This is my final undergraduate semester at K-State. My heart beats a little faster when I think about that. Last Tuesday was my last “First Day of School” and, considering I have been in school for about 16 years, you may think I should have the whole “First Day” thing down by now. I considered making a timeline to show you just how chaotic I felt until I realized most of the entries would be things like “where are my socks?” and “wait, room 127 or 126?” or “I’m going to be late. So late.” The important thing is that I lived and eventually found some socks.
The most startling part of my last “First Day” was a sight on campus. Luckily, I had Shai with me to try and understand what was going on. I thought I knew “a spot that I love full well” (this beloved campus). I thought I had extensive classroom experience and knew what to expect when I walked into an instructional space. My expectation was chairs, desks, and instructional boards or screens. Then, I saw these chairs. I saw they were purple and got mildly excited. Next, my exploration of these chairs resulted in the startling conclusion that they rolled. I must admit this paired with knowledge that they swivel and spin took me quite a few minutes to wrap my head around. I consulted with Shai extensively. Once I calmed down a bit I discovered that the desk was adjustable. My use of adjustable does not just mean the desk can fold down. I could put my desk just about anywhere around my person. This desk could accommodate just about any need I had. I could move over a little bit during class to see the board better. I could put my desk right in front of me to read or a little to the right to take notes. I could get anything out of my desk that I desired.
Where am I going with this? College, or even school more broadly, is like that desk. The start can be exciting or intimidating or even a combination of both. Change can be scary but it could lead to something really great. Even once you think you get the hang of it something can surprise you. It helps to have a support network to help you grapple with the parts you don’t understand. The most important thing is having the ability to get what you want out of your education. I’m not saying you have to know what you want to be when you grow up. I’m not sure about that myself. I think serious thought needs to be given to the purpose of your education be it concrete skills, abstract personal development, or even a life-changing moment which gives the rest of your life purpose. I could have stood up and walked away from those crazy chairs but instead I appreciated the value they could bring to my educational experience.
That less-than-riveting story brings us to Sunday night at 11:45. My schedule for the week is memorized (and in my phone and hard copy for the times I question myself) and my weekly online homework is turned in before midnight. Things seem much more in control than they did a few days ago. I eased myself back into the world of deadlines this weekend by balancing assignments with fun activities like movies, card games, and bowling (or trying to). It is safe to say I missed my fellow students and am very happy to be back with them even if it means learning to appreciate some crazy chairs.
While my family and friends were battling subzero wind chills on the plains of Kansas this winter break, I was in Costa Rica, on a faculty-led study abroad trip. Our charismatic and fearless leader, Dr. Barb, and her loyal band of 12 K-State students teamed with public relations students and wonderful professors Harold and Mariela at the University of Costa Rica and worked with local tourism businesses on public relations projects. This was one of the best experiences I have had in college and in my life.
We visited every province in Costa Rica, learning about the culture, people, history and tourism industry. We also provided our clients with public relations plans for their businesses. However, studying abroad is more than learning about other places. It is also learning about yourself. (Never heard that one before, eh?) I learned how to work with people I had just met across language and cultural barriers. I learned to carry toilet paper with me everywhere, since Costa Rica is BYOTP. I learned to order things off menus and that I’d never heard of and love them.
Traveling also involves the thrill of figuring out how to do everyday things in a new place. Eating at a restaurant, going to the ATM, and understanding a bus schedule are adventures.
And then there are the Costa Rican people, called Ticos. Being from the rural Midwest, I have high expectations for hospitality. The Ticos exceeded them all. They were so nice, warm, welcoming, and patient with my copious amounts of questions (What is that? How do you say this? Where are we? Why don’t we ever get to sleep in?).
This was an amazing experience. I am not sure that I have processed it all yet. What I have processed is that I left a piece of my heart in Costa Rica, and I’m already itching for my next trip abroad.
It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that the first week of second semester at K-State is gone! I also cannot help but remember that this semester has a lot to live up to.
With the ending of anything, comes reflection. Memories you playback in your mind such as your first student section experience at a football game or when you brushed shoulders with Eric Stonestreet and J.T. Ferguson at McCain. As well as the memories you push aside like that time you thought you didn’t need to study for the first exam and spent the rest of the semester making up for it. The first assignment in my Creative Non-Fiction class was a brief memoir regarding a moment on campus. We had to read it aloud at that exact spot on campus to the still awkwardly quietly class. It was my second day on campus; I hadn’t made many moments – except one. My first one.
After missing the first three days of what is commonly referred to as “the next chapter in life”, I felt my chapter ending before it could begin. My unfortunate and customary reputation of running late wasn’t what I had planned for the first day. The campus was a huge maze of buildings, people, and 50 shades of purple. I walked a straight line, but my mind went in circles. My watch told me class started five minutes ago. I stumbled upon a large campus map along the sidewalk path while headed down this new chapter. Maps encourage boldness, I thought to myself. They’re like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible. But I couldn’t find the boldness let alone the right building. “You are here”, it said to me, but outside of those words I saw hieroglyphics. I was surrounded by people yet felt so secluded. The sinking feeling in my stomach foreshadowed a levy that was about to be opened. My eyes began to water causing the map to melt in front of me. An unexpected tap on the shoulder knocked me back into consciousness. Short blonde hair, Sperry’s, Ray-Ban shades, and shorts that would be short on a woman – a gentleman truly. “You lost, bro?” He asked. With the passing of a family member, a new one arises. A new chapter has brought a new family. It is not down in any map; true places never are.
Here’s to a new semester with new memories and an ever-expanding family.