I’ve always been adventurous, independent, and craved trying new things. I think it was sort of drilled into me by my parents. My parents always pushed me to do new things, like where we travelled as a family. While many of my classmates spent breaks going to Florida every year, my family almost always went somewhere different, which means I’ve travelled to 33 states (it’ll be 35 by the end of the summer).
I can’t remember a time where I said no to something because I didn’t know anyone going. I’ve always been more afraid of missing out on an experience rather than the social anxiety that came with it. I’m the type of person that’s good at making big decisions, but bad at making small ones, like picking a seat in the movie theater gives me more anxiety than deciding what to do with my summer.
I’ll be honest, writing this week’s blog has been tough. I’m on my 7th revision and 3rd title. The reason for that is camp. I went to sleep away camp for 8 years and that sleep away camp kicked off their summer this week. On Tuesday, many of my friends had campers arriving and on Wednesday, my brother left for a 5 week cross country trip to the west coast through camp (I did it 5 years ago). I’ve been seeing pictures on Facebook and to be honest I’ve been a little jealous that they’re hanging out with kids, outside, while I’m stuck working at a desk 4 days a week.
Here’s the thing, the reason I’ve pushed that jealousy aside is that I left my comfort zone of camp 5 years ago and I’ve learned so much since. I loved my time at camp, but it became my comfort zone. The place that’s supposed to push kids out of their comfort zone simply becomes one. I look back at the pictures and see the same friend groups that existed when we were campers and the stagnant activities, that’s because camp doesn’t change. Wednesday lunch will always be grilled cheese and tomato soup, color war will always be the same day as senior skip day, and the clinic will always have popsicles.
Now I know that while my summer is not the same as those friends, I have been, and will continue to have, different and new experiences. After spending 4 weeks at an unpaid internship I can honestly say that the value of an experience can heavily outweigh the value of money. This summer I have travelled to 3 continents and 12 countries (so far, it’ll be 17 by the end of the summer). Being able to travel where I want (okay, not Belarus), experiencing new cultures, and seeing history and art in person is priceless.
I’ve had to push myself this summer. I’ve never really been homesick before, but after 2 months away, knowing I have another month and a half ahead of me, I miss my family a lot. I’ve had to adapt to situations that I’ve never had to deal with before like not being let into a country at 2am or having my AirBnB cancel on me 10 days before I arrived in Warsaw. I’ve spent days exhausted due to travelling at inconvenient times, because that’s what was cheapest.
I’m also looking forward to my next job interview (shocking right?) because I know that when I hand over my resume the interviewer will ask about my time working for the Fulbright Commission in Warsaw, Poland. I’m excited to explain that I had the opportunity to travel, work, and live in a foreign country. I’ll be able to grin as I explain my ability to adapt to situations on the fly (like not being able to get into Belarus), how my communication skills are top notch (if you can explain how you want your eyebrows waxed to someone who doesn’t speak English and walk out okay, you can pretty much tackle anything), and that I can be held accountable (having spent 3 summers working in offices where people are relying on you, hits that home pretty hard).
I’m also looking forward to when they ask a fan favorite question: Tell me about yourself? I know a lot of people who panic at that question, but I’ve got a pretty good grasp on who I am. I know that I love travelling because I get to experience new cultures, learn about history, and that I believe there is always more learning to do. I know that I don’t want to sit behind a desk all day because I’ve done it and I know I work best in an active, team environment that requires critical thinking.
I did my learning at camp and honestly I left when I thought there was nothing else to learn, but I’ve learned so much this summer. So, here’s a list of things I’ve learned just this week:
- I learned how to use a photo editing program similar to photoshop to make sure all the grantee headshots were the same size for the website and then I cut them into circles for the map I was creating.
- I taught myself how to make the pictures in line with the text (I’ll admit despite being a CS minor I’m actually really bad with technology), so you can see that in this blog!
- I learned how to change the pins on a google map to be the circle versions of the grantees (putting that photo editing to good use) and include their names next to the location on the map where they’ll be working. (The page is now live so if you want to see my handiwork feel free to check it out: http://en.fulbright.edu.pl/2017-18-american-grantees/).
- I learned how to bike in Europe. (it’s very different than in the U.S. There are these bike stands all over the city and the first 20 minutes of riding is free and then only 25 cents for a full hour. I started biking and realized since there was no bike lane I didn’t know if I should bike on the sidewalk or on the road, eventually I saw other people biking and followed their lead. The answer is it sort of depends on where you are and how busy the road is).
- I learned to accept the merits of biking. (I’ll be honest it’s been a very long time since I’ve ridden a bike and I’ll be the first to complain about the bikers in Ann Arbor, as both a pedestrian and a driver).
I have learned that even if the weather report says no rain there’s still a 50/50 chance that I’ll end my day at least a little bit wet. I’ve been carrying my raincoat with me and I’ve ditched my flats for slip ons that are much more waterproof.
- I’ve learned the benefits of eating at counter service places. (This is great because the food is usually cheaper and I can eat faster, not having to wait for a check, so I’ve been taking some time to explore the shops on Nowy Swait, the main shopping area closest to my office).
- The drop off for flights at Chopin Airport in Warsaw is called the Kiss and Fly
- You can go from EU country to EU country without anyone checking your ID (You can check in at a kiosk which doesn’t require an ID, to get into security you scan your ticket, and to get on the plane it’s the same thing. There’s also no passport checks if you’re traveling in Schengen zone).
- If you arrive at the opera in Vienna 2 hours before the start of the show time you can buy standing tickets for 3 euros. (Matt and I saw Pelléas et Mélisande, a French opera, the last one of the season).
- It is well worthwhile to spend the 17 euros to go to the Belvedere and see the artwork there including a lot of Gustav Klimt’s work, including The Kiss.
- Wiener Schnitzel is delicious.
- There is a time where there are no cons to seeing George Michael: Live in London at a film festival.
If, a few months ago, you had told me that I’d be able to travel to another country for a quick weekend trip, that I’d be able to see an Opera live in Vienna, that I’d be getting to see works of art that are famous world wide, I probably would have called you crazy. Now, more than halfway into my summer I know that this will be a summer that will be hard to top and I love it.