Looking Back on 2012 and Looking Forward to 2013

This year has been an incredible year full of opportunities, adventures, and new experiences. I made my dreams come by finally having the chance to travel the world, four continents none the less. My love for learning was reignited through hands-on experiences and meaningful classroom discussion that taught me to critically think and problematize damage-based approaches. I met new people who changed my life and became even closer with friends from years past. I became self-sufficient and learned to value alone time.

Here’s a brief look at this past year:

January: New year’s was spent in Seattle watching the fireworks over the Space Needle. Winter break ended early for me so I could participate in an externship (a week-long internship that allows bi-co students to shadow alum at their jobs) with a Bryn Mawr alum who worked as a social worker with a hospice service in Jacksonville, FL. Once back at school, I started my Learning and Narrating Childhoods 360, an interdisciplinary cluster of classes, a psychology, education, and comparative literature class, focused on examining child development and literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa with a field study in Ghana over spring break. This month was also when I got into a car accident on the way back from a volunteer event. Although no one was hurt, it was pretty traumatic for me and I still feel anxious when driving. Later that same day, my friend Monica asked me to be her Heller by hanging internet memes on my door.

Finally getting a hellee!

February: Hell Week! From beauty pageants to trials to Goodhart Performances to the Duck Pond Run, Hell Week provides a much needed break from the monotony of the cold winter as freshmen run around campus completing tasks their Hellers have given them to help step out of their comfort zones and to give everyone on campus a good laugh. Some of my highlights of the week were having my Hellee stand on top of a table in Erdman and sing “Friday” by Rebecca Black and having her give me a gondola ride while singing to me in a boat on Rhoads Pond. As a sophomore, I got to see how much hard work goes into making the freshmen’s experiences so magical which made me appreciate the Bryn Mawr community even more.

My exhausted freshmen after the Duck Pond Run

March: Spring Break to Ghana! Although I had been to Canada for four days for a dragonboat competition during my junior year of high school, I had never been to a different continent before so Ghana was a pretty mindblowing experience for me. We traveled 10 hours to Accra, the main city, before taking a 14 bumpy bus ride to Tamale in the North and from there, we took a mini-bus to Dalun, the village where Titagya School was founded in part by a Haverford alum since there are very few pre-schools in Northern Ghana giving children a huge disadvantage when they enter school. There we got to observe in the classroom, attend a Ghanaian Independence Day ceremony, hold a conference with teachers and administrators in the area, and having fun by sharing dance, music, art, and food with each other. We flew back down to Accra where our professors presented along with other lecturers on women’s education and rights at the University of Ghana. We had the weekend to explore Accra where we saw W.E.B Du Bois’s grave, bargained for souvenirs at the traditional market, lounged on the beach, and took in the local culture. Saturday night, we had a great night of laughing, talking, and sharing stories over a delicious dinner with our classmates and new friends from University of Ghana. This was also the night I found out I would be going to Indonesia over the summer and by some incredibly act of serendipity, met a Mawrter who had graduated a semester early who had done my same program the summer before so I was able to pick her brain and hear about her experiences. We were supposed to leave that Sunday but something in the plane was malfunctioning and we got delayed for several days since it was so challenging to put all 18 of us together on a new flight so we didn’t end up getting back to the States until Thursday morning, making any sort of future traveling mishap seem miniscule in comparison. What was unfortunate for me was my two friends had come from rural Illinois to visit me over their Spring Break for that week so I had to make many frantic calls and e-mails so my wonderful friends back at the Mawr could help them get settled without me. Luckily my friends were understanding and flexible and even with our time together being cut in half and me getting sick with strep throat that weekend, we had lots of fun together going into Philly and getting cupcakes and seeing the Magic Gardens. They still can’t stop raving about how beautiful our campus was and how good our dining hall food was! This was also the month where me and three of my friends went up to New York City for a day to explore and show my friend around who had never been there!

360 Class and friends of Titagya School (photo credit: Peony Yiu)

April: Spring Festivals! From chocolate fountains at the awards ceremony to “Get Your Spring On” with jello wrestling to a baseball themed “Spring Fling” outdoor picnic to Holi at Haverfest, where we threw colored powder at each other in honor of the Indian celebration, to May Day; this was the month of taking in the beauty of the cherry blossoms and spending time outside in the sun with friends and food. The way the dates worked this year, May Day actually ended up being the last weekend in April this year. My friends and I woke up early to see our May Day gifts from the graduating seniors, get on our white dresses, put flowers in our hair, eat strawberries and cream for breakfast, and watch the parade (Philadelphia themed this year so I was introduced to Mummers!) The rest of the day was spent jumping in bouncy houses, eating cotton candy, getting our faces painted, and taking pictures with every person I knew. The night ended with Step-sing, where the whole school gets together to sing songs and when many tears are shed as we say good-bye to the seniors.

May Day sunshine happiness

May: Two weeks of finals before having to say some difficult good-byes since I wouldn’t be seeing most of my friends for over eight months due to studying abroad in the fall, before heading back to Portland for three weeks. I volunteered as a special needs volunteer working one on one with a sixth grade student at Outdoor School, the environmental education program I’ve worked with since I was in high school. I spent my limited time at home seeing friends and taking day trips around Oregon like to Cannon Beach on the coast, as well as getting ready for my 10 week trip to Indonesia.

Outdoor School student leaders and special needs volunteers

June: Indonesia! On the first of June, I was off on my next journey to Southeast Asia. After over 30 hours of travels, I met up with the other bi-co interns in Yogyakarta. The first two weeks were spent taking Indonesian for four hours a day and visiting our various NGOs. This was also the time we got to go sightseeing when we saw temples like Prambanan and Borobudur, fun weekend trips to the beach, organic farms, and karaoke, as well as getting to see Iwan Fals, the Indonesian equivalent of Bob Dylan, in concert with 10,000 other fans. After two weeks of getting adjusted to the culture, we jumped into our research methods class with our Indonesian counterparts and started our first research project. Mine was on educational opportunities and experiences of discrimination from Papuan students in Jogja.

Bi-co interns at Borobodur Temple

July: NGO time in Indonesia! July marked the finish of our research class and we had the chance to present our findings from our first research project. We had a few days off during this week so we visited our program coordinator’s village in rural East Java where we climbed a mountain and got to see the organic rice fields their family owned. After our research class, the six of us moved out of living in our wisma(home-stay, basically like an apartment) and moved into host families throughout the city to be closer to our NGOS. I, along with my Indonesian NGO partner Tiwi, moved in with Mas Ignas, a kind man who takes beautiful nature photography as well as owning a restaurant/indoor soccer area, and lives near Malioboro, the main tourist area of Jogja. He took Tiwi and me to his friend’s wedding in rural central Java which allowed me to observe traditional Javanese wedding traditions. We also took a trip with the other interns to a Javanese museum, saw Mt. Merapi, the active volcano near Jogja, and got to hang out Mas Ignas’s restaurant. Another weekend, Tiwi and I planned a trip to a white sand beach and a cave tubing adventure! We began our research on our 2nd research project with our NGOs. My NGO was not running due to Ramadan season but we were still able to interview families, students, volunteers, and teachers about the impact of social environment on children’s behavior.

Organic rice fields with Mt. Lawu, the mountain we climbed, in the background

August: Goodbye Indonesia, Hello Denmark! The last two weeks were spent finalizing our research projects, presenting our findings, buying last-minute souvenirs, and saying good-bye. Tiwi and I traveled to the 2nd largest city in Indonesia, Surabaya, where she goes to school to see a new side of Indonesia. It was hard to say good-bye to our tight-knit community where I had made some of my closest friends but it was time to begin a new journey! I was home for less than a week before it was off to Europe for the first time. The first week was spent doing orientation activities before jumping into classes.

Final night in Indonesia at our favorite restaurant Milas

September: Full throttle Denmark! The first month in Denmark consisted of a lot of exploring, sightseeing, and adjusting to a country completely opposite from my former Indonesian home. I visited museums, climbed towers, saw Of Monsters and Men in concert, and traveled to Western Denmark as a part of my short study tour, where we visited various sustainable organizations and got to visit Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (photo credit to Anna Sekine)

October: The Netherlands/Ireland/United Kingdom: My first travels in Europe outside of Denmark! I visited Amsterdam and Rotterdam in The Netherlands with my sustainability class for a week to take in the canals, Dutch art, stroopwafel, and of course, sustainability! Two weeks later, I traveled on my own for the first time to Ireland and England to experience Irish coastal cliffs, historical monuments, and adorable accents and to learn a lot about myself along the way.

Tower Bridge in London

November: France/Italy/Norway! Also the month of elections and a visit to an open prison! Two weeks after my trip to London and Dublin, I was off on my next travel break to Paris and Rome! I was fortunate to experience a different side of Europe (aka not just Northern Europe). I ate amazing food and desserts, took in breathtaking ancient ruins and exquisiteness monuments, saw some of the most famous art in the world for free, and got to throw myself into another country where I didn’t speak the language. The weekend after I got back, I got to make a life dream come true by seeing one of my favorite bands, Bon Iver, in concert which was extremely lucky because apparently the band will be on a hiatus for a while after this tour since they felt the music was getting to commercial. The next weekend, I took a mini-cruise (not as glamorous as it sounds) to Norway to admire the modern architecture and check out The Scream.

Pont de l'ArchevĂȘchĂ© (bridge where couples put locks on the fence and throw their keys into the river below)

December: Christmas and going home! December was stressful and dark and cold but I got to experience Christmas in Europe which is an incredible way to spend the holiday season. I got to eat Danish Christmas delicacies, hygge with my visiting family, and see the lights of Tivoli (which was actually rated one of the top ten places in the world to see Christmas lights). My friend Esther also visited so I was able to see last-minute sights before hopping on a flight back to the States. The rest of December back home has been spent catching up with friends and family, watching 2 Broke Girls and Lost, and trying to motivate myself to apply for summer internships.

Making marzipan creations for Christmas with my visiting family (photo credit: Lene Espersen)

Overall, this year taught me so much about myself and the world. 2012 has been the year of travels and now 2013 will be the year of going home (to Bryn Mawr finally after eight months) and being a real adult. This year, I will be able to anass (a Greek cheer that only seniors can start as a way of congratulating others), rush the senior steps, and run down senior row which is so unreal. I also will have to say good-bye to some of my closest friends who will be studying abroad in the fall and who are currently seniors which I already know is going to involve a lot of tears but it will make me appreciate the time I have with them even more and I am proud and excited for all of them for starting new chapters of their lives. After 20 years, I’ve realized setting concrete resolutions for New Year’s tend not to last but rather that I should aspire to be a certain kind of person. I aspire to learn new skills that I’ve lacked all my life (riding a bike, driving a car, braiding hair, learning a string instrument) and to develop skills and hobbies I haven’t had time to do in the past few years (reading for pleasure, art, etc.), to manage my time better by spending less time on the computer and more time on getting things done as well as spending meaningful time with people I care about, and most of all, to let go of things and to move forward, something I struggle with a lot but I’ve been slowly been doing this year. I hope to continue to live in a way that I did during my travels, taking advantage of every opportunity and pushing myself to see new places and have new experiences.

2012 was amazing but I can’t wait for all the new adventures 2013 brings and being reunited with the people who matter most in my life.

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