I have been out of the country for the past six months and now am finally back in the states – in Salem, Oregon – to a life which has been so familiar to me for the past 14 years.
I have had some remarkable experiences beginning with my orchestra tour to Canada, followed by a family vacation in Europe, and most recently my study abroad adventures in Mexico. Last year at this time, my plans all seemed so foreign and far away (no pun intended); however, I look back now, and it feels as though these past six months have occurred in about 10 minutes.
Canada was a dream trip because I was able to play under Mr. Nelson’s direction again. It’s so easy to take for granted and lose appreciation for what you have, when you have this this/person/group/etc. on a daily basis. I didn’t realize how much I valued Mr. Nelson, his orchestra, and my fellow musicians until I graduated from Sprague and no longer had all of these things and people as part of my daily life. The trip was beautiful, and it was nice to have one last experience with these people after I could truly appreciate the uniqueness and special place this group has in my heart.
Europe with my family was also an amazing trip. As we all have become busier and busier with work and school, we sadly have less time for each other. This trip brought us closer and allowed us to appreciate one another. Out of everything we did and saw in Greece, Italy, and England – hands down the best part of the trip was seeing my Greek family. I have not seen them since I was five and as I have grown older, I have continued to appreciate the importance and value of family. I really hope that someday in the near future I will be able to return to Greece to visit everyone again. Also, I know I don’t have much time, but I would love to begin Greek lessons so that I am able to communicate with my family.
Athens was absolutely beautiful, the islands were breathtaking, the historical sites were unreal, and Italian coast was more than I could have ever expected. The month flew by, but looking back – it was one of the best months of my life and I am so grateful that my parents were willing and able to take my sister and me along for this beautiful experience.
Last but not least – Mexico. Where do I even begin? I suppose I can begin with saying my time in Mexico on the Queretaro program was more than I ever could have expected or dreamed. Everything seemed so surreal going into the program – I don’t think it really hit any of us that we would be in Mexico for four months until we boarded the airplane in Los Angeles and realized that the majority of the other passengers were Mexican, and everything was in Spanish. At this point everything seemed like such a blur: the plane ride to Mexico City, finding a bus to Queretaro, calling my host family at the bus station (and not having any idea what to say or really not understanding what Maru was telling me on the phone), sitting in my room on the very first day, thinking to myself that I was in a complete strange Mexican family’s house which I would be occupying for the following 16 weeks…
However, now I am back & Queretaro seems like home. My host family was amazing – more than I could have ever hoped for, I knew my way around campus, downtown & I could easily negotiate the crazy bus system. Although I am nowhere near fluent, I felt quite comfortable with my Spanish. I was comfortable with getting on a bus and taking a weekend trip to another Mexican city. I could understand mostly everything being said around me and I was in love with the city. I made some amazing friendship with other Mexican students who I know will be lifelong friends.
Most of all, when in Mexico, the most surprising and amazing change which happened was I gained a new family and 14 new best friends. During our orientation, I never would have guessed that our group would have become so close. In fact, I thought the opposite. I was certain I would not get along with the majority of the people in my group or Christine for that matter. We were all so different!
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I love each and every person in our group, and I feel safe to say that this feeling is mutual. We were each other’s everything for four months because unlike here, we really didn’t have another other friendships, responsibilities, jobs, etc., We had each other y ya! I saw each and every one of these people day in and day out, at school, downtown, at nights and during excursions. We cooked, danced, laughed, cried, vomited (gross, but true) traveled…you name it and we did it together. I never would have imagined in a million years how much I care for these people and what a strong bond I feel with them.
It’s hard to describe my experiences in Mexico, and although I can talk about my time abroad, I know no one will really understand the true impact Mexico has had on me or the sentiments I feel towards my experience.
Of course I am excited to see my family and friends back here, but it feels very strange to be home. It feels as though nothing has changed, even though I know so much has! Mexico just seems like a dream to me – a vivid dream – but it’s hard to believe that less than a week ago I was living in beautiful sunny Queretaro, Mexico and now here I am, back in Salem, Oregon, preparing for another term at the U of O.
All in all, I have had the most amazing and memorable six months of my life. All of my experiences have completely opened my eyes. I have learned that all too often, we get caught up in our day to day rituals and forget that there is so much more that the world has to offer.
As I am back in Salem until I move to Eugene in January, I am getting anxious to take off again, to experience another part of the world I have yet to see! I am hoping to find an internship or study program in another country for summer 2008. The travel bug as definitely bit and I cannot wait for another adventure!