Saturday, June 21, 2014

Musings and thoughts on the end of junior year + pre-departure jitters

Hey guys!
Sorry I haven't been able to write for a while now. Life got pretty insanely hectic starting around three weeks ago with the final month of school, which lead into finals week and related ish (for lack of better terminology). It's been a crazy month or so, to say the least. But I've made it out alive, in one piece, and with fairly solid grades to boot. And I'm leaving tomorrow for my gateway orientation in DC!!! So what's not to like? :)

First, some reflections on this past school year:
To put things lightly, it's been one hell of a ride.
On one hand, I was extremely exited to get back to the strong sense of community and school spirit present among my school's student body. If I haven't explained this before, I go to an International Baccalaureate (IB) high school that is formed from a consortium between the various school districts of my county, meaning that every district in the county sends students to our school, and my class in particular will be the school's very first graduating class ever next year. For that reason, we as a class, having been through all of these things together for the very first time, having been the guinea pigs for pretty much everything, and having essentially helped to create the school and its environment/atmosphere from nothing, are very close, and we share a real and genuine camaraderie. Coming back to this welcoming and inclusive environment in which I have very close friends who I love to death was a great relief. I've greatly strengthened all of my friendships that I gained back in freshman year before I went abroad, and I've formed a lot of new ones as well since I got back. I've thrown myself headfirst into the extracurricular activities available at my school, becoming greatly involved in the Everyone's Free Organization I've mentioned before, and my school's Gay-Straight Alliance, as well as helping set the foundations for a Spanish National Honors Society Chapter to begin next year. I've worked hard for my grades, and it's payed off greatly. Overall, as much as I loved and valued my time abroad, it's been great being back here. I have real connections to both my friends and teachers that I know will last a lifetime, and there is honestly no community I'm prouder to be a part of than my graduating class (aside from maybe AFS and the worldwide exchange student community), and in spite of my incurable case of wanderlust, there's honestly nowhere else I'd rather be, and no other group of people with which I'd rather survive the IB. :)
On the other hand, it's been a really rough year at times. The #ibdying exists for a reason. The IB is not easy, and juggling an extremely advanced and demanding workload along with extracurriculars, standardized testing, CAS (150 hours of "Creativity, Action, and Service" that all IB students are required to complete), and miscellaneous other responsibilities of life became quite hellishly stressful at times. I've watched the people close to me struggle to juggle all these things in a way which I didn't know was possible, until descending into madness myself. There have been countless late nights of frantic, frustrated hair-pulling and essay/project writing, of procrastinating on homework with other homework, of desperate measures taken to pass exams and boost grades, always with the heart-stopping pressure of the very real potential consequences for our actions in the form of the college admission process looming over our heads. I for one will be one to admit that there have been many moments of anxious desperation and hopelessness that have been hard to deal with.
But, in spite of all the stresses, pressures, less than ideal scheduling/pacing, and many responsibilities available, I would daresay that we have not only survived our first year of IB, but thrived. In spite of all these pressures and stresses, we've created an inclusive and welcoming environment of diverse, driven, motivated, intelligent, and passionate students who I know will all be doing great and monumental things. We've made it to the other side. We can take a well-deserved break for the summer (though there's still work to be done in the meantime -,-). In spite of all the challenges, I really do love my school. I'm beyond excited for all that which awaits me in my future, but I'm a little scared to only have one year left, for I know that leaving next year is going to tear me apart inside. But overall, I look forward to all the craziness that awaits us in our senior year as well. We'll be back soon enough for another crazy but amazing year.

I've neglected to blog about this grand news, but at this point I also happen to have received my Turkish host family information!!! :)
I've got a host mom named Leman, who is a teacher, a host dad named Mustafa, who is a dentist, and one host brother my age named Erinç (eh-reench) who is my age. They live about 15 kilometers from the TÖMER Center where we'll be doing our language courses, so I'll be taking the metro from their house.
I haven't yet had any interactions with them, but they seem really sweet and sent me a super cute family photo, which really made my day. ^_^

I spent pretty much all of today out grabbing some last-minute host family gifts and other miscellaneous things for my trip. I've got everything that I need, and at this point I'd say I'm all packed and ready to go.
It honestly has not felt real until today that I was leaving at all. After a very stressful few weeks leading up to finals, all my energy and concentration was preoccupied with studying and ensuring the highest grades possible in all my pesky classes, and so I had little time to think about my upcoming departure.
Even the days following finals have been full of activity. Two days ago, I had a birthday party with five of my closest friends to belatedly celebrate my 18th birthday back on June 2, which was great fun, and then yesterday I went to my Sardinian AFSer friend Francesca's graduation party in Pinckney (a town a little ways away from Ann Arbor).

And now I am just about as ready as I can be, thinking about the plane that I will board in a little less than ten hours that will carry me away on the next greatest adventure of my young life.
I am undeniably much less prepared this time. I categorize my Turkish as being a step up from nonexistent, but overall pretty pathetic. I know so little of it, and that's more than a little scary. Overall I'm very nervous. But I'm mostly just excited. I'm excited to meet my host family. I'm excited to see Istanbul before we head on to Bursa. I'm excited to blunder through the numerous linguistic screw-ups that are bound to ensue from learning such a different and complicated language. I am excited to taste Turkish food. I am excited to feel my Turkish get better day by day. I am excited to befriend all the other NSLI-Yers. I am excited to be able to throw myself headfirst into another experience in a completely new country.
It's kind of ironic, considering that I ended up connecting in the Istanbul Airport so spontaneously and unexpectedly on my way to Egypt when there was a strike in the Frankfurt Airport (where we were originally supposed to connect; AFS subsequently rerouted us to connect in Istanbul), and this time, Istanbul (or Turkey in general, at any rate) is where I'm destined to go.

All I can say is, I'll do my best to write up a post while I'm in DC. Thank you guys so much for following my adventures. Here's to the next one. I'll see you all on the other side.


(^ A relevant song. I reckon I've been taking quite a few chances lately; like going to Egypt for a year with AFS, coming back to my school, throughout the school year, by applying to NSLI-Y, and by choosing to embark on this new adventure, and in preparing for the next years of my life. Don't judge the fact that I've posted the Glee version. xP)

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