As the year comes to an end, I tend to do lots of reflection. I think it's a great way to close out the year and fully absorb all that occurred, or at least try to. I typically ask myself similar questions every year, such as what areas I saw the most growth, what changed, what I learned, what adversity I faced and how I moved past it, etc. However, this year I recently listened to a podcast by Jay Shetty called 7 Powerful Questions to Successfully Reflect on 2022 & End the Year with Confidence, so I'm going to steal a few of those questions to reflect on my year :)
1) What is a challenge that you've overcome this year?
I have always been a very independent person, so I wouldn't say that I ever struggled with this. That said, moving halfway across the world to live in two non-English-speaking countries takes independence to a whole new level. This year, I had to take on extra responsibilities that I never had to deal with or at least fret about in the states, such as all my legal matters (regarding immigration/ residency), insurances, taxes, and new ways of life. With this came multiple challenges. In Germany, I had some immigration/ residency issues that I had to deal with. Thankfully, everything got sorted out, but when you are trying to adjust to a new life and figure all that out in another language it makes matters quite complex. Additionally, living in another country with different ways of life is a challenge in itself. I had never really used public transport before going to Europe, and now I can happily say I am a pro!! Public transportation and traveling independently within another country/ continent are now a breeze for me. All in all, I overcame so many challenges in 2022 while living abroad that enabled me to grow into an even more independent individual.
2) What's a surprise you dealt with?
Before going abroad, international advisors and students tell you all these stories/ scenarios to help you best prepare for your upcoming adventures. They talk about the differences, challenges, changes, good/ bad, and so much more. I thought I knew what adversities I would face abroad and how I would manage them, but the truth is nothing can prepare you for being abroad other than being abroad! What surprised me most was the change in beliefs/routines I had. Before going abroad, I was very scheduled. I pretty much liked to do the same thing every day at the same time. I had great habits, and thought my routine was the only reason I thrived. Well, when my routine fell out of whack in Germany, and I became much more open to just going with the flow, I realized that life can be much slower-paced and relaxed than I had ever thought was possible. Plus, I became much more aware that you can thrive in multiple settings. You don't need the same routine every day. It's important to live a little! I may not have been the most productive I have ever been, but I was the happiest I have ever been. And witnessing this was truly life-changing for me.
3) What's the best book/ podcast/ course you've read/ taken this year?
This year, I took a gender studies course at Sciences Po, and wow oh wow do I wish everyone would take that course! The course discussed gender roles, sexuality, behavior, and women's rights by analyzing media outlets. It was crazy to see how women have been portrayed throughout the years and how we continue to be portrayed today (for better or for worse). So much of our world still operates in a manner that limits us women and our abilities to be the best version of ourselves. Why do women have to be the ones primarily "in charge" of children and housework? Why do we always fall into this category?! Not all women want to do this, and not all women should have to do this for their families to thrive. The familial/ private setting is just one example of the inequalities that many women still encounter. When it comes to the public sphere and/or corporate settings there are many more. I do believe times are changing and that we are becoming more and more equal, but oof how long does it need to take?!
4) What made you the happiest this year?
The short and sweet answer is my time in Augsburg! I had the greatest friends, the best memories, and the happiest of days :) Augsburg will always be very special to me!
5) What are some unknowns moving into the next year?
As with any new year, there are many unknowns. In May, I will graduate from IU! Woot woot! As of right now, I don't have any next steps locked into place. I'm very eager to get a master's in Disability Studies, but don't know if that will work out. If it does, I will be going that route!! If it doesn't, I don't know where I will be and/or what I'll be doing. It's quite crazy to think about, but it's also very exciting!! When one chapter closes, a new one begins :)
After loads of train delays to the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris (due to the famous French strikes), a flight delay from Paris to Chicago, a missed connection in Chicago, and then another flight delay back to Indy... I finally made it home!! It may have taken 24 hours, but at least I made it! It's weird being back in the states and hearing English again, but it's also quite refreshing. I don't have to think before I speak or try to figure out how to navigate anything new. It's all just "normal" to me. I thought once I got back I was going to experience loads of emotions right away, but I don't think I've fully processed everything quite yet. It all seems to be coming in waves. For some reason, I also feel like I'll be heading back to Europe after the break for another semester, even though I know I'm not!
Since being back, I've experienced a few weird (or maybe completely normal) responses. First, I almost screamed when I saw how many clothes and shoes I owned. After living out of two suitcases for a year, I quickly came to realize what I do and do not need. Let me tell you... YOU DON'T NEED 5 MILLION OUTFITS AND PAIRS OF SHOES!!!! Ooof it really stresses me out when I take a look in my closet. Now, I want to sell and donate everything! Second, I am not very interested in a lot of the foods here that I used to be in love with. I thought I would get back and crave all the places that I used to enjoy, but now I just think about how "fake" the food is in comparison to places I enjoyed in Europe... Lots of the food here feels and tastes so processed to me now. I hope this changes. Third, I feel lazy. I used to walk everywhere and now I barely walk. I'm assuming once classes start back at IU I'll be walking everywhere, but for right now, I feel like soooo lazy! I miss the walkability of the cities I lived in. Lastly, I feel like I just woke up from a dream. Everything here seems to have stayed the same, but I feel like I just got back from this alternate reality that changed me so much. I've been slowly starting to see everyone who I missed so much, but it's been hard for me to know what to share when they ask for updates. So much has happened, where do I even start and what do I include and leave out? I also don't want to be the person that talks too much about their time/ experiences abroad. I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to go, and I realize that not everyone gets that opportunity.
Long story short, I'm still very much in the process of figuring out my life after my adventures abroad, but I'm eager to head back to Bloomington and start my new normal! I'm also hoping I can stay active within an international community, like helping out/working for an international offices :)
I may or may not have made a very spontaneous decision to book a trip to Strasbourg and go within three hours of booking... All amid my exam week. Okay, I did this. And do I regret it? Absolutely not. My final was on Friday, and I still had a few days to prepare for it. I also leave France in a week and have been yearning to go to Strasbourg and see the beautiful Christmas markets before leaving. So, I went. I brought my notes and spent lots of time studying, but I also spent lots of time strolling the streets and wandering through all the Christmas markets. It was amazing! The Christmas spirit is so lively in Strasbourg with all the decorations, lights, music, and tourists in Santa hats, haha. Apart from that, the half-timbered buildings and cobblestone streets resemble a little fairytale village- so cute and quaint. I'll definitely miss these views when I go back to the states!
After studying millions of hours (maybe a slight exaggeration), I finally took my last exam at Sciences Po! Ohhhh the relief of being done :) I feel like it's one of the best feelings students experience after a busy week of essays and exams. That said, it also means my year abroad is coming to an end soon, which is very bittersweet! This year has been the most remarkable experience, and I couldn't be more grateful. I'm really proud of my younger self who was eager enough to hop on a plane and move halfway across the world, but even prouder of the person I've become through all the ups and downs along the way. The emotions are all over the place as I pack up and say goodbye to yet another place and group of people. However, I'm so excited to squeeze my little fur babies and to be surrounded by my family and friends whom I've missed lots! I'll be home for Christmas!! :)
For the past few months, I've been studying abroad at Sciences Po campus de Reims in France! It's been an awesome experience that has challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways. My time here has flown by, so I thought it would be nice to share some of my highlights thus far :)
As I rode through the rolling hills of southeast France, I reflected on my adventures abroad. I packed up and moved halfway across the world to Berlin, Germany, almost 11 months ago. A lot has happened in the past 11 months. I’ve moved four times, met incredible friends, traveled to beautiful places, tried delicious new foods (and new foods I realized I could do without), and said way too many goodbyes. It’s crazy to think about all that has happened to be abroad- mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. So much has changed. Yet, so much remains the same.
Each place has brought its own set of blessings and challenges. In January, I moved to Berlin, where I lived with seven other international young adults, took some courses, and interned with Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. I had always dreamt of getting involved in the Disability Rights Movement abroad, and then it came true. I was finally able to get a taste of what it was like working cross-culturally in an environment with different policies, procedures, and practices. I thoroughly enjoyed it and realized I would love to work in a similar environment in the future.
In March, I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. I continued taking courses and working virtually. Much of my stepfamily resides in Scotland, but outside of them, I knew nobody my age, which left me with lots of time by myself to explore the city, read, and plan for additional opportunities abroad. That’s when I applied to study at Sciences Po in France after my semester in Germany finished.
In April, I moved back to Germany, but this time to beautiful Bavaria! I started my semester abroad at the University of Augsburg and quickly got involved in their Erasmus program, where I met most of my friends. Most of my time in Augsburg was spent hanging out with friends and traveling. Of course, I had classes alongside all the fun, but I had so much more free time than I was used to. In my opinion, the US education system is much more intense with constant assignments, essays, presentations, exams, and loads of busy work. In Augsburg, there were only one or two graded assessments per class. No busy work. For studying abroad, I definitely preferred this method! The five months I spent in Augsburg was the best few months of my life, and it was very (very!) difficult to say goodbye.
In late August, I boarded a bus with tears in my eyes as I headed to the location of my next semester abroad. I didn’t want to leave Germany, but I was still very excited… After all, I was moving to France!! How cool! I was really looking forward to immersing myself in French culture, eating all the pastries, meeting new friends, and exploring more places. A day after my arrival, I met other exchange students from all around the world. We took part in the fun orientation events together and prepared for the semester. Shortly thereafter, my classes started, and reality hit… I was back to doing loads of schoolwork. It’s crazy how different this exchange is from my last one, and oftentimes, it’s hard for me not to compare the two. I had so much free time in Germany and so many opportunities to meet people, hang out, and travel. It’s not the same case here in France. I’m studying at Sciences Po, one of the top Political Sciences Institutions in the world, and am taking courses that are constantly challenging me. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an environment that has fueled more intellectual growth than the one I’m currently in. It’s been great for me academically, but at points, it’s been hard for me emotionally. First, I’ve never been in an environment where everybody around me is a genius. Maybe not actual geniuses, but the students around me (and of course the Professors) sure are intelligent and incredibly well-informed about so many different topics. Second, I don’t have many deep friendships or people I am very close with. Before moving abroad, I remember fearing this. I didn’t want to move away from all my close friends and end up being "isolated" in another country; I didn’t want to experience being lonely. It’s quite funny looking back at that fear now after experiencing loneliness on and off throughout the duration of my time abroad. It’s just a reminder that we create fears in our heads that are so minuscule when actually played out in reality.
I only have about a month left of being abroad, and I am beginning to experience all the emotions. I don’t want to leave, but at the same time I miss my family, doggies, friends, and “old life.” I also miss hearing English and the ease that comes with not having to translate everything or think about words and sentences before saying them!
It feels like it's been forever since I last posted a blog, and it's probably because it HAS been. I've spent these last few months soaking up everything that I could during my exchange semester in Germany. I met some of the most amazing people and had the best few months of my life. I couldn't wait to wake up every day because each day was an adventure- typically filled with hanging out with my friends, having deep and meaningful conversations, laughing until I almost peed, and eating the most delicious potato wedges from the mensa (I'm obsessed). It was the most fun I'd ever had and it was the most stress-free I'd ever been. This place, the experience, and these people changed me so much, and saying goodbye was honestly brutal. People always say, "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened," so that's what I'm trying to do, but it's so hard. I don't think I'll be with the same group of international students living life to the fullest ever again. I mean technically that scenario could happen, but realistically thinking, it probably won't. And that is so hard to process after spending so much quality time with them. Someone should've warned me about this, haha.
Anyways, I am super grateful for my time in Germany and want to end this post on a more positive note with some of my favorite memories from throughout the semester :)
Two weeks ago, my friends and I decided to start planning trips around Europe. Instead of planning several trips, we really only planned one to Venice, Italy!! We booked the tickets scheduled to depart 3 days later with absolutely no itinerary, just high hopes :) When we got off the bus in Venice, we were confused. It did not seem like we were in Venice. There was absolutely no water in sight, just buildings. We made our way to a cafe to figure out where we were, where we needed to be, what we wanted to do, what hostel we should stay at, and how to get public transportation passes. Once we figured everything out, we set out for the day.
Our high hopes were met when we arrived at the main area of Venice. It was stunning. The weather was gorgeous, and the views were unmatched. I've never been to a place so incredible. We all had such a good time exploring Venice, eating delicious foods, and connecting on a deeper level.
Some of my favorite memories include:
-Walking through the alleys
-Standing on the bridges overlooking the canals
-Watching the sunset on Lido island
-Having amazing conversations and delicious pasta on Lido island
-Going to Burano island and having my first Pina Colada (on my 21st bday!)
-Taking the water ferries
-Going to Padova and meeting up with some friends :)
-Going to Lido beach and having more delicious pasta and amazing conversations (lots of tears and laughs)
-Visiting with one of my best friends from the US!!!
-Almost missing our bus back to Germany
A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Barcelona, Spain, to visit my friend Zac!! It was incredible. I had so much fun hanging out with him, meeting his friends, touring Barcelona, eating delicious Spanish foods (Paella, Croquetas, Patatas bravas, etc.), and seeing amazing sights! Some of the sights I saw included:
Attached below is a brief highlight video from my trip :)
I took a trip with my friend Natascha and her amazing family to Landsberg, Germany! The buildings were so colorful, and the streets were cobblestone- it was beautiful. I had a great time wandering around, getting coffee, practicing my German skills, and hanging out with Natascha and her family!! They are some of the sweetest people I've ever met. Attached below is a video with some of the highlights from the trip :)