I remember clearly, the feeling of waking up at 4am getting ready and calling a cab to pick me up from the Kraków hostel I was staying at, of how drowsy and half asleep, yet serious I felt. I remember walking into the cold morning air, into darkness, and feeling a light breeze. I remember the ride to the airport which seemed like it lasted forever. I remember eating not one but two Paczki (Polish donuts) as I was waiting for my flight, savoring the last taste of my culture and homeland. I remember boarding a small blue
Royal Dutch Airlines plane for Amsterdam to connect to a Delta flight to Seattle. I remember seeing beautiful rolling green hills from thousands of feet in the air, admiring their beauty in awe, realizing how long it would be until I would see those hills again. I remember wandering the huge and beautiful Amsterdam Schiphol airport, somewhat disappointed that the art gallery was closed for renovation. I remember leaving Europe and the bittersweet feeling coming over me as looked out the window and saw the ocean. I remember the friend I made on that flight, who turned out to be a French-speaking Belgian. I remember landing in Seattle, and
going through customs, how nervous I felt about that, fearing they would confiscate my Swiss chocolate ( they didn’t). I remember breaking my luggage, trying to unjam the handle after retrieving it. I remember calling my parents to inform them of my arrival, oh how anxious I felt waiting for them. Finally, I remember bursting into tears in the car and crying oh so loudly on the way home. I remember how emotional I felt, and how it felt for those tears to roll down my cheeks. They were tears of joy, tears of sadness, and of pure confusion of the fact that merely 12 hours prior to that moment I was in a different country on another continent, and now I was back home with people that I had been so far away from…
A lot has happened between now and when I finished my experience abroad. When I got home, it was around 3pm. I had a very early dinner and attempted to tell my parents
about my adventures, I say attempted because I was in bed by 5pm. I went right to sleep. I woke up again at 10pm, had some tea but fell right to sleep again. I then woke up at 4am, and watched Moana on Netflix, it was pretty good. I had this kind of funky, wake up at 4 and watch a movie phase for the next day too (I watched the Founder), but after that, I progressively began going to bed at a later time and getting up at a later time (e.g. bed at 9pm, up at 7am). In general, my first week at home was kinda weird. I was really excited, and happy, but also sad and extremely confused. I kinda just wanted to not do anything and wait out the start of school, but that would not be the case. Turns out that even after I had returned home from an all-around exhaustingly amazing two months in Europe, I was to still have a pretty busy summer. Within the first few days of being home, I already ended up hanging out with one of my good friends Isa on Capitol Hill in Seattle, we kinda just walked around the park there for a few hours and talked. It was fun and low-key, a good hangout. Then soon after came another little adventure. Exactly ten days after I had
landed back home, ending a 9.5-hour flight (I landed August 10th), I was on a 10-hour bus ride to Pullman. See, my 21st birthday was the next day (August 21st, my golden birthday), and I was travelling to visit my best friend who had just started school at WSU, and he had rented a car and we were gonna drive to somewhere in Idaho within the path of totality to watch the solar eclipse that just happened to be happening on my golden birthday. When I got to Pullman, my friend and I set off for the path. We drove during the night, and we got to see some amazing views of stars. After 5 hours of driving, we made it to the path, pulled over and slept. The next day we got to watch the eclipse and I turned 21. We started driving back, attempted to avoid traffic by driving up a mountain (we had to turn back), got to listen to amazing music, and by the end of the day were back at WSU. Then the next morning I was back on another 10 bus ride to Seattle. Even after I got home from that, I continued being busy. Hanging out with friends often, getting the chance to bar hop, taking a rideshare uber and getting to speak with a French girl in French, dropping my mom off at Vancouver international airport in B.C, seeing LORDE live and for free at Bumbershoot, and hanging out with
someone who I hadn’t really hung out with for about 9 years. I guess what I’m trying to say through all this is that I hadn’t really had the time to sit down and reflect on my study abroad experience, it was just, go, go, go (which is weird for me as my summers tend to be boringly chill). And before I knew it I was already back at Western in the Residence halls beginning Resident Advisor training.
This was hard for me because that meant I did not really have time to mentally prepare myself for college, a place that had been pretty difficult for me over the last 2 years. The two weeks of RA training that I have just experienced have probably been some of the most stressful two weeks of my life. It was pretty intense, and we had to go through some serious policy things, but mostly I feel like I was so stressed out because, after this amazing summer, where even though I continued to experience anxiety and identity issues, I found love, and felt like I was myself for the first time in years, and now I found myself back at an institution where I have felt lost and alone, and have not found belonging, working with people who seem to have found belonging, and trying to promote the building of community with them. Within the first week, I had become so stressed out that it was noticeable to my coworkers. I became convinced that I was gonna quit and drop out of school, and talked to my boss about quitting, and dropping out of school, but before that one of my coworkers did listen to me vent for hours, and talked to me about how I was hired for my differences, and about how it’s so important to be myself for this job. But there is so much going on in my life besides, just not finding belonging in my job or at school, my family life is not the greatest, and I can no longer find the support I need at home, my old friends (including the one I went to Idaho with, who I deeply cared about) are moving on with their lives , and they have been my only belonging, I’m struggling with finding love both in terms of friendship and romantically, and I’m in this limbo of not knowing what I want to do or exactly what I want to major in.
But after experiencing all these stressors and almost quitting, I began to internalize what my coworker had told me about being yourself. I began to think of how much of an impactful experience my time in Europe had been. First off for the first time in years I found belonging, and unlike previous times in my life, it was because I was myself, not
because I tried to be someone else. This was a huge step in the right direction for me, and by the end of the trip, my friend Kylie told me that the trip would not have been the same without me as we were saying bye to each other. I also had a similar experience with my family in Poland. Both of those experiences meant so much to me. I was myself, and I was loved and valued for that. Secondly, I followed a desire that I have had for years, to learn French, and after l year of studying the language, I am in a place where my French is on par with 300 level students, which to me is amazing. And the reason why I’ve learned French so well so quickly is not that I’m special and have this magic power to learn French, but because it became a passion. Thirdly, I followed my passion for adventure. My journey saw me experiencing the culture of Paris, studying
abroad in Lyon in France, trying snails, visiting Geneva Switzerland, staying in hostels, experiencing solo traveling, exploring the modern hipsterness of Berlin, and visiting and experiencing my own culture and family in Poland. All of this has helped me realize that life is an adventure, and this was especially solidified when an old friend in Poland had told me that “everyone’s life is an adventure, and you gotta find the place that makes you happy”, after I confessed to him that I have struggled to find where I belong back home. Life is an adventure and my goal is to find my happiness.
All of these reflections have been going through my head over the last few weeks as I’ve been trying to figure out life, and while I don’t know all the answers yet, things feel clearer and clearer each day. I’m feeling alone and struggling in a lot of ways, but I’m on my own adventure and maybe all that’s part of it. Maybe there’s a lot more left to learn about myself and maybe I can learn more about them through these struggles. I don’t exactly know, and I don’t have the answers. But I do know one thing, and that is that I need to follow my path, and in order to do that I need to love myself, and I need to be my authentic self, to society, and to the world. I need do what makes me happy in life. One of my favorite rapper/poets Kate Tempest in her songs Theme From Becky raps “all of us walk to our own beat and each person’s rhythm is unique, you can’t hear somebody’s tune if you count in your time, you must count their time to enjoy how their mind makes its music.” For most of my life, I haven’t been counting in MY own time, and I haven’t been able to walk to MY beat, but that’s something I need to do in order to enjoy how MY mind makes its music.
I admit, I was fairly nervous about studying abroad when I first decided to do it, but I had this confident feeling that it would be a life-changing experience. That is what drove me toward this experience. Today, I can say with certainty that I was wrong because it did not “change” my life, or who I am. But my life is different in ways I would not have been able to imagine a year ago when I first walked into the Study Abroad office. I have grown so much and learned so much about myself, and what my passions are, and the kind of person that I am becoming. So no, I would not say studying abroad has “changed” my life, because it has brought me closer to what was already there all along. It has only brought me closer to myself. But that journey, the great journey to myself, it’s not over. It continues.
To Hannah Nevitt for being an awesome study abroad advisor and getting me to do this blog. My parents for supporting me through this even though we are struggling financially. Leah Lippman for being an awesome teacher for global studies and really inspiring me to visit Geneva and the UN branch there. To Beverly, the Lufthansa flight attendant that was super sweet and let me explore my all time favorite plane. To USAC for offering and administering the program, and for making it affordable. To my French Grammar teacher in Lyon Madame Florence Bordois Le Jeune for being really cool and teaching us about French social issues while teaching French grammar. To my French theatre teach Monsieur Eric, for teaching the most fun and interactive class I’ve ever taken. To Christina Keppie for being there to help me figure how the credits would transfer to Western. To the close friends I’ve made in France: Joel, Penny, Kylie, Amme, Rachel, Haley, Laura, for accepting me for who I was, and for teaching me so much about friendships in so little time, and for all the fun we had. To all my family and friends who hosted me and took care of me in Poland. To my friend Oscar for being so chill, and for that deep conversation that about life being an adventure. To my cousin Linda, for being a real hommie, and being true to herself (taught me a lot). Finally, last but not least Thank you to all the amazing travelers I had the chance to meet on my journey, you are all interesting, inspiring, and amazing people, and I hope to run into you all again one day!