Jan 31, 2012

Vote for my blog!

Guess what! I'm on the ballot for the "Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs 2012" contest! You know what that means? You should totally vote for me (if you think I deserve it, of course)! It would be really neat to be recognized on this list =)

All you need to do is follow this link...

...and vote for Sophia's Global Adventure!

In other news, my gateway orientation (the one that happens the day before departure) is... drum roll please... TOMORROW!!!



Jan 27, 2012

Sophia's AFS Adventure II: Return to AFS

I leave for my semester in Costa Rica in less than a week, and I realized that I've actually told you very little about what I'm actually going to do. Sure, I may have mentioned it in passing, and then briefly described it while putting more emphasis on the fact that I'm freaking out here, but I haven't taken the time to provide an accurate description of my situation like I did pre-France. So, for those of you who are at the edge of your seat anxiously awaiting news of my upcoming trip (as I know all of you must be), the wait is over. Without further ado, I present to you

Sophia's AFS Adventure II: Return to AFS


Setting: The story takes place in San Ramón, in the Alajuela province of Costa Rica, population 10,710. Located in the Central Valley, this generally hilly area has year round temperatures of 70-80 degrees (Fahrenheit) year round. The area is home to one of the richest forest reserves in the country, and the city is said to show Costa Rica at it's finest.

Characters: Our globe-trotting lead Sophia returns with an entirely new host family! This time, Freddy and Yessenia have graciously welcomed her to live with them and their 5 year old son, Nathan, from February until July.

Plot: For her community service project, Sophia will be helping lead groups and teach music with Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical in San Ramón. Although conversational Spanish is probably necessary, we'll see how our young heroine fairs with a few simple words and phrases.

Release Date: Our story kicks off in 5 days, with the Gateway orientation in NYC followed by a 2 day orientation and 10 days of language instruction in San José.



PS, Should you want to sponsor me in this endeavor, feel free to give me a shout and I'll let you know how!

Jan 23, 2012

9 days


*awkward silence*

Ahem. Let me rephrase that.

So you guys know that I have this blog right? And that I posted my way through a year in France (well, 10 months. But who's counting.)? Of course you knew that, you're on it right now. Stupid question.

Where was I going with this again?

Oh right, the whole nervous breakdown thing.

So, I've already been on an AFS exchange. And it was amazing. You can read about it in pretty much every other post here. (You can also read about my short stint as a nanny in Paris if that interests you). And AFS picked up my blog and posted it on afsblog.org to show people just how awesome an AFS experience is.

Said AFS experience was so incredible that little old me decided to delay going to college for year and up and do it again, this time with a semester community service program in Costa Rica. Which brings us to my little...um...freak out.

I am now, once again, in the position that many of you reading this find yourselves in. I'm leaving in 9 days for my program, and I don't know what to expect. Here's what AFS has given me:

  1. I will be living in San Ramon, Costa Rica, in the Alajuela Province. I have two host parents and a 5 year old host brother (and they seem very nice).
  2. I will be working teaching music to children with the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical.

I've talked a little bit with my host family, I've talked a little bit with AFS, and in less than 2 weeks I will land in Latin America and wont leave for almost half a year.

Have I mentioned yet that I don't speak Spanish?

Now, for those of you reading this as an AFSer pre-departure, I can tell you not to worry, because it's an amazing experience. But it's funny how hard it is to take one's own advice. Because even though I've done this before, even though I've been spending my time encouraging people to do this, it's still terrifying when it's looming over me. In my Post-AFS life buzz I forgot about the Pre-AFS panic mode. Hmm.

But I'll blog my way through this, just like I blogged my way through France. I hope you stick around for the journey!


Jan 12, 2012

Metaphors (What it feels like)

Disclaimer, his post may seem a bit out of the blue, but I've been meaning to write about this for a while so here goes...

A lot of the people I've told about my AFS experience ask me what it was like, how I got the courage to do it, etc. After trying to explain myself a few times, I came up with the perfect metaphor (at least I think it's a metaphor) for my year. It involves a little story about one of our AFS weekends...

This was one of our later orientations together as a the Collines du Rhone chapter, and we were all out on a camping adventure. I probably posted about it. Anyways, one afternoon we were out canoeing and we came to a cliff on the bank of the river. Our chaperones told us we could climb up and jump if we wanted to, and so we pulled over and de-canoed. There were two different heights, and I decided right away that if I was gonna jump I was gonna do it the right way and climb to the very top. So, I hurried over and scrambled up, impatient to have a go at it. I ran right up to the edge and looked down, at which point I said to myself there was no way in the world I was going to do that and decided to just climb back down. But as I turned around to go back I started hitting myself. I had climbed up this far, how was I going to let myself just go back defeated? So I went back to the edge, looked down, and promptly turned around again. I struggled with this dilemma for a good bit of time, each time almost doing it, turning around, and then almost doing it again. Finally, though, I got sick and tired of this little cycle. So I walked back a few steps, closed my eyes, and ran until there was no longer ground beneath my feet. It was slightly terrifying, but enough fun that as soon as it was over I was back in line to do it again.

That's what AFS was like for me. I was so gung ho about the idea that I almost immediately applied and decided to go for a full year. It didn't matter that I had never been to France or away from home for more than a few weeks. I was gonna do this all the way if I was gonna do it at all. After I got accepted, however, I was faced with the reality. I was leaving everything I had ever known behind. I was going very, very far away for a whole year. All by myself. I would think about not going, only to reprimand myself for being silly. Finally though I just had to say "Screw it" and do it without thinking. And you know what? It was the best thing I ever decided to do. Sure, it was absolutely terrifying, but it was so much fun that it didn't matter.

I wanted to throw that out there for people who are freaking out, wondering if they bit off more than they could chew. Stop thinking about it, just jump. I promise, it'll be fine.

Using the same metaphor, I wanted to post one of my college essays. I'm not sure how successful it is, seeing as I'm still waiting to hear back from schools, but I think that it fits the theme of this post rather well (and may, somehow, offer some sort of comfort to someone).

The prompt at hand is "Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote, 'Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess it.' Give us your guess."

Here's my guess:

I can’t hear anything except for the scream that snuck out my mouth before my brain could catch it. In this moment, all of the people around me have vanished. Their voices can no longer reach me. Nothing can. I am weightless.

That’s what’s in between living and dreaming: weightlessness.

It’s the moment when you’ve jumped off the rock before you fall into the water below. You climbed up to the very top, higher than anyone else went. You thought that if you jumped from the top you’d get more cheers than the others. You could practically feel the high fives you’d get once you surfaced, successful. That was your dream. As soon as you hit the water, plunged a few feet below the surface, you’d be living it. But right now, as you’re suspended in the air, you’re in neither dream nor life.

It’s the moment when you’ve gotten on the airplane in the USA before you land in France. You applied to the program, more than ready to fly away for a year. You wanted to be different, in a good way. You knew that this would be something that would change your life forever, your dream. But right now, as you look out the window at everything you’ve ever had shrinking away into the distance, you’re weightless.

I love being weightless. Sometimes it’s terrifying, sometimes calming, sometimes surreal. Sometimes it makes you scream, sometimes laugh, sometimes utter a string of expletives in various languages. But no matter what feelings it brings, it’s passionate. It’s real. It shows that you’re about to live your dream, no matter what that dream is.

It’s the moment when you start unwrapping the largest gift at your birthday party, right before you see what it is. It’s the moment when you look at the cast list of the spring musical, right before your brain starts understanding what it’s seeing. It’s the moment when you get the long distance phone call early in the morning when you you’re your grandpa’s been getting worse, right before you answer. It’s the moment when you knock on the door of your new home, right before it opens.

I’m weightless almost as much as I’m dreaming and living. I guess that’s what I get for letting my dreams lead my life. I’m waiting for decisions after applying to go to Costa Rica for half a year, I’m waiting for laughs after I tell the punch line of a joke, and I’m waiting to see what happens now that I’ve submitted my college application. Sometimes it feels like my weightless moments take over , but that’s okay with me. Because in that moment of waiting, in that moment of “What did I just get myself into?,” I know that I’m about to stop dreaming and start living.


Jan 11, 2012

Next please!

I'm back in the USA (at least for a few weeks), and realized that I hadn't posted in a while. It's been great being back. Spending the holidays with my friends and family has been fantastic, and things have been generally calm in my little corner of the 410 (excluding a case of cellulitis that sent me to the ER the day I got home).

When I start to tell stories to my friends about Paris, they start off with things like "So last night I was bored, so I decided to take a walk by the Eiffel tower," and finish with something exciting like "And then he drove me home on his vespa." I'll talk about sipping espresso in a café by Notre Dame, writing in my little journal on the banks of the Seine, and dancing the night away with a cute Parisian boy in a French nightclub. My life sounds pretty much like a cheesy chick flick, the type that girls laugh about but secretly wish they lived in.

And while yes, there were moments here that I still can't actually believe happened to me, that's not how I spent the majority of my time. The majority of my time, what did all day, was taking care of a very small child. As much as I'd love you to think that I got to spend my days shopping and tourist-ing while you were working/studying/do ingsomething less exciting, I actually spent it making sure Eben doesn't fall off the play ground equipment or dump his dinner on the floor. Now don't get me wrong, building forts and reading stories certainly beats what ever other entry-level job I would have had in Towson, but it's not nearly as romantic a lifestyle as I may have led you to believe.

Still, it was a good learning experience for me. I got to see how much of a responsibility having a kid was without actually having to be a mother myself, and I learned to appreciate everything that my family has done for me over the years. I also really began to appreciate the community that AFS gives you when you study abroad. Not being in a structured work place or school meant that I had no set social setting, and that was definitely a feeling that I had to adapt to.

And now I'm spending my time getting pumped up for my next adventure! I have to be in NYC for my orientation Feb. 1 and my flight is the 2nd. Soon, I'll be off living with my new host family in San Ramón doing community service with Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical! I'm busy trying to learn as much Spanish as possible seeing as I don't speak it at all, but progress is slow. (According to Rosetta Stone, the most important things to learn to say are "Es una manzana" and "La mujer maneja el carro"...)

I'm excited and nervous, but in a totally different way from those weeks before my flight to Millery. While I'm less nervous about the whole "diving into the unknown" part, I'm scared I may be over-estimating my ability to adapt quickly. But unlike pre-France, I have no second thoughts. The trip can't come fast enough!

That's about it for now, I think!