Disney princesses, and she pranced around in a fancy dress and her sister’s platform heels.

I think I’m my family’s 5th international student, and I hear that one girl came barely able to speak Spanish and left fluent.  I want to be like that girl…


I love going places,

but I hate being in transit.  I’m sure getting there will be great, but I truly cannot wait for the next 48 hours to be over.

In about an hour, I’ll be leaving Fort Wayne.  My flight will land at LaGuardia around 10pm.  Then, after one bus, two different subways, and one tram, I’ll finally arrive on Roosevelt Island.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to avoid being stranded like I was in Hartford, because I am actually familiar with the route I’ll be taking.  Tonight, I’ll crash at the Getz’s apartment for the night and pick up the bag I (purposely) left at their place in New York.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll take one subway, the airtram, and shuttle bus to get to JFK.  Due to my father’s anxiousness and my own unfamiliarity with the route to the airport, I’ll leave the apartment fairly early, even though my flight doesn’t leave until 6pm.  I will undoubtedly have more than just a few hours to kill once I get there, but that’s okay.

I’ll land in Madrid early Friday morning and take a connecting flight to get to the orientation site outside of the city.

I'll be going here first.