Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tolkien says it best.

"In Britain's land beyond the seas
the wind blows ever through the trees;
in Britain's land beyond the waves
are stony shores and stony caves."

Of course that little gem pops up in my assigned reading for my Tolkien and Medieval Literature class. Of course.

I will always and forever be home-away-from-homesick. Bottom line. My senior seminar professor asked us, as an exercise, where we would go if we could go somewhere 1) for 4-6 weeks, 2) for 6 months to 1 year, and 3) to serve our fellow humans. My answers were all to places I've already been and I've already fallen in love with. 1) South Africa, 2) England, 3) South Africa. I kind of surprised myself for narrowing down my answers to places I've already been and eliminating different places like Argentina, France, or New Zealand (to name just a few). As a response to the second question, my professor asked me why I would choose to live in Europe and in England specifically. My answer was that four long months just wasn't enough. There are plenty of places in this country -- in this region, even -- that I would be fine with calling home, but if you gave me a million dollars and half a chance, I would be right back in York in a heartbeat. I'm pretty sure that means that my reverse culture shock or reverse homesickness or whatever I'm supposed to have had hasn't quite worn off yet.

I love this world, but distance is a cruel, cruel thing.

"In Britain's land across the seas
the spring is merry in the trees;
the birds in Britain's woodlands pair
when leaves are long and flowers are fair."

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 30, 2010

re-entry SUCKS.

That is how overwhelmed I got with life...I haven't posted about returning to my home and native land until four months after the fact. Actually, coming back to the States wasn't really the problem. After I got over my initial shock about how big everything was (e.g. the cars), I got into a summer rhythm. Well, first I had to be home for two days, then drive to Grand Rapids, then drive to Kansas City for a wedding and then drive back only to drive from Cleveland to GR again to move into my summer house and start my new job, but hey, whatever. After that I got into a summer rhythm that involved Hope friends, Hope's campus, Holland, and the area I've come to know so well within the past three years. I thought I could take everything on again. I thought I was ready. After a brief jaunt home for my friend's wedding in August, I thought I could drive back up to Hope and take the plunge back into American classes, American academia, American schedules, American life...

This is really freaking hard. English classes meet once, MAYBE twice a week for a couple of hours, and the only homework I had all semester was to read books for class and write two 2,500-word essays. That was it. That was the whole semester. Oh, and I only had three classes and ONE society with which I was actually involved.

Yeah, here's my Hope schedule:

Monday: work in the English department 11:15-12:30, Chapel Choir 4:30-5:30, Luminescence 5:30-7, Nykerk meetings 9-11
Tuesday: class 9:30-11, class 12-1:30, class 1:30-3, Chapel Choir 4:30-5:30, class 6-7:20
Wednesday: work 11:15-12:30, Chapel Choir 4:30-5:30, Luminescence 5:30-7
Thursday: see Tuesday
Friday: work in the English department 11:15-12:30, work in Saugatuck 1-7 and close
Saturday: work in Saugatuck 3-9 and close
Sunday: sometimes church, if I'm lucky and can drag myself out of bed for it.

...and then I begin again. Pretty much all of my free time is spent doing the massive amounts of busy work and reading I have for my classes. THIS IS SO MUCH READING. AND SO MUCH WRITING. AND SO MUCH BUSY. Not to mention that I have yet to secure myself an internship for next semester which needs to happen within the next two weeks or earlier and Equestrian Club hasn't even started yet and Lumies hasn't had any gigs yet and Nykerk hasn't happened yet and Vespers hasn't happened yet and and and and

this is why I'm spontaneously combusting.

In the meantime, everyone I left behind just kept living their lives without me. I know they don't mean to rub it in, but every once in awhile it slips out. "Hey, remember that one time that ____________?? That was hilario -- oh. You were gone." "Hey, remember doing this song? What part were you?'ve never seen it before. You were gone."


They don't mean to be rude, they're not blaming me, and I wasn't gone on purpose. Nobody is at fault, and yet I still feel bad every time this happens. Yes, I was off having the time of my life in a new place, but while I was doing that, everyone else was having a pretty good time, too, and they were doing it without me there.

This is turning pretty emo pretty quickly. I promise I'm not depressed beyond all reasonable comprehension...I'm actually pretty happy, for the most part. I'm happy to be back, I'm happy to see everyone I missed while I was gone, I'm happy to get to do all of my favorite Hope activities again, and I'm happy to be back in my own familiar corner of the world. It's just sometimes hard to reinsert myself into the world I vacated; sometimes it feels like there's not a lot of wiggle room and I don't quite fit the way I used to. A small part of me felt guilty talking to students at the Study Abroad fair today. I was repping my heart out for York St. John and talking about what a great time I had there, but somewhere deep down I was thinking, "but if you'll have to deal with this, too...and nobody tells you about the numb homesick ache you get once you're home and you can't just go back."

I've compared it to feeling like I graduated from Hope and went off in the world and then all of a sudden I was just...back. It feels so good to be back, but it also doesn't really feel quite right, either. It feels like I shouldn't be here and that I should be somewhere else.

Honestly, if this is what graduating feels like, this is gonna suuuuuuuck.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I...don't know how to feel.

It's a fairly surreal experience to be surrounded not by the posters, decorations, and vestiges of my four months in York, but by bare walls reminiscent of a stark prison cell. It's kind of weird to see empty drawers, empty wardrobe, empty room, empty everything, just the way I found it way back in January. It's strange as all get-out to see my suitcases again, and to see them filled with my entire life for the last semester. I've had my head wrapped around the idea of being and living HERE for so long that I can't exactly wrap my head around the fact that tomorrow, I'll be HOME. The home from where my parents have been skyping me this whole time. The home where my friends live. The home from where I kept hearing stories about the life going on there without me. Tomorrow I'll BE there, and everyone's lives there won't go on without me anymore.

But everyone's lives here will. And that's the part that hasn't really hit me yet, and probably won't until I'm up in the air or on my layover in New York or even back home in Cleveland. Four months abroad seemed like forever until I actually lived them...but at the same time, looking back on everything I've done and seen and learned over here, it really does feel like it's been almost forever...except forever will keep going, and so will everyone's lives here long after I've returned to Cleveland and to Hope.

I literally don't know what to feel. Nothing has sunk in yet. It's not registering that I'm packing to leave this room, this flat, this university forever. It's not registering that it will be years before I see these people again...if I'm ever lucky enough to. It's not registering that after tomorrow, I won't live here anymore. York will not be my adopted hometown. After tomorrow, this will no longer be my life. This doesn't mean that I'm not looking forward to my life at home, but I can tell already that it's going to take some MAJOR adjustment. I was able to adapt to life here well I just have to repeat the process for my return.

I'll let you know how that goes once I've actually figured out that I'm leaving.

Friday, May 14, 2010


DONE with essays. WHOO!

DONE with exams. YEAH!

DONE with studying, classes, and school in general for the year. WOOTILY WOOT!

DONE with York St. John University. YAAAYYwaaaait...?

DONE with junior year, and thus 3/4 of my college education. uhm.

DONE with England in ten days. WHAT the whaaaaat???

Done packing? Nope. Haven't even started. I think I might be in denial that my remaining time across the great big sea has dwindled to nearly single digits.

This is going to be harder than I thought.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The things I learn when I'm not writing my last essay...

-- "Ligretto" is the Norwegian version of Dutch Blitz...and it's just as addictive!

-- "Bolle" (BALL-luh) are Norwegian sweet rolls. They *look* like scones, but they're sweeter and far less crumbly. In other news, Kjetil makes excellent bolle.

-- Writing 2,500 words? Dumb. Making words in "Bananagrams" with your housemate? WAY more entertaining...except when you end up with all the Q's and X's and J's. Then it's dumb. Hah.

-- Shopping for presents, running errands, and tidying my room are so much more satisfying when I'm putting something off.

-- Keep a respectful distance when you encounter a man in the post office who is standing in line, gesticulating wildly and shouting animatedly at people who aren't there...

-- People appreciate random appearances of sweets. I learned this while handing out "stress packs" in the library with the CU kids. :)

-- It's guaranteed to only be sunny outside when I wake up in the morning, pull back the curtain, and say, "Golly gee whiz, what a wonderful day! I think I'll go outside and be productive!" The SECOND I'm done getting ready and I'm ready to enjoy the gets cloudy. Sometimes I'm even lucky enough for it to sprinkle a little. -_- (This has literally happened for almost two weeks straight. I am not lying.)

-- Finding useful quotations for my essay is TEEEEDIOUS...but looking up hours of tuneage on YouTube is not.

-- Getting snail mail, especially all the way across the pond, still makes me happy inside. :D

-- No matter if you're able to say his real name or not, Mr. Stupid Icelandic Dumbbutt Volcano (we've named him Jeremy, for lack of a more pronounceable moniker) needs to STOP projectile vomiting all over Europe. Get over your hangover already, Jeremy. Take some Pepto-Bismol and sleep it off. This behaviour is getting old, and I need to go home soon.

-- Speaking of home...13 days. Yiiiikes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Striking moments from the back of an anonymous postcard...

I read Postsecret's new postcard secrets every week, and this week I came across one that really mirrors my own experience...

(Despite the fear, anxiety, and loneliness...there is. There really, really is.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Crunch Time

I hate it when I wake up and it's May.

Well, actually, I don't, but I have every reason to be slightly alarmed at the sneak-attack of this particular May. All the papers, reading, and studying ("revising") to which I said, "oh, whatever, it can wait til May"...waited til May. May is now here. Ever since I woke to the cold, damp, grey English day this morning and realized it was the month where stuff actually happens, everything has become a countdown. I have one 2,500-word essay for Writing the Caribbean, one portfolio with self-reflective essay and pieces from two different genres of writing for Creative Writing B (both due May 7--six days from now), and one final exam for which to revise for Nineteenth Century Writing on May 14 (thirteen days from now). Also, slightly more daunting is the fact that I leave Limes Court, York, and England on May 24 (twenty-three days from now).

I haven't gotten very far on my essay. I haven't finished the short story for my portfolio. I haven't been to London. I haven't been to Scotland. I haven't been to Wales. I haven't been to France and practiced my abysmal knowledge of French. I haven't walked the city walls. I haven't figured out what the heck Clifford's Tower is. I haven't been on a winning pub quiz team, as hard as we may try and as laughable as our efforts may be. I haven't walked by the river enough. I haven't taken enough pictures. I haven't hung out with people enough. I haven't gone on enough coffee dates. I haven't had time to realize that it feels like I've been here forever and I'll just keep on being here and everything will still be the same. I've been here too long to realize that it feels like I just got here last week.

But I have been to Spain, Italy, and Ireland (with both fun, fantastic Hope friends and with my dad). I have met fantastic people. I have had picnics in the park and met for coffee. I have wandered down the streets and made fun of the tourists. I have established a routine that makes me feel comfortable and at home.

However, that routine is about to be shaken up by May. I have 7,500 words to write and an exam to take shortly thereafter. I have things to do and people to see. I have pictures to take. I have a life to live. I have stories to rack up so I can tell them later.

I have twenty-three days to finish being a student abroad. In twenty-three days, that part of my identity will change, and I'll be merely a former study abroad student. I'll be an American on American soil again; one of many. I'll be living a different sort of adventure -- adventuring through a final year of undergraduate study and figuring out what in this big wide world to do with my life, like many other final-year students. In twenty-three days, I'll be home and thinking of here instead of here and thinking of home.

In twenty-three days, these essays, these final days, and this semester will all be a memory.