Next Chapter: The Concrete Jungle

Tomorrow, I move to New York City. Ever since I was twelve years old gazing at the lights in Times Square, I’ve known I wanted to go back to the Big Apple someday. In high school, I even dreamed up a plan to move there with two of my best friends. Although that may not be happening (yet), I decided there was no better time to go on my own than when I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my scary, adult-ish, post-college life. If I can just postpone real adulthood a little longer, I’ll be happy.

I am lucky enough to have a summer internship at Sumpto, an online marketing and brand insights platform targeting college students, and a part-time internship at Firelight Introductions, a unique (soon-to-be-launched) app focused on letting friends play matchmaker. I found two great opportunities that I feel are perfect for me at this time in my life. And I feel so grateful for that. In the middle of the panic and stress of senior year in college when everyone seems to know what they’re doing but yourself, I finally found what I was supposed to do. Whether it’s to further define my career goals or to just to do something I’ve always wanted to do, I’m supposed to be there this summer. But being sure about that doesn’t make it easy.

Wedding

In fact, leaving home is harder than it’s ever been. Not only did Charles get a pug puppy that I’m now extremely attached to…but there are also weddings, music festivals, concerts, lake weekends, and birthdays with friends and family I’m giving up.

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And I’m more intimidated than ever. I’ve traveled and been away from home for a while, sure, but I’ve never done it completely alone. I’m going to be living and working with people I’ve never met before – and that’s new for me. When you add the fact that I’ve never lived anywhere but the South…well, let’s just say this will be interesting.

But see, even though I’m having more trouble leaving and I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been, I also can’t wait. I’ve always imagined doing this. Who knows if it will look anything like my amazing, Sex-and-the-City-fabulous, big-city life dream version of it? No matter what, I know it’s about to be another great adventure and I’ll look back so happy that I did it. Keep an eye out for my NYC Bucket List, coming soon. I challenge everyone to do something they’ve always wanted to do – big or small. Don’t look back and wish you had.

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Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation – the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks…these are merely a natural phenomenon…

To decide what is the best use of it, you must ask what use the Enemy [God] wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To [Satan] a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He [God] wants servants who can finally become sons…We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over…He wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

…The creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is willing to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws…at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best…[God] cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.”

I’ve been reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which my boyfriend Charles bought me. The book consists of letters written from Screwtape, an “assistant” of Satan, to his nephew Wormwood. This passage in particular stuck out to me as I was reading. Wormwood happily tells his uncle that he thinks his current human he’s working on tempting is falling away from his “religious phase” and Screwtape informs his naive nephew of the law of Undulation – the idea that humans are only constant in that they are always going through change. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually we are always changing – I don’t know many people who could disagree.
We have highs and lows, peaks and troughs in all areas of our lives including our spiritual lives and relationships with God. Sometimes you just feel like you’re doing better, like you’re obeying better, like you’re sinning less, and feeling especially close to Him. Sometimes you feel lower than ever, like you mess up at every turn and you can even begin to doubt your worth as a follower of Christ.

This passage offers hope. God will eventually let go of you somewhat and let you walk on your own and take the reigns in your spiritual walk with Him. It is not in His nature to force His will upon you. When you go through “dry” periods or “trough” periods and still hold on to His promises and His love, you are becoming the person He wants you to be. If He takes his hand away and you freely, willfully follow Him, no matter how hard it is for you, no matter how much you might struggle, no matter how many times you stumble and fall and no matter how far you feel from Him, He is pleased with you. He loves you and He will not abandon or forsake you. A great reminder from a great author.

What I Wish I’d Known Four Years Ago

I’ve reached that depressing, tragic moment at which my college experience is nearing an end. No sarcasm – it really is tragic. Sometimes I think the best way to cope is to think of all the silly mistakes I’ve made and how far I’ve come since I was that magical thing called a freshman. Maybe some of you #blessed freshmen or soon-to-be freshmen can also take something away from this.

1. Freshman year is different. Everything is new and exciting your first year in college. You make a new friend about every other day and, conveniently, you don’t have the toughest class schedule so you actually have time to hang out with those friends. The next few years will not be like that and I had no idea how easy and carefree it was until it was over. 

I specifically remember going home for Christmas break freshman year and realizing just how much I LOVED college and Fayetteville and could not wait to go back. Although I always loved college, I never really got that feeling again when I went back home for breaks – instead, I was relieved to have a break from the stress, homework and teachers. With that being said, I wish I’d kept in mind that…

2. Freshman year does end. It will seem like it is never going to end but it will, and faster than you’re prepared for it to. I know it’s kind of an obvious tip but: Take in everything and try to really make the most of it. It is the only time you will be brand new on campus and everyone will be obsessed with 1) meeting new people, 2) turning those people into best friends and 3) trying new things every week. So don’t fall for that feeling that it won’t end.

Also, about those friends you make: You may not realize it when these relationships are just beginning but some of the people you meet in college are likely going to be friends you have the rest of your life. It might be corny but it is also true…they are likely going to be in your wedding party. Or at least will be attending your wedding. Or celebrating your first child with you. Or living in a house or apartment with you. Don’t let those friendships slip away.

3. Spoiler alert: this will not be a fun one. Thinking about your major and long-term goals early on is really important. A lot of people say you have no reason to worry too much about what major to choose or what your career goals are when you’re only a freshman. But if you don’t worry at least a little bit about what you want to do, you could end up wasting time (and money) on classes that won’t help you with your future. Put thought into your major freshman year and avoid worrying about it later.

4. Studying abroad is probably not something you’ll think about immediately, but anyone that can do it SHOULD do it. I never thought I would study abroad and it ended up being one of the best decisions of my years in college. Do it as soon as you can. You’ll never have another time in your life when you can get a scholarship or financial aid to TRAVEL and see the world. It is intimidating but it is more than worth it.

5. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is a great way to find out what you’re capable of doing. This will mean something different for everyone. Whatever that might mean for you, do it. Join a sorority/fraternity. Most of my greatest memories in college are with people I met in Kappa Delta. Become president of a club even if you’ve never done anything like it. Try something new. Get plugged into a local church or bible study, go to a yoga class, join an intramural sports team. Be willing to meet new people and be open to strengthening those relationships. I wish I’d learned this lesson a lot earlier.

With that being said, don’t let any one thing define you. No matter what you are involved in, it is important to remember life is bigger than all of it. Don’t underestimate or limit yourself.

6. Get over your FOMO. Although going out is something you shouldn’t miss, staying in can make for the best nights. We all experience FOMO (fear of missing out) at some point during college and for some people it is every weekend. But trust me, your closest moments with your new or old friends will come on those nights you decide to stay in and watch a movie or play a game or just sit around and challenge each other at Quizup. Don’t be afraid to miss out every once in a while.

7. Care about your grades. It’ll make life easier later on if you take advantage of your easiest classes and don’t let your GPA slip your first year. Plus, if you seriously try to ace the tests the whole semester, you won’t be scrambling at the end of the semester to figure out what you have to make on the final for an A in the class.

Tip: Learn how to prioritize your interests. Budget your time and learn how to keep your grades up and not let your social life suffer. You will not look back and remember the nights you stayed in and studied when you could have been hanging out with everyone. But you (and your GPA) will regret it if you go out every night and never do your homework. Find a balance.

8. Don’t take things too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. Laugh about the bad decisions, laugh about the good times. Just laugh and try not to let the small things ruin the best time of your life.

Another tip: If there is EVER a Harry Potter-themed trivia night...GO.
Another tip: If there is EVER a Harry Potter-themed trivia night…GO.

9. Learn how to budget your $$$$ and not blow it all in a semester on Chick-fil-A or other real food that you’ll miss when you eat at the dining halls.

Tip: Find student discounts. THERE ARE TONS. Businesses love college students because you bring in business by traveling in packs of 15-20 constantly. Take advantage of it.

10. Buy rain boots and a rain jacket. You will have class even if it is raining. And it sucks to be that person in flip-flops who falls or just looks like a mess.

Take a rain jacket or you’ll have to leave bars in a plastic bag

11.  Know your living situation early on. Don’t put this off too long or you’ll be stressed and (possibly) stranded.

12. Get to know your teachers. When you need a thesis advisor or a letter of recommendation from someone, you will need connections with your teachers. And some of them are actually pretty cool. Plus, a teacher that knows you is much more likely to help you out when your grades are struggling.

13. Don’t get a job freshman year, if you can avoid it. You will have the most free time in college your first year. Use that time for friends, class and other things that will go away.

14. Take a trip with your friends. Whether it is spring break or a ski trip or going to NOLA when your team makes it to the Sugar Bowl, taking a trip will create more unforgettable memories and friendships. Don’t just talk about it. Make it happen.

15. Be a good roommate. Make ground rules. Don’t be inconsiderate. If there are irreconcilable differences, you can technically get a roommate divorce and move on. But sometimes all you need to do is talk and things can easily be fixed.

16. Don’t be afraid to branch out from high school friends. Make new friends while you keep up with the old ones. Some high school friends you’ll just naturally grow apart from. But if you stay home every night to Skype them or your parents, you’ll be missing out on the new friends and experiences you can have.

17. Live around a lot of people as long as you can. I lived in my sorority house one year and I realized later I should have stayed there as long as I could. I was too excited about getting a real place. Of course, living in a house has its perks too and I loved it. But there is nothing quite like living in a place where you can just walk down the hall to a room full of friends and go do something fun. Or just go downstairs and watch TV. So whether it is a sorority house or a dorm or an apartment, live there as long as you can.

Inspired by Miley Cyrus. This is our house. These are our friends.
Inspired by Miley Cyrus. This is our house. These are our friends.

18. Take random classes you’ll never need but you find interesting. Some of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken had nothing to do with what I actually needed to learn. And trust me, there are so many options. Examples: I didn’t take it, but the U of A offers a course all about Harry Potter. And I know for a fact a college in the U.S. is starting a class about Beyoncé. What more do I need to say?

19. It will be the best four-year minute ever. Sure, it’s not all Beyoncé and butterflies. It can be tough sometimes. But trust me, when you look back on the past few years and then look ahead to what’s in store (getting a job, paying taxes, whatever), you’ll see just how good you really have it.

College is basically an extension of your pre-adulthood period. So you’re bound to miss it. And don’t act like a real adult until you actually have to.

But…

20. Don’t be afraid of getting older. If you constantly look backward wishing you could turn back time, you won’t enjoy what you’re being blessed with this very moment. This is something I still need to tell myself every day. Sometimes all you need is to embrace the maturity and the different kinds of fun and excitement that come with “growing up”. Do what you want. Don’t force anything. Stay in and watch Gossip Girl on Netflix with your roommates. Take a spontaneous road trip. Figure out what you want to do with your life. Travel Europe. Whatever it is, just don’t think twice before you jump in and give it your all.

As I’ve gotten older and tried new things, I’ve come to believe that you really can do anything you want if you are willing to try hard enough and if you are able to let go of your fears. So don’t limit yourself by thinking otherwise. New can be exciting. After your freshman year has passed, don’t be sad you aren’t a freshman anymore or that you’re about to graduate.Be excited for what is next! Maybe it won’t be more exciting. Maybe you won’t make as many friends. Maybe you won’t eat awful dining hall food or share a dorm bathroom with a ton of people. But you never know…it could be even better.
So don’t be afraid of college ending. There is more out there. But don’t let these four short years get away from you without some great memories.

Social Media Decision-Making: I Don’t Care What You Think I Should Do In my 20’s

I think we’ve all noticed a trend of viral blog posts containing the words “What Every Twenty-Something Must _____ Before They _____” or “Why You Shouldn’t Get Married Before ____”…I could go on. In fact, if I see the phrase “Twenty-Something” again, I might go crazy.

The pervasiveness of social media has made us all hyper-sensitive to how others feel we should live our lives. Of course, caring what other people think or worrying about societal norms is nothing new. But these expectations and, sometimes, entirely opinionated pieces are now being sent to our phones or invading our Facebook newsfeed which we just happen to check every day or every hour – can we go one day without seeing what someone else thinks we should look like, do or not do, wear or not wear?

Here’s the problem: it is what someone else thinks you should do/wear/believe and this will never please everyone and often won’t even please you for the right reasons. You cannot make everyone happy. For every post about why you shouldn’t get married in your early twenties, you will see five more from the opposite side of the debate vouching for why you should of course get married and have kids young.

When it all comes down to it, who do you listen to? Whose is the most legitimate opinion?

The problem is relying on the opinions of others instead of forming your own. The fact that we see these expectations so often and in so many places can make you rely on others for your ideas of who you are, how you should behave, what political or religious views you should hold, and other important life decisions.

I am a Christian and my faith is the most important part of my life, but I do not believe the best way for someone to make a decision about their faith is to be told that it is what they should do or believe by society, by friends, or by a post shared on Facebook a million times. I think sharing your faith with others is great. But I think the decision of faith is something that should be extensively explored and researched by an individual and should hold a personal, intimate place in a person’s life. That feeling is not something that can be created in a virtual world. It has to be found in the real world without a reliance on others.

The same goes for marriage. There is no one out there who should be telling you when you should or shouldn’t get married except for you. This is a decision that should involve personal reflection and consideration and that is something lacking in our decision making skills these days.

Let’s step it up, guys.

When you put real thought into your decisions that do not involve the opinions of others and come to a conclusion on your own, those decisions will hold a more honest, relevant and personal place in your identity. You can truly say you are your own person making your own decisions and you can live without regrets.

What we should really spend more time doing is not arguing about which path is “correct” or why “ours” is better than “theirs” but instead how to better achieve what we believe is right for us. We should learn to leave our computers/phones in the background of our lives and find how to live outside of our virtual societies of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and those expectations. We should stop putting so much thought into what we must do by a certain age and start really living and enjoying what this age has to offer. You can do just about anything at any age if you want to and are willing to work hard enough to make it happen. 

I am not trying to argue that everything is relative or depends on the person. Good advice for people in different life stages is always welcome and can be helpful, that’s obvious. My main point is that you sometimes need to take a step away from social-media-decision-making and explore things on your own, especially when it comes to making more important life decisions. I also think there is a difference between articles simply sharing an opinion, giving advice or sharing stories and articles that claim that one way of life is the wrong way or the right way. Read as many articles and opinion pieces as you want, by all means. But keep in mind the other point of view. Look at the alternatives. The preferences of someone online are not necessarily true or right for every person and should not be pushed as if they are.

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Feeling 22: The Birthday Cake

No birthday is complete without a cake. No girl’s 22nd birthday is complete without an even better, delicious chocolate cake topped with fudge, right? 

I turned 22 January 4th and can honestly say it was the best birthday yet. I went to lunch at Buffalo Grill with my mom, dad and boyfriend Charles. Then went to dinner at Cafe Prego with my best friends – one of the tastiest Italian places in Little Rock.

To top it all off, my mom made one of the best birthday cakes I’ve ever had. I feel like it wouldn’t be fair not to share the recipe with everyone else. If you’re a chocolate lover like me, give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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We made a chocolate cake and topped it with cream cheese icing and a Semi-Sweet Chocolate Glaze. The ingredients for the chocolate glaze are described separately below. We also put a chocolate-dipped strawberry on top and some crumbled Oreos around the bottom edge. So much chocolate – so good.

 

Chocolate Cake
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong black coffee 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round baking pans. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder. Mix dry ingredients on low until thoroughly combined.
3. Add coffee, buttermilk, eggs, oil and vanilla. Mix on medium for ~two minutes.
4. Pour batter into two prepared pans.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes for round pans or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
7. Frost as desired. I used Pillsbury Cream Cheese Frosting. 
 
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Glaze
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

 
3 squares BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

1. Microwave chocolate, water and margarine in a large microwavable bowl on high 1 to 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring once. Remove from microwave. 
2. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
3. Stir in sugar and vanilla until smooth. For thinner glaze, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon additional water. 
4. Drizzle chocolate glaze on top and sides of the iced cake. 
5. Add crumbled Oreos around the bottom edge of the cake for some extra sweetness!
 

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That’s how you make the best cake, birthday style.

 

Allora…

Time has absolutely flown by since leaving Europe. As of tomorrow, it will have been 4 weeks since I flew back home to Arkansas from Madrid and the greatest trip of my life (so far) came to an end. It barely feels like the trip happened at all. I feel like my time there was all a dream and now I’m waking up.

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Friends in Rome on our last night

I could ramble on and on about how much I miss the streets of Rome, the people, the language, the food, the art, the constant promise of something new waiting right around the corner. But instead, I’ll move on to thinking about my next trip overseas and trying to survive my senior year of college. The only word I can think of to describe my mood for the rest of this summer is “allora”, a word Italians use (a lot) with several meanings including “then”, “well then”, “therefore”. It may not entirely make sense but somehow it describes perfectly how I feel. Well then…

I’m moving into a new house with new roommates and couldn’t be more excited to start my senior year. It is strange to think this is the last year I have at the University of Arkansas. When you’re a freshman, you never see this year coming. But it is here and, strangely, I feel ready yet not ready. Not ready to leave Fayetteville. But ready to get some experience and figure out what exactly I’m going to do after college. Not ready to say goodbye to my friends and my sorority. But ready to see whose wedding I’ll be going to first. I’m never going to be totally ready to not be in college but at least I have the next year to deal with that – or just push it aside and pretend it’s not happening.

To get ready for my new house, I had a crafting day with some friends and made this cute arrangement of cork boards for my wall. I’m a little crazy about the color blue, if you couldn’t tell.

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I realized it made more sense to craft and be somewhat productive with the rest of my summer than to sit and watch TV all day. I also found a big painting on canvas for somewhere in my new place – and for a great price! I’m getting really excited to decorate a new room and start a new year.

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Me with my sister, Lyndsey and my brother, Patrick on Grayton Beach.
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My boyfriend, Charles, and me on the beach

     I went to Grayton Beach in Florida for a week with my family right after getting back from Europe and that helped with the Rome-sickness a lot. It was great to see my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews for the first time in months and get to spend some quality time on a beautiful beach. I also just got back from visiting Fayetteville for a week and it got me so excited about moving back up to my home away from home. I got to have my favorite Mexican meal (FINALLY!) after waiting all summer and I swear it never tasted better. Mexican food is one major thing Europe needs to look into. Now I’m back in Little Rock for another week then back to Fayetteville for my senior year!

Until then, ciao!

A Key to Rome: No Expectations

Our last week in Rome is finally here. It seemed to be going slowly but now I feel like it has flown by without warning.
This weekend we went to the Colosseum (finally) and yesterday I went with a couple of friends to mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s is probably my favorite site I’ve visited in Rome. The incredible history and pure, simple passion of people from all over the world visiting this sacred site was very moving. It isn’t your typical tourist trap where people shove you to snap a picture of the most famous piece of work and then scram. There were lots of tourists, don’t get me wrong. But some of those tourists had been waiting their whole lives to make the trip to one of the most famous basilicas in the world, where St. Peter himself is buried, where so much of the history of their faith had taken place.

Michelangelo’s Pietà was just as beautiful as I’d heard and imagined. My friend, Tori, and I zoomed in (since we couldn’t get very close to the sculpture itself) enough to find where Michelangelo had left his signature.

Michelangelo's Signature on La Pietà
Michelangelo’s Signature on La Pietà
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Michelangelo’s Pietà
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Cross at the Colosseo

Other than seeing two of the biggest sites in Rome (which I should’ve already seen by now), this week does not hold a lot of new things in store. However, we started a Rome bucket-list our first week here and this is the week where we begin to realize how many things we still have left to do. This is the week to rush around like crazy and try to sink in every last second we have with Rome, with Trastevere, with our group of friends, with our fountain, with our apartment. When we try to accomplish things we felt like we would have ages to do. And when we realize there are just some things we won’t be able to do. But it is the process of making the list and dreaming these things up that makes it so memorable and fun. Half the time it is deciding not to go do something we should do or see something we should see but rather staying in or going to the neighborhood fountain to do what we want to do.

Part of what made this trip so great was learning to let go of expectations. You make these grand expectations about how your study abroad will go. Of course you’ll see the Colosseum at least 4 times and, naturally, you’ll make it to every single museum. You’ll eat nice Italian food every night, with a glass of wine and a bunch of Italian locals. You won’t have hard classes or need to study at all.

In reality, it is so much better than that.

You do have to study, but that is what makes hanging out with friends or seeing sites or going out at night such a precious relief. You won’t eat fancy Italian meals and drink expensive Italian wine every night, but if you did, would it be quite as special? It makes the nights where you buy cheap pasta at the grocery store and cook a terrible meal in your no-air-conditioning apartment even more fun and hilarious. You don’t go see the huge tourist attractions everyday but you’re not missing out. You’re gaining a true Italian experience because you learn to love and appreciate your local areas and attractions that much more. I went to a local flea market more times than I went to the Colosseum…and I’m totally okay with that.

At one market close to our apartment, we were there for just a few minutes but I found a really cool booth selling handmade keys. One of the signs read “Non c’è nulla di più bello di una chiave, finchè non si sa che cosa apre.” In English, this [roughly] means “There is nothing more beautiful than a key, as long as one does not know what it opens.”

This could mean a lot. But I felt like it related to my idea of expectations. There is something great about not knowing what is in store. Not having any ideas or expectations about what your trip will hold. Having expectations for something that should be so spontaneous is just asking for disappointment. My biggest piece of advice is to let go of any and all pre-conceived ideas you have before travelling. Instead, just do what comes to mind each day and each night without trying to plan it out or have a full understanding of it beforehand. If you want to change your routine, change it. If you want to go off by yourself and do something different from your group, do it. It may sound cliché to tell you to live in the moment but that is actually the best thing you can do and it’s something I wished I had been able to do sooner. The best part is that just trying to open yourself up like that helps you grow in itself. So no matter what, you’re making progress.

I hope to be able to take this lesson back to the U.S. with me and try to not have expectations about school, friends, weekends, vacations, birthdays, holidays. You have a key in your hand and that’s enough. That’s beautiful.

This trip was a key for me. It opened up doors to a lot of beautiful things – a lot of great memories, a lot of great experiences, pictures, laughs, emotions, friends and personal growth. Not knowing all of this was in store was what made it that much more beautiful.

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