New year, same inconsistent updates

Hello! I bet you thought I’d forgotten about this little blog, didn’t you? Well, in all honesty, it hasn’t quite been the top of my priority list in recent months. College apps, my senior paper, show rehearsals, a cappella rehearsals, homework, and gap year apps (plus unimportant things like, you know, eating and sleeping) have been locked in a fierce battle for my attention since returning from Europe in August. I would complain about how busy I’ve been, but I cannot seeing as it is entirely my fault and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before I move on to some life updates (only those pertaining to travel, of course. I would never dare to bore you with the rest of it), apologies are in order. The promised blog about our ten wonderful days in Italy was, in fact, never written. I started it several times, but did not succeed in completing it due to my inability to remain awake during any of our train trips. At the time, I chalked it up to the long days spent walking down cobblestone streets and eating pizza — sounds taxing, I know — but in September my doctor informed me that I had actually been suffering from mono. Woohoo! If you don’t know, mono is an illness that leaves you exhausted no matter how much sleep you get. 0/10: Would not recommend. Following that diagnosis, the endless fatigue I had felt while in St. Wendel suddenly made a lot more sense and I forgave myself for the missing blog entry. While there won’t be anything in writing documenting the end of our trip, there’s an album on my Facebook page titled “Summer Travels 2016” that’s filled with photos, if you’re interested. 

On to happier subjects! Despite having not left Oregon since returning from Europe (with the exception of one 24-hour trip to Virginia for a college interview), I’ve managed to have some pretty wonderful internationally-focused experiences. The first was volunteering with AFS-USA at the Arrival Orientation for this year’s Oregon exchange students. Over the course of three days we welcomed students from Japan, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Thailand, Spain, and more to the U.S. and their new American lives. Every part of it was fantastic, but the highlight was definitely watching them meet their host families for the first time. Everyone, students and families alike, was so nervous and excited. It brought me back to meeting Mona for the first time and all of the crazy emotions that entailed. This year, we were once again among those families meeting their students, though not in the same way as everyone else. We were a Welcome Family for Miki from Japan from August to mid-November, at which point she moved in with her permanent family. The experience came with many challenges, but overall she was lovely to have around and I’m glad we could offer her a warm welcome to the U.S.

In October, I volunteered at the Post-Arrival Orientation for my AFS region. It was an awesome opportunity to reconnect with the students I met in August, and have a lot of fun. The camaraderie and connection within AFS is absolutely beautiful; there’s truly nothing else like it.

As previously stated, I like to keep myself busy. Choosing to ignore the reality that we don’t actually have time to add more activities to our schedules, Natalie and I founded a Cultural Connections Club at our school this year. It aims to make SEHS exchange students feel more at home in our community by connecting them with people they may not have otherwise met through lunch meetings and fun activities. Unfortunately, we’ve only had two meetings so far, but they were great and, with any luck, we’ll have more in the future. I knew going in that this would be difficult to maintain, but I see potential in this organization. Ideally, we’ll lay a strong enough foundation for it to be passed on to next year’s students.*

*If you got the Hamilton reference in that sentence, like this post and comment below :) Also, be my best friend.

A large part of being a senior is figuring out what the heck you’re going to do after graduation. For me, that question is made even more complicated as I have both colleges and gap year programs to choose and apply for! As far as gap year, I’ve already received a polite rejection from the NSLI-Y study abroad scholarship and am now waiting to schedule an interview for the YES Abroad scholarship. YES Abroad is a program through the U.S. State Department that sends 65 students per year to countries with high Muslim populations (there are 13 possibilities). It would be an amazing opportunity — wish me luck! I’ll hear a final decision on that sometime in March, most likely. If I don’t get it, I will either do a community service program in Paraguay with AFS or a university program in Chile with YFU. I’m unbelievably grateful to have so many incredible options, as well as wonderful parents who are encouraging me following this dream. 

While I’m incredibly excited to see where the future will take me, leaving Oregon is going to be bittersweet. I’ve been trying my best to appreciate all of the amazing people in my life, and enjoy all that my hometown has to offer. It’s been a good policy so far; I’ve had a wonderful year. So, while change and the unknown loom on the horizon, it’s been comforting to swaddle myself in home for a bit. As such, I expect you won’t hear from me again until I know the verdict from YES Abroad! But who knows? Anything could happen.

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement of this blog — it truly means the world to me! There are lots of great things in store and I can’t wait to share them all with you. Until next time, goodbye!

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