It's been quite some time since I last blogged, and my last entry was written immediately in the aftermath of the election. Needless to say, that's a pretty bleak place for me to leave off, though I couldn't come up with something to blog about as the semester started to wind down. The first couple years of college had a lot more novelty to it - getting here, declaring a major, discovering new activities and places. Now that I'm a junior, I found myself a lot more settled and therefore, somewhat struggling for new blog ideas. Plus, the election of Donald Trump really put a wrench in everyone's plans and backed up my schedule. Tests and assignments were canceled because of it, which as far as I'm concerned, has never happened during my time at Oberlin. So with some good news - in a mere few days, I'll be bidding adieu to this country and saying bonjour to Paris.
During my early days of Oberlin, I didn't think I wanted to study abroad because of that aforementioned novelty. Why would I want to leave a place that I loved so much? Well, that was before living in a town with a population of less than 10,000 finally caught up with me. As much as I do love Oberlin, being able to explore only the same few blocks started to feel monotonous. I've seen numerous people claim that even though Oberlin is small, it never feels boring because there's always something to do. That might be totally true for some people, but I haven't necessarily found that to be the case in my own personal experience. Oberlin is boring sometimes! Cleveland is not that far away at all, but you can't get there unless you or someone you know has a car. Any shuttle service that you may have heard about as a prospective student does not exist, save for the one that goes exclusively to the airport. So I could feel deep in my bones the need to do something new and in a city. The summer after my freshman year of college, I went to France for the third time, and I found it to be a vacation that was hard to shake. The beginning of my sophomore year was kind of rocky, and I found myself frequently daydreaming of eating gazpacho at the Centre Pompidou. By then, I knew that I had to go abroad. So over a year before any sort of application was due, I began to do my research. Eventually, I settled on CIEE Paris.
As cheesy as it sounds, I've always liked the start of the new year, and though I never make resolutions, I take the time to reflect about the year before as a whole - what I liked, what I didn't, what I can do to make it better. I have a January birthday, which always helps me to embrace the "new year, new me" philosophy more. Last year, 2015 came to an end, and I turned 20. 2015 was the hardest year of my life, and turning 20 felt like a big milestone. While a "new me" hardly emerged, I definitely realized some personal goals of mine, which I think put me in a good place for the rest of my 20s. I won't get too personal, but therapy has definitely been helpful for me in being able to cope with anxiety and recognize my own behavioral patterns. When I realized certain things about myself, it helped me to anticipate my own reactions to the world around me. Though in terms of world events, 2016 largely resembled a dumpster fire, in terms of my own mental health, 2016 was not a bad year! A while ago, I told my therapist that I thought my 2016 would be about preparing myself for 2017. Because for pretty much the first time in my life, I have little idea what my year looks like. For the past 20 years, I've had a pretty set schedule. I don't really truly know what my time in Paris will be like. I have literally no plans for the summer. I doubt I'll be in Houston, at least for the whole of it. It is both freeing and terrifying to have this much theoretically empty space in my life. And though I am incredibly excited by the prospect of finally getting to live in one of my favorite places in the world, I am more than a little nervous. I've been privileged enough to do a fair amount of international travel in my life, but this is the longest I'll ever be away from home, by far. It's weird to think that I might not even be home much this year at all, at least my home in Houston. It's weird to think that it's just the way things will be for the rest of my life.
To be honest, thus far I've been too excited about living in France to even consider what it will be like to not live in America. As we get closer to a Trump presidency, it's especially hard to even consider missing America at this point. But I'm sure it will happen. Though I doubt strolls along the Seine and glasses of vin rouge will ever lose their appeal, I know at some point I'll start craving chicken tenders and temperatures in Fahrenheit. It's especially weird to think about the fact that when I leave, Obama will still be president, and when I return, He Who Must Not Be Named will be in power. Hope I still have a country to return to!!!! Ha ha ha!!!! A little gallows humor for ya. Anyways, here's to 2017, to saying "au revoir" to the country, to my own self-doubt (sometimes), to looking for beauty in the small things, and to getting through this year together.