Sunday, July 3, 2016

The rest of 2016 so far

Hey guys!
I'm glad I was finally able to talk about the incredible experience that was my first return to my beloved host country of Turkey. Obviously it's been a while since then though, and unsurprisingly a fair amount of things have happened in the six months that have passed since my return (good grief, has it really been that long?! Yikes…). Today I'll finally catch us up to the present of what's been going down in my life the past couple of months.

1. Second semester at Beloit 
At the end of my magical eighteen-day Turkish odyssey, I returned straight to the campus of Beloit College to start my second semester of my freshman year the very next day. Overall the second semester was pretty good. Some of my classes, namely Russian language and culture, as well as guitar lessons, were fantastic, wonderful, and pretty much everything I had been looking forward to and more. Others, such as Hungarian and Central Asian History, which I had also looked quite forward to, unfortunately turned out to be letdowns in a lot of ways. Everything considered, I'm satisfied with what I learned and gained academically. I also was able to streamline my academic plans a bit further, by declaring a double major in Russian and international relations with a minor in Spanish on the day of spring advising practicum! 
On a day to day basis, things started to get kind of monotonous after a time. I credit this partially to the long and cold winter (even as someone who loves it), and also partially to the fact that the novelty of being at college had worn off in comparison to the first semester. Nevertheless, I bonded and grew even closer to most of the friends I had made the previous semester, and had a lot of fun and fulfilling experiences. Though I'm grateful for the long summer break to get away from it all for a while, I am looking forward to my return in the fall. My classes are mostly exciting, I'll be living in the Russian special interest House, I'll be beginning my plans and applications to study abroad my junior year, it'll be nice.
Sunset in Riverside Park near campus.

We get some lovely sunsets in southern Wisconsin.

What my dorm looked like by the end of the year.

A frozen river I crossed.

One of the most noteworthy experiences I had during the semester was a chance to attend the Midwestern Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC), an annual conference of collegiate queer organizations of Midwestern colleges and universities which this year was hosted at Purdue University in Indiana. I was among a group of people from Beloit's Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) which was able to go for the weekend, and attend a number of interesting panels on various issues relating to different queer experiences and identities. My personal favorites were the ones I attended on Native American two-spirit gender identities and queer terminology in American Sign Language. A great experience overall. 

3. Spring break at home
As good as things were on campus for the most part, I can't deny I was happy for our ten-day spring break. About two weeks after MBLGTACC, I headed back to Ann Arbor to spend my spring break at home, and it was fantastic. A bout of much-needed rest and relaxation, watching movies and The Simpsons until atrocious hours of the early morning with my cat on my lap. I didn't get to see many of my friends, as most were out of town or not on break at the time. But I was able to meet up and have some fun with those who were, conversely. 

4. Summer
The rest of the semester passed uneventfully enough, and even with surprising speed, I must say. Classes were over by the beginning of May, and as finals week was in full swing, friends began to leave campus and head home for the summer. I had only two actual final exams to take, but unfortunately one of them wasn't until the second to last day, so I had to wait pretty much right through the end. On May 10, my mom very graciously came to campus to help me move out of my dorm and put my things in storage in the basement of the Russian House, where I'll be living in the fall. The next day, once everything was put away, turned in, and we had lunch at Bushel and Peck's, one of the main restaurants in Beloit's tiny downtown area, we headed home and were back in Ann Arbor in time for dinner.
I won't lie, this summer so far has been quite boring. With such a long time before I would be doing anything or going anywhere, I tried to find a job, and even interviewed for a few. But none of those leads ever went anywhere. Many of my friends have been either out of town or extremely busy with summer classes, so I've been left with little to do with myself. I've been trying to make the best of it by reading for pleasure again as much as possible (something I had little time for during the school year), watching movies, and catching up on my favorite TV shows (#TheFosters, whaddup), and - dare I say it? - I've been writing a fanfiction. Even so, there have undeniably been long periods of extreme boredom and restlessness.
I don't fear as much for what's left of the summer though. Friends are getting back to town or less busy soon, I'm going to be volunteering at the Bird Rescue Center of Washtenaw County a few times a week, and hopefully trying to do some volunteer work for the AFS chapter in my area as well. 

5. St Louis
So as I've probably mentioned before, my family is going to be moving to St. Louis, Missouri. Originally we were supposed to move in mid-June, but the move got postponed until the first days of August. I was happy for the chance to calmly experience one last Michigan summer, but this is part of the reason I've been left with little to do.
However, I was fortunately able to make a trip out of it, and go visit my dad there for a week! I had only been there once before when my family met up there last Thanksgiving, and at that time I was only on the ground for about two days when everything was closed for the holidays, so I don't feel like I got a solid impression of the place. This last visit gave me a chance to thoroughly change that.
I really liked it overall. We spent a lot of time in Forest Park and the main sights thereabouts (the Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, etc), as well as some of the main downtown sights like the Gateway Arch and the Courthouse, as well as ample time strolling about through the delicious restaurants and neat stores of trendy neighborhoods like the Central West End and Tower Grove. We ate at some delicious restaurants, such as Sameem (Afghan), Grbic (Bosnian), Pho Grand (Vietnamese), and of course returned to Aya Sofia, home to what I retain is the best Turkish food I've eaten outside of Turkey. 
I also got a chance to meet up with one of my closest friends from Beloit, Abby, who is from the St. Louis area, on her home turf. One day we hung out and had some true St. Louis pizza at an Imo's, and then we also went to St. Louis Pride together, which was a delightful experience of queer solidarity and celebration in all its rainbowed glory. 
St. Louis is a wonderful city, and though I'm somewhat apprehensive about leaving the only home I've ever permanently known here in Ann Arbor, I do look forward to living in St. Louis and exploring it further with my family in the months and years to come.

6. Iceland
I was selected as part of a group of people in my freshman class to receive a Field Experience Grant from Beloit, a grant which we were to use to set up and carry out a project over this summer. I had a number of applications to different programs and ideas as to how I could use mine, but I ended up using mine to attend and participate in an Icelandic language and culture immersion program at the University Center of the Westfjords, just outside of Ísafjörður, Iceland. My program is from August 1-20, but I will be spending four days before the program and an overnight after it ends in the capital city, Reykjavik. All in all, I will be in the country from July 28 to August 21. I cannot even begin to explain the excitement I feel. I've dreamed of visiting Iceland and learning its beautiful and unique language for so many years, and in just a few short weeks, that dream will become reality before my eyes as I step off my Icelandair flight from O'Hare at Keflavik. Ég er tilbúinn til að koma.
As such, expect a potential Icelandic-themed makeover to temporarily take hold over this blog quite soon.
I will keep you all updated with the details as time goes on.

Enjoy a favorite Icelandic song of mine! It's called "Lifið er yndislegt" - "life is wonderful."

Also, in honor of my one semester of Hungarian, enjoy some good Hungarian music too!


In the meantime, take care of yourselves, dear readers. Learn something. Do something that makes you happy. Treat yoself. And take good care.

Good vibes always,

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