Almost There

Almost There

As I’m sitting in my little desk in the back of ST&R’s office in the Reagan building, it suddenly occurred to me that I only have a week left here.  I’m taking tomorrow off to go home for Easter, and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be coming back to Washington on Monday morning so I won’t be making it into the office that day either since we have programming in the afternoon.  I don’t know when the next time I’ll be in Washington will be after this program ends, and I have mixed feelings about it.  I’m a little sad to be leaving DC not having had enough time to see everything I wanted but at the same time I’m beyond excited to go back to Philadelphia and be back with my friends just in time for senior year.  Part of me sort of wishes that I hadn’t done study abroad and a semester in Washington back-to-back, but then again the more I’ve thought about it the more doing both things within the same year has made sense academically.

I guess my main hesitations with coming down to Washington were socially related.  I knew that being down here will do nothing but good for me, but I was scared that being away for a year would separate me from my friends and from the school scene that I left behind.  I was afraid that leaving for a year would put me so far behind that I would spend all of senior year trying to catch up on everything that I had missed; and by the time that happened it would be time to put on my cap and gown and head to campus as an undergrad for the last time.

And I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard.  There have been numerous times I’ve been texting my friends to catch up, only to hear about an awesome weekend they’ve had or whose dating who now or whatever.  It sucks to hear that.  Looking at pictures of my friends on Facebook together while sitting in my apartment by myself is depressing.  I’ve definitely had my fair share of emotional breakdowns where I think to myself that I can’t do it anymore.

I don’t think I would be feeling this way if I hadn’t gone to Madrid for the first half of this school year.  Most people don’t do that.  Or if they do, they’ll either do a summer abroad or in Washington and then one semester away from school.  When I first told all my friends back at school that I was planning on spending my entire junior year away, most of them thought I was nuts.

Doing both was my choice.  I don’t regret either thing, but it’s been tough.  I really am so thankful that Philadelphia is within a reasonable distance of DC so that I’ve been able to get back to school to see my friends and some of them have been able to come down here.  In retrospect, I’m also glad that I went to Spain first and Washington second.  I couldn’t imagine feeling this school-sick in Europe.  At least this time around I’m in the same time zone as my friends, my cell phone works and my schedule is similar to everyone else’s.  If I was back in Europe right now I’d be back to relying on Skype, iChat and BBM and having to deal with a six-hour time difference whenever I wanted to talk to anyone back home.

But in the end, I’m glad I did this.  I originally wanted to come to college in DC, so spending a semester down here has given me the opportunity to explore a new place that I’ve always wanted to.  Studying abroad is something that I had dreamed of doing since high school, so I don’t regret that either.  Over the course of this past year, I have had unforgettable experiences, been to new places, and made great memories that everyone I left behind back at school didn’t have the opportunity to do.  I really am so thankful that I had the backing of my parents (thanks Dad for bailing me out in Europe numerous times) my teachers back at school who encouraged me to do both (Dr. Joes, this means you especially) and SJU as an institution that facilitates its students with the means to pursue their education outside of the boundaries of a classroom.

If I take one personal lesson away from this whirlwind of a school year, it is that while some experiences are fleeting, other things will forever remain the same.  Although I miss my friends, I miss my sorority and I miss my school, everything will still be waiting for me when I get back to Philly.  Every time I talked to one of my friends while I was abroad and asked what was new around campus, I would always get the same response: “nothing.”  So yes, I might have missed some birthdays.  Yes, I might be behind on college gossip.  I haven’t been able to talk to my friends as much as I’ve wanted, and I sometimes I feel like I might have sacrificed some of my relationships with a few people in pursuit of this year.  But in the end, I’ve done things that most of my peers at college might never have the opportunity to do, or won’t have the opportunity to do for a long time into the future.  I’m coming out of this year knowing things that I would have never known otherwise.  The best educational experience comes through real life experience, which I now have.  College will be waiting for me in the fall, right where I left it.

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