On the eve of departure…

I have been trying to figure out how to express all of the feelings I am having on this ‘eve of departure’. This post has taken me more days to write than I care to admit. Writing has always been hard for me, especially when I am trying to express my emotions, and preparing for this trip has definitely been emotional for me.

I know that I am about to embark on a life-changing experience and honestly just the preparation for the trip has been profound. Although this is not my first time traveling abroad, it is the first trip that I have had to prepare extensively for: researching my GPP topic and the university that I will brief the group on, practicing German, planning hostels and trains/busses for my ‘extracurricular’ travel. I bought my first suit. It is hard to express the feelings I had wearing my new suit and modeling for my girlfriend over video chat. I turned 31 earlier this year and I think it is appropriate that I finally own a suit. It is symbolic of the new chapter of my life that began when I started graduate school. I think the following quote gives a sense of what I am feeling:

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page”

-St. Augustine

(Although this quote is commonly attributed to St. Augustine, it is most likely not directly from him)

This trip has already begun to turn the pages of my book.

This experience has also brought up feelings of sadness and appreciation. I want to apologize for what I’m about to do: quote a Kanye West song (seriously I’m sorry).

“we wasn’t supposed to make it past twenty-five, jokes on you we still alive”

-Kanye West, “We Don’t Care”

I grew up in a family of five; I have three brothers and we were raised by a single mother. We relied on food stamps and subsidized housing resulting in our family living in some pretty sketchy places where break-ins were a common occurrence and we, quite literally, couldn’t have anything nice because it would just get stolen. My mother worked her butt off to slowly move us out of those rough neighborhoods, begging landlords in good areas to accept a family on section 8 (subsidized housing) which is the landlord’s choice in New Mexico. Many landlords do not want to deal with the added hassle of dealing with a renter on section 8. They are required to have the property inspected yearly which often reveals maintenance that they wouldn’t have to perform for regular renters. I am going into all of this detail because I know that I would not be in graduate school or even have graduated from college if my mother had not been so determined to get her family into good neighborhoods with good schools. My brothers and I often remind each other that the odds really were stacked against us and it is really amazing to reflect on the success that we have all had. My brother Diego will tell me, “you know you weren’t supposed to make it past twenty-five.”

My mother was one of the strongest and most inspirational people I have ever had in my life. I lost her to breast cancer in 2004 and I still, nearly 13 years later, tear-up thinking about how important her perseverance was to my success. I wish she could see how far all of her sons have come. She would be so excited and proud to see me embarking on this journey.

I also have a sense of appreciation about being one of the lucky few who were selected to participate in this program. I know so many smart, deserving people that, just because of their life situation, have not been able to realize their potential. I am so grateful to be a part of this experience, I just wanted to recognize all of the worthy who did not get a chance to be a part of this trip and, more generally, attain some degree of higher education.

I think that the best use of my participation in the Global Perspectives Program will be to use the insights and experience that I gain to help inspire the students that I will one day interact with. This brings me to the last quote that I would like to include in this post:

“Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

-Muhammad Ibn Buttuta

(This quote may be from him but again there is some controversy)

I am so excited about the growth and perspective that I will gain over the next several weeks. I have already felt the expansion of my self-understanding and am looking froward to the many stories that I will tell as a result. Finally I would like to sincerely thank Dean DePauw for everything that she does for students around the world and for facilitating this once in a lifetime experience.

Thanks for reading and until next time, Aufwiedersehen.

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