Monday, December 27, 2010

Reflections on 2010

Current Location: New York, NY

Well, it's the end of 2010... and what a year it has been. I was watching the Google Zeitgeist 2010 video that goes through the year of events, and it was shocking to see how much has happened in such a short period of time. At the beginning of the year we had the earthquake in Haiti, and this year has contained of events like the World Cup in Africa, the Chilean miners, the Pakistan floods, the Gulf Oil spill, and most recently, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell

However, looking back it's been quite a year of changes for me. I visited Chicago, Tennessee, and North Carolina. I took my passion of travel to a new level, visiting 4 new countries (Dominican Republic, Haiti, Belgium, and Ghana) and living for a month in France and Ghana. I learned to live without technology and how to survive in cultures unlike my own, where I barely knew the language. I completely changed my focus - before this year, I was certain I would go straight to graduate school, and I have decided to not apply and take at least a year off, if not longer. I've decided to attempt potentially one of the hardest things of my life, pursuing the Peace Corps where I would have to live in a poverty stricken nation for several year, without reliable internet or phone service, my friends or family, or knowing the local language fluently (to begin with, at least). I don't know if I have ever felt so excited about something - I think I am already annoying my friends and family with "Peace Corps this" and "Peace Corps that," and I haven't even received an invitation!

I've gotten closer to some friends, drifted apart from others - I guess that's just part of growing up. I've gone over 6 months without purchasing a pair of shoes (yes, that is a major change!). I've also really separated myself from my home. Gainesville still hold a special place in my heart, but in 2010, I think I spent maybe 15 days there, if not less. It's weird not going home, but I also feel like I am growing up and moving on. The Jenni that lived in Gainesville is nothing like the person I am now - people that knew me back then often can't understand my desires to travel and help others. The reactions I got from people when I explained I used a latrine and took bucket showers for a month in Ghana were hysterical. I can only imagine the looks I'll get when I tell people about my plan to live like that for 2 years!

I've improved my grades. I really buckled down this year in my academics, making the Deans List for the first time in the Spring (though the Fall semester is still somewhat in the air...). I've decided to not necessarily do what I "should" do but instead what I want to do. I decided to drop my minor with one class to go and instead start Spanish again. It's time I do what I want to rather than do what I should.

I can't think of a more appropriate way to start 2011 than to hop on a plane on January 1st and head to Chile for two weeks. It will represent how much I expect my life to change over the coming months. I'll be heading to New Orleans in January and Nicaragua in March. I'll be a college graduate in May. Possibly take a trip with family or friends in June or July (anyone interested in planning something?). And if all goes to plan, I'll be packing my bags in August or September for the unknown! My life has never been more unsure than it has been at this moment, yet I have never been more certain that this is what I need to do.

I thank all my family and friends that have been so supportive of me. I am so lucky to have you in my life! May 2011 bring great things for us all!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The End of the Semester

Current Location: New York, NY

I know, once again I fail at updating. This past month has been a whirlwind of work - lab reports, group project, problem sets galore. I always thought my senior year would be a time for relaxing and partying, but no such luck.

Exciting thing in the past month? Well first of all, I had a fabulous Thanksgiving. I actually have two different thanksgivings with two separate and extremely important groups of people with me, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. My first thanksgiving was with the girls - Lucy and Laura, along with myself prepared a FABULOUS vegetarian Thanksgiving feast! Anyone who says you can't have thanksgiving without turkey most certainly has not had our thanksgiving food! I made my mom's bourbon sweet potatoes, because it most definitely is not thanksgiving without them. Laura made some delicious mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, and the two of us helped out with the rest of the feast Lucy had planned out - mushroom red wine gravy, the most amazing stuffing EVER, a rice and cheese loaf, and brie and cranberry sauce mini quiche things. I think there was even more - I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! After stuffing ourselves, it was time for the obligatory thanksgiving nap before I headed downtown to Dana and Nate's for Thanksgiving part two. Down there I got to eat mac and cheese (the best recipe ever, both Dana and I make it, though I made it first hehehehe) green beans, and potatoes! They also had meat turkey and gravy, which I obviously didn't eat. They made quite the feast! After stuffing myself so full, I crashed in Brooklyn for the night before heading back up to Columbia.

Another exciting thing was I had my Peace Corps interview! It went really well. I was rather nervous, because they told me the interview could go between 60-90 minutes. Well my interview went over 2 hours, but it was GREAT! My interviewer was so nice, and it felt almost more like a conversation than an interview. I felt very much as ease and thought it went very well, and I was rewarded just a few days ago with the news that I have been nominated for service! The next step is an extremely thorough medical clearance - Physical, ObGyn, Dental, and Eye exams all required, I think. I can't wait to continue moving forward with the process - maybe in a few months I will know for sure what I could be doing and where! It's nerve racking, because I could not find out until as little as 6 weeks before I leave for my service, which would be July. But it is also so exciting, and I can't wait to continue to learn more!

I am not going home for Christmas this year, as many of you already know, I decided to do a little bit of decorating in my room! Gotta get into the Christmas spirit after all! I haven't done much yet - I got myself a little Christmas tree that I decorated and made a few little paper snowflakes to hang around the room (yes, I know I am a total nerd). It makes me happy, since I can't be home with my usual Christmas traditions to at least have a little bit of festive cheer in my room. Hopefully it will help me get through exams!

In other news, the semester is coming to a close. Monday is the last day of classes. It's really flown by - I can't believe it's actually my senior year. I guess with all my traveling I didn't really see the weeks passing by me. Only one more semester and then I'm off to the real world - I don't know if I am quite ready to be there yet! I actually don't have a ton yet - for our group project, we have our final report, we have a 5-6 page progress report for senior design, one final lab, a GIS assignment and the take home final, and 2 sit down finals left. Wow, when I list it all out, it sounds like I still have a lot to do. Less than two weeks left, and I will be done with everything! My parents and grandma come up on the 23rd for Christmas in the city. And then on January 1st, I leave for my two weeks in Chile! I cannot wait for that - we got some more information, and I think it's going to be a really amazing trip. They only accepted 16 students out of a large group, so I feel so honored to be able to go!