Without a professor requiring weekly posts, my blog has clearly languished. My life at OU, however, has not. Since last writing in November, college has taken off, and I now feel comfortable calling Oklahoma home.
I originally intended to spend my first collegiate summer relaxing back in my hometown. After months away from family, friends, and the splendors of rural Wisconsin, I figured such a respite would be welcome. Christmas break, however, caused me to reevaluate this plan. Working at the local gas station thirty hours a week and coming home to my parents every evening quickly became maddening. It turns out that the constant stimulation and stress of school is difficult to leave behind, and I knew that I couldn’t pass my summer in a similar fashion to my winter.
After returning to school in January, I began looking for both an internship and a possible study abroad program. I ended up finding both. Thanks to some maternal nagging and a last-minute email from the Honors College, I spent June studying in France and July and August interning for Paul Ryan. How ridiculous my notion of a quiet summer now seems!
Since childhood, I have struggled with transitions. I have vivid memories of signing up for summer camp with gusto, looking forward to living in cabins in the Michigan wilderness in a few months, only to be hit with crippling dread as my departure loomed closer. Looking forward to an experience often seems to provide more satisfaction than the experience itself (are you surprised that I hate surprise parties?), so I always fear that events won’t live up to the idea that I’ve built up in my head. Often, they don’t; they turn out so differently than I’d imagined that my visions are neither fulfilled nor disappointed.
Packing for France was an anxious experience. While the first two weeks of summer that I’d passed at home had been far from satisfying, there is safety in the known, safety in remaining exactly where you are. As I purchased travel-size shampoo, I worried that I would somehow manage to find Europe disappointing, that I would spend a stressful and unsatisfying month abroad when I could be home making money and wasting excessive amounts of time with friends from high school. What if I were in Paris, longing for Jefferson?
Just as my middle school worries about summer camp never came to fruition, I found all my fears about studying abroad to be ludicrous basically as soon as the program began. Transitions are indeed difficult; staying in Jefferson would have been easier (and a heck of a lot cheaper) than going to France. But the difficulties that living in a foreign country causes turned out to be invigorating and instructive, and I’m satisfied to say my month in Europe was easily the happiest month of my life.