It’s me! In 8th grade, I wrote a letter in my English class addressed to my 5-years-later senior high school self. Our teacher really did mail our sealed letters home at the end of 12th grade. It was short, sweet, and quite accurate. I hoped for “good friends,” an “ivy league school” (apparently a college brand mattered quite a bit in middle school), and “even better handwriting.” My dreams came true.
I’m a senior again, albeit in college. I’m sitting in Cafe Kubal (thinking of how Boreal has opened 2 new locations since I’ve left Switzerland), hiding from the hail, and humming along to their playlist of nostalgic songs I’d listened to in the early years of high school (like this, this and this). Exactly 1 year ago today, I was landing in Geneva for — a cliché lack of words — the most humbling, beautiful, and rewarding time of my life.
In tune with the spring 2016 bloggers writing reflective après-abroad posts, this is another one. If you’re thinking about living across the ocean in the next week, few months, or a few years — here’s what I would write in a letter to myself based on what I’ve learned:
- This is what it means to be living your own life vicariously. Forget scrolling through Instagram on @travelandleisure, comparing your destinations, and spending time idealizing rather than doing. It’s okay that everything seems out of control at times – balancing going to class daily at 9am, choosing where and with whom you’re flying with for the few weekends that you’re free, and deciding which type of ravioli to cook for dinner. Slow down; intentionally take a deep breath (summer yoga and winter barre really helped me understand the importance of breathing.) Nobody really knows you if you trip on the folded carpet on the way into the grocery store, nobody really cares where you worked last summer, and only you know how uncomfortable you were when you woke up from an accidental nap on a solo-trip to Lugano to assess the situation of having two middle-aged men sitting across from you (reassured: Switzerland is incredibly safe). While abroad you often forget in the moment that indeed, you are living the best part of your life. Believe it. Cherish it. It’s a gift. Don’t think of it as being hedonistic — remind yourself how lucky you are to have scattered pieces of your ‘self’ on the Alps, the 40+ train rides, and fluffy cheap croissants to connect with others and your future.
- Just do it. Think a lot, regret a little, and get going. Remember those quasi-deep short French phrases everyone seems to know? joie de vivre, raison d’être, c’est la vie, l’esprit d’escalier. It’s possible to make them part of your life. At least you mustered up the courage make your freshman year dream a reality – applying to go abroad – that was the most difficult part. While sitting in a hotel with spotty wi-fi in the Napa Valley at the end of summer before your junior year, you sat down to channel your thoughts into actually applying to Boston University’s Geneva Internship Program. Despite feeling like you were “cutting into” precious vacation time in the moment, that was likely one of the best decisions you made in 2015. In 2016, you decided to apply to some of your dream futures — keep going and follow through with building the foundation of where and who you want to be. 2017 will be filled with uncertainty, adventure, and a learning-curve of maturity —
- You can survive on less, but don’t forget: minimalism is a luxury. In terms of Geneva: pack winterproof footwear (think of @Aneesh wearing soaked moccasins while we trekked around the snowy park for an art history field trip), a warm coat for windy days, and your running sneakers – it’s all worth the weight.
However, in terms of design: look at Squarespace. Its most popular commercial and portfolio templates are quite basic. In terms of consuming: remember that Burberry’s iconic item is a simple, unadorned tan trenchcoat. But maybe, it will be the only rain jacket you’ll be wearing for the next decade, so the price per wear + the number of prêt à porter coats you don’t end up buying + initial investment could be justified. In terms of survival: if you can make it four months in Europe on three colors in your wardrobe (black, grey, and shades of white), two suitcases, and one backpack, how much do you really need day-to-day? Beyond eating well, exercising often, keeping up with your family, doing meaningful work, and forming friendships – what else truly matters?
P.S. Digital signatures are harder than they look.