Beauty Amidst Pain

Author: Maddie Morehead

Location: Namibia/ South Africa

Going into my study abroad journey, I had no idea what to expect. Before deciding to study in Namibia, I would not have even been able to point it out on a map. I also had very little knowledge of the colonization that took place in Southern Africa apart from my seventh grade teachings of the Berlin Conference and Scramble for Africa. One privilege of living in the U.S. is that we often don’t find ourselves wanting or needing to know about the current circumstances of the world around us because America is typically the spotlight of the world for many, and because of this, we often make ill-informed assumptions about the world around us. However, throughout my travels in Southern Africa I have seen beautiful landscapes and have met beautiful people that have been able to contribute to my learning and understanding of Southern Africa and the rest of the world.

Cape Town is a wonderful example of both the ugly and the beautiful simultaneously represented in one place. Cape Town is located on the west coast of South Africa. It is a city located between the Atlantic Ocean and a large mountain range. It is filled with lively streets of restaurants, bars, malls, shops, and people from all over the world. At first glance, it is difficult to see the rich, yet turbulent, history that lives within the streets of Cape Town – a history that many people of South Africa  are still in the process of healing from.

 

During our stay in Cape Town, we headed by boat to Robben Island, an island off the coast of Cape Town where political prisoners including Nelson Mandela were kept during the time of Apartheid. What was once a prison town has now been turned into a commercialized tourist area. We first were taken on a bus tour of the island and shown a church where weddings are now frequently held, a quarry where prisoners were forced to mine for limestone in unbearable conditions, and Robert Subukwe’s house – a prison designated solely for Subukwe’s solitary confinement where he was silenced so that he could not influence anyone else in the prison. (What a guy, right??) The history of the island was heart-wrenching, yet the flowers were in full bloom and the view of Cape Town’s Table Mountain from the island was breathtaking. After the bus ride, we met an ex political prisoner who gave us a tour of the prison where he once was held captive. During the tour, he was asked how he feels about giving tours of a place he was once imprisoned. He responded by saying, “At first, I didn’t want to do it, but my family wanted me to because I was unemployed. But over time it has been a healing process for me to talk about my experience over and over again.” He told us that it took him about two years before he was completely comfortable with sharing his story. Hearing, his story I can’t imagine what it was like to transition into life outside of Robben Island after being locked up and mistreated for many years. The whole experience was a little unsettling and left me questioning what action I can take in order to current injustices that people experience on a daily basis.

The amazing Lucy Campbell is another individual we encountered during the week who uses her voice and her story as an instrument for healing. Lucy gives regular tours to people from all over the world, representing the indigenous Khoi people of South Africa and sharing the brutal history of Cape Town and slavery during early colonialism. Walking through the city, Lucy pointed out the history of colonialism that remains to this day. Part of the tour included a stop at the Slave Tree Memorial, a mere stump in the middle of the street. Lucy explained how this memorial is the only symbol honoring slaves and the hardships they endured when just down the street, large statues of white slave owners still look down on the city, haunting the people of Cape Town with its daunting history. Lucy shared that there are parts of the tour that send chills through her spine still to this day. We were able to empathize with her story and feel how the history of Cape Town impacts her daily. While many people visit Cape Town for the beautiful scenery, Lucy is committed to not allowing the history of her indigenous people die out by speaking truth to visitors from around the globe. You can tell by the way she speaks that she is passionate about what she does and the change she is making by sharing her story. During our tour, she ignited a light in all of us to stand up for what we believe in. Giving tours and sharing the history of Cape Town is her process of healing, and a powerful one at that.

The District Six museum also offered many stories sharing the history of people who were forced from their homes. We were able to talk to Joe Schaffers, a full time educator at the museum. He shares his story of District Six, where he lived for 28 years before moving to the Cape Flats, also known as ‘apartheid’s dumping grounds,’ an area designated for non-whites once District Six was declared a whites only area by the government in 1966. On the floor of the museum was a street map of District Six where former residents are able to come and mark where their houses used to be before being bulldozed, a powerful demonstration in order to share the story of thousands. It amazes me that people were able to do such a horrendous thing such as force people to relocate without considering the lives affected by this. Walking through the museum, I could feel the hurt that they felt, seeing long forgotten objects that once belonged in the houses that no longer exist.

And this is just Cape Town. In Johannesburg, we were able to talk to and make friends with historians, political leaders, and people who experienced violence during times of uprisings against apartheid, where children risked their lives for change. Here we visited multiple museums and had our very first home-stay before heading to the Eastern Cape where we talked to political science students at Fort Hare University, where Nelson Mandela attended university and where many students actively protest against school policies today. It is beautiful to be able to hear about the hardships that people have faced and how it has influenced them and inspired them to take action. Through listening to their stories and ideologies I am able to empathize and connect with these individuals. I am able to feel the pain that they feel and understand what moved them to make a difference and continue to share their stories every day. Their stories are inspiring, moving, and they challenge me to use my voice and make a difference not only in my life, but in the lives of others as well.

Exploring the city of London

Author: Ulises E. Hernandez
Location London, United Kingdom

One of the classes that you are required to take as part of the Study Abroad Program when you come to the United Kingdom is British Life and Culture. In this course, you get to learn many types of literature and social aspects in the English way of life not only through assignments and readings but also through field trips. One of the very first field trips that we experienced as a class was visiting the great city of London. From Cambridge to London we took the train and we got to see the great grassy planes and traditional small English towns during our 50-minute ride. Once we arrived at the iconic King’s Cross Station in London, we had the chance to walk through the streets of London and really get experience not only the tourist-oriented destinations of the city but also many of the areas where the locals reside. London in many aspects is not only a very welcoming city but also very unique due to its breathtaking history and its very diverse population. While in London, we visited the British Museum, The Churchill War Rooms Museum, The Tate Modern Museum, The Shakespeare Globe, and St. Paul’s Cathedral which were all located in the heart of London. In every single one of those destinations, priceless artifacts are carefully preserved, stored, and put on display for millions of people to see. My personal favorite Museum was the British Museum because it not only included art from the United Kingdom, but also a large variety of historical items from around the world.

The United Kingdom is very famous around the world for their Royal public figures. As a group, we got the chance to visit many of the Royal Palace’s which included the Buckingham Palace and the Kensington Palace which are both surrounded by beautiful parks. One of my favorite parks is Palace green, which as mentioned earlier, is located beside Kensington Palace. This park not only attracts a lot of tourists, but also many of the locals go there in the evening to feed the birds, play volleyball, run, play cricket, or just to walk through the beautiful and colorful gardens. As we made our way back to our hostel, we also passed the Palace of Westminster which is the house of parliament and also home to the very famous Big Bens clock tower. Unfortunately, large parts of the palace including Big Ben is going through a major repairment project and we did not get to experience the true magnificence of this iconic building.

The trip wouldn’t be successful without talking about food. As previously mentioned, London is very diverse and everywhere you turn, you are given the chance to experience food from all over the world. A great place to truly experience this opportunity would be the street markets. In the markets, hundreds of vendors sell their fresh homemade products and most of them offer free samples of different types of jams, cheese, meats, fish, fruits, drinks, dairy products, and a wide variety of other cooked dishes. Overall, I had a wonderful experience in the great city of London and I would highly encourage more students to join the study abroad program.

Roots

Author: Grace Erickson
Location: Windhoek, Namibia

 

In my colonized mind, I saw Africa as a whole continent. In my colonized mind, I saw everyone in Africa as totally different from me since they were coming from another culture. In my colonized mind, in my colonized mind, in my colonized mind… Traveling from South Africa, to Eastern Cape, to Cape Town, to (finally) Namibia has already changed who I am forever. While it has been difficult at times to realize how much growth I still have ahead of me, my experience thus far has also prompted me to better the world in ways that I had never even considered before. It is painful to have a greater awareness of the fact that not everyone on our lovely Earth is always being heard equally, but I now know that learning about the injustices of the world is the first step to changing them. The very best lessons and memories I have, have come from being pushed beyond my comfort zone. Amidst the challenging intellectual and emotional times here, there are sprinkled moments of beautiful serenity and friendship. One of my favorite moments from the cohort’s fieldtrips was Freedom Park in South Africa where there was a spiritual reflection space. It was a location that was meant to help you find your headspace to reflect on our ancestors whom had sacrificed everything during their tireless work to fight oppression. Sitting barefoot on the ground in front of the monument, I found myself sinking into my meditative state. I lost track of time as I was hugged by the whisper of spirits around me.

I found myself feeling exceptionally whole during my time in the mountains at Elundini. The fog drifted over the side of the mountain as dogs, chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats galloped around us. I looked through the window while making homemade bread and felt one with the foggy froth of fog above us. To actually make your own bread, gather firewood from the forest, then actually bake it over a fire, is something I never would have made the time for in the US. The lack of any rush in daily life has been dreamlike after living somewhere that emphasizes the importance of making use of every moment.

During my homestay in Pimville, Soweto, my sweet friends Zama and Faith reiterated this by chiding us for walking too fast on the way to the grocery store, not packing a million activities into one day, and encouraging us to relax. Their spirit and friendship, both with each other and us, lives with me to this day. Our memory of simply going to the park is one that makes me glow with joy.

The last moment I would like to share from my first leg of this journey is from appreciating art. Once again, I found myself surprised at my own surprise that there were so many similarities to my own art, and that which I saw in a museum that is thousands of miles away from my home. While speaking with an art director at an art center in Katutura, he emphasized again and again the importance of knowing your roots. We may all come from different places, but we are the same material. The beauty and depth of many of the pieces empowered me to continue to look within myself for what I was meant to create in order to make my impact, both here, and eventually back where I came from.

Witnessing Water Shortage in South Africa/Privilege

An interesting article about a student who visited Cape Town, South Africa and left with a different perspective.

 

https://www.diversityabroad.com/study-abroad/articles/witnessing-water-shortage-south-africa-privilege 

6 Things That I Miss About Germany

Vlogger:  Nicholas Kwiecinski

Location: Reutlingen, Germany

A Catholic Encounter: Learning from Other Traditions

Author: Katherine Germann

Location: San Jose, Costa Rica

Religion is a part of Costa Rican culture. Although there are many Costa Rican people who are not very religious, many people are religious. I found that most people that I have interacted with in Costa Rica identify as Catholic or Evangelical Christian. The Catholic tradition in Costa Rica is prevalent and rich, which is not surprising because that is the official religion of the country. My host parents are also Catholic. Thus I had the opportunity to see much more of the Catholic tradition (particularly as it is in Costa Rica) than I have ever seen before. As an evangelical Christian, I brought in some of my own ideas about prayer and worship, and some of what I found in the new tradition challenged my own ideas. However, I tried to keep an open mind and understand this unfamiliar side of Christianity. In doing so, I found that, through its unique traditions, Catholic worship has a lot to offer one’s spiritual life. With the following examples, I hope to show how much I could learn from Catholicism and illustrate the importance of encountering religious traditions other than your own.

This is a traditional Catholic image of the Virgin Mary taken at the basilica.

One part of the Catholic tradition in Costa Rica are the Rezo de Niño ceremonies (prayers to the Christ Child). In Catholic homes, the nativity scenes are left out until this ceremony has passed. The host invites friends and family to attend the Rezo de Niño, and an appointed person leads the congregation in a ceremony of prayer and music. This consists of the whole Rosary and Christmas songs, usually lasting about an hour. Afterwards, the host serves food (always including lots of rice) and sometimes there is music and dancing. Through these Rezo de Niños I saw that religious customs are important not only for individuals’ spiritual lives, but they bring families and friends together in a very real way. I observed that the Catholic tradition is much more relaxed and accepting in Costa Rica than I had imagined. There were varying degrees and styles of engagement from the participants: some were very concentrated while others simply waited or watched. It was not a problem to arrive late, and one ceremony even doubled as a birthday party. I felt that the most important part of the experience were the relationships. The traditions within the catholic faith opened up opportunities to celebrate community.

Another part of the Catholic tradition, which at first made me uncomfortable, were the prayers to Mary. As an evangelical Christian, I am only accustomed to prayers that are directly to God, not to any of the Saints. I was afraid to pray to Mary because I did not want to commit the sin of idolatry, and I was not sure if praying to any being other than God would be right.  However, I opened up a conversation with a religious woman about praying to Mary at one of the Rezos that I attended. I learned several things that have increased my respect for Mary and for the catholic custom of praying to Mary. First, she made it clear that Catholics do not worship Mary with the same kind of praise that is reserved for God. Rather, they love and adore her. I was made to see that prayer can mean different things for different people. It can be worship or it can simply be a form of love. Second, the Catholic woman said that they honor Mary with a reverence that comes from her being chosen by God, and because she is the Mother of God (the Christ child). The woman believed that Mary was human, but she is set apart from other humans by God, and through this she deserves our reverence. She gently challenged the lack of attention to Mary and to the Saints within the evangelical tradition. This helped me see my own tradition from a new perspective, and increased my respect for the Catholic attention to the Saints.

Another custom that I had to consider was the effectiveness of the repetition of the Rosary. In my tradition, I usually do not repeat and recite standard prayers. Rather, I think of prayer as an open and genuine communication with God. However, this form of prayer showed an aspect of meditation, which I came to respect more than before. I understand that meditating on the same phrase, over and over, can help train and center one’s attitude and build patience. Catholics show discipline in repeating the Rosary. With this being said, I was still conflicted about the effectiveness of the repeated prayers. Within the Rosary, people beg Mary to bring God’s blessing to them over 50 times. I wondered: If Mary can actually hear and respond to our requests, why bother asking her for the same thing over and over? Wouldn’t this show lack of faith in her response, or at least be annoying to her? I asked one older woman my question, and she gave me a new perspective on the prayer. She said that the phrase is repeated over and over not just to communicate with Mary, but the phrases themselves are a gift to her. The prolonged attention and the prayer itself is an offering to the woman that they honor so much. These experiences allowed me to see prayer from a new perspective, and I realized that my idea and use of prayer is not the only way that prayer can be used as a spiritual discipline.

One part of my experience of the Catholic tradition relates more specifically to my traveling opportunities. This was our class trip to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. The basilica is beautiful, and it is built on the spot where the Virgin appeared in person, according to tradition. Underneath the basilica is a place where people leave offerings for the Virgin. There is also a spring where blessed water is said to come out, and there were several people collecting the water into bottles. I was impressed by this display of faith and discipline by the worshipers. However, the most impressive display of discipline were the people who walked on their knees to the high altar. Some people started at the entrance to the long Basilica, others started even farther away. Their knees must have been killing them. Some people, such as my host dad, even walk from far-away cities to make their pilgrimage to the Basilica. (My host dad walked over 50 miles for his pilgrimage.) These are impressive displays of faith and love for the Virgin and God. Although my personal faith experiences do not require grand offerings, do not promote the use of symbols and relics, and do not require pilgrimages to specific Holy Sites, I learned to really appreciate and respect these new types of worship through my travel experience.

This is a photo of me with my classmates (Hannah, Kyra, and Gabby) in front of La Basilica de Los Angeles.

If I hadn’t traveled, I would not have been pushed to experience so much of the Catholic tradition. I also experienced different forms and customs within a church closer to my own tradition by attending the church Oasis de Benedicción. I got to see perspectives from other religions, as well, through conversations with other international students at the University of Costa Rica. Traveling helped me step out of a context that was familiar to me and see spirituality and worship through a different lens. I learned to widen my own perspective on prayer, on Saints, and on religious ceremonies. This helped me gain greater appreciation for different traditions and customs. People can learn so much through travel if only they can be attentive and open to what they encounter abroad.

Reasons To Study Abroad

Author: Maria Clemens

Location: Newcastle, Australia

  Studying abroad has been one of the greatest decisions I have made in my life. I loved the time I spent in Australia and it honestly broke my heart to leave. Although it was very exciting to get home and see family and friends, I made countless friendships and memories in Australia. These experiences I had abroad are ones that I cannot wait to share and want to use to inspire other Valpo students to do a semester abroad.

  The first reason I think any applicable student should study abroad is because of the travel opportunities. I was able to pick a country to study in that I had never visited before and did not think I would have the opportunity visit. While I was in Newcastle, I was able to explore the city and try new kinds of foods and meet people who grew up in a different culture. My absolute favorite thing about Newcastle was that it was located on the coast and had beautiful views like the one below. Not only did I get to explore the city I lived in, but I also got to travel around the country. My orientation for CIS was in Cairns where we visited the rain forest and Great Barrier Reef. I also was located about 2 hours north of Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

  Another reason I highly recommend studying abroad is because of the types of people you can meet. I lived in a six-share apartment where I was able to get to know some local Australians very well. I also met other friends from all over the world in the international student organization. The friends I made here heightened my experience so much. By meeting and becoming close with people from the area, I was able to meet their families and spend time at their homes and local communities. Not only did I get to have family experiences, but my friends also showed me around the area and gave me tours of the city that I never could have gotten otherwise. The friendships I made abroad I learned loads from and I hold very close to my heart.

  Lastly, I would recommend studying abroad to any student because of the independence and abilities I gained. Travelling to a new place and not having the friendships and support system that most students have at Valpo can be a massive challenge. At first this was difficult for me, but it drove me to meet more people and gain more friends and find more things to do. It got me out of my room and planning trips. I took everyday with a new enthusiasm and drive to new things since I knew my time was limited in Newcastle. I hope that any student who goes abroad has this kind of attitude. At the start of every week I planned out new things I wanted to try or see. In the beginning, these were solo trips since I did not know a lot of other students yet. I had to learn to navigate on my own and have fun without a lot of other people around me. This brought me new abilities and self confidence that I did not have before. Pretty soon, I had a friend or two to explore with and before I knew it, they had introduced me to more people and I had a whole group to discover Newcastle with.

  It’s these kinds of experiences that I want more fellow Valpo students to have and learn from. I know that I am a better and brighter person because of my time abroad and I am excited to bring back this newfound attitude to my home. I am forever changed because of the friendships that I made by taking some time away from my lovely home university. I have new appreciation for my home campus but am beyond thankful for the opportunities I have had this past semester.

Campus Life

Author: Maria Clemens

Location: Newcastle, Australia

   Life at the University of Newcastle is quite different than life at Valpo. Not only are the class sizes different, but the classes themselves have a different style. Also, student life has a different twist to it here because of the culture difference. Living at the University of Newcastle has not only been an exciting, but eye-opening experience for me.

   As I said before, the classes are quite different here than at Valpo. For example, there are over 30,000 students at this university compared to the smaller size of a few thousand back home. This means that the class sizes are massive. I attended a lecture that contained over 200 students, however, the university has combated this challenge of size in several ways. First, most of the lectures are recorded online so if there are any distractions or students learn better alone, they can listen to the lectures at home. Second, not only are there lectures, but some classes also offer tutorials as well which are smaller classes of about 20 to 30 students that meet weekly in a discussion-based manner to go over the materials covered. The classes are also structured quite differently. There are significantly fewer exams and assignments than at Valpo. However, the assignments given by lecturers require more time to complete and are graded on a much harsher scale. Therefore, despite having less class time and assignments, the courses at Newcastle still presents a challenge and generates learning.

   Student life is also very different at the University of Newcastle. First of all, students choose whether to live on or off campus. That means that dorms and apartments on campus are a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen. The on campus living itself is also different. I lived in South Residence Tower which has a mix of six, two, and one-person apartments. I lived in a six-person shared apartment where I was the oldest student. Everyone in the apartment had their own bedroom but shared bathrooms, a kitchen, and the living room. The tower itself had a different culture than the residence halls back home. For example, since the sports teams of the university are not as well known and supported as they are in the US, the residence halls have created sports teams that compete each week. These get quite competitive and generate a lot of spirit for the residence halls. However, there are some similarities to living on campus at Valpo. Each residence hall has an elected student association that plans events for the building throughout the year. These events are usually well attended and exciting. At the beginning of the year, the association plans a big event called Commencement which includes dinner and a dance. Its quite similar to a formal planned by a sorority or fraternity. Similarities like these make living in Australia feel like home.

   Overall, despite being in a whole new country with different academic expectations, there are still enough similarities to make living here feel like home. The differences I have found in student life and classes have been a challenge to overcome but have made me a much more adaptable person. I have learned a lot about living with people who are not only a different age than me but come from a different culture. These differences have made me more aware of how different the world is outside of our lovely Valparaiso Campus and have caused me to have greater appreciation for home.

Saying our Goodbyes

Author: Emily Nelson

Location: Hirakata, Osaka, Japan

Coming back home, I knew the “reverse culture shock” was quickly going to set it. It wasn’t so much that everything seemed strange or alien, but rather a crippling realization that studying abroad is truly over. While I know I have plenty to look forward to, I still can’t help but miss my friends and my life overseas immensely.

To commemorate the end of my trip, I’m going to write about my goodbyes. First was a big dinner party I arranged at one of my favorite restaurants while abroad, ICC. This event was months in the making, as I had saved a bunch of points to earn a free cake via their rewards program. I invited my RAs, my primary friend group, and my Japanese professor to dinner. The night was full of great stories, laughter, and happiness, and I couldn’t be more pleased with myself and how it went. While bittersweet, I can’t help but smile.

The next round of goodbyes came with my final Saturday, the day of our “Completion Ceremony”. To kick off the end of the Asian Studies program, we attended an event like graduation(except the names were read rapid-fire to avoid taking three hours) with a lunch held afterwards. It was there that I had my final moments with my fellow classmates and my Japanese professor. I can’t help but think how sad it must be to remain at a university where the student body is continually changing. (Kansai Gaidai is internationally focused and sends the vast majority of students to study abroad locations). Yet with the sadness comes the most valuable memories, and I suppose that one can’t truly comprehend lasting happiness without its very absence.

Next came my family-my aunt and grandfather in particular. I must say that seeing her three times over the course of four months is a record. I traveled to her apartment on Saturday via Shinkansen and then spent most of Monday and Tuesday with her. On Sunday, I traveled to nearby Fujisawa to visit my grandfather. It was a nice visit, and I used my Japanese a lot. We discussed my study abroad experience, life at Valparaiso, etc. After showing him my portfolio full of what I’d learned, we headed to a local sushi restaurant. We then parted ways, hellos and goodbyes mixed up into bittersweet gladness tinged with melancholy.

On Tuesday the 29th, I said bade farewell to my aunt at the airport, accompanied by one of my university friends headed home on the same flight. After a ten-hour flight filled with three movies and fruitless attempts at sleeping, I said goodbye to her too. Jet-lagged and delirious, I flew back to Madison and promptly crashed.

So what now? I think it’s safe to say that I definitely hate goodbyes, but the more I think about them, the more I realize that they’re motivating. We don’t say goodbye because they’re good. It might be a customary phrase, but if we truly care about those we’re saying it to, the more it becomes our last attempt to hold onto great memories. A truly satisfying goodbye emulates the understanding that “if fate permits, let us meet again”. I don’t know when this will happen, but I have faith that it will. It’s only a matter of time.

The great dinner party!

My Japanese professor and I

On Saturday, the day of completion

Myself and my RA

My workout buddy and I

My aunt and I on the train

Life Goes On

Author: Emily Nelson

Location: Hirakata, Osaka, Japan

I write this sitting in my dorm enveloped in tinges of sadness. One of my childhood friends just lost their grandmother, who happens to be one of my grandmother’s closest friends. I grew up with this mutual friend sending me cards, taking us girls out together to fun places, and overall creating great memories. She always carried herself with a smile, even as ALS took over.

I live now knowing that while time is not infinite, you can, to some extent, control what happens to you. Some of us more than others, but there are choices in every day that eventually weave together to compose the threads of who we truly are. Occasionally there are people who add some beautiful colors into this fabric. I like to think that once they’ve left their mark, you can notice the changes they’ve made in those who remember them.

Time goes on when you’re abroad-while you’re busy cultivating yourself and building new relationships, others may break down. Whether through busyness, death, or simply not having much left in common, it can be demoralizing when the relationships you thought were secure just don’t seem so anymore. Isolation is a prevalent feeling while abroad, usually manifesting in some form of culture shock. By all means, take time for yourself, but also take time to show the important people in your life that you still care about them during this trip.

I think studying abroad helps you find your center. We talk a lot about how we “like learning about other cultures”. In reality, this is a very complex thing, but I think it can be simplified to a few ideas. Going away forces you to expand beyond yourself, whether it’s accepting that new ideas exist, different beliefs are present, etc. It also forces you to hang on to what you find most important-your values, the things that anchor you. Studying abroad can add to your values and reinforce your previous ones, and I think that’s why people come back so fundamentally changed. While you’re gone, people changed back home too. While reconciling with the differences can be jarring, I can assure you that the experience will help you appreciate your colors, and that this is always worthwhile.

I wrote the above a few weeks ago, and now that I’ve returned home, I have more to add. There truly isn’t enough time in the world to spend with those you value. I wish I could say that I left Japan with no regrets, but as many will tell you, this simply isn’t possible. My final week was filled with so many activities, from goodbyes to last hurrahs to simply reveling in post-finals happiness. There were so many invites that I could have been triple booked the last week. Now I know I should definitely be more proactive when it comes to leaving, but I also take this with the understanding that we’re never the people we need to be until we come out of it.

Traveling to my aunt’s place one final time via the Shinkansen

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