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Spring Break: the beginning

By inepalacios

Miami, Sunday March 9, 9:32 am, Fort Lauderdale Airport. I just arrived from Baltimore. From missing the train, to getting charged for excess of weight in my suitcase, to taking a last moment flight, to almost missing the plane too, with a couple hours of sleep, after taking four exams that same week, two that same day, finally: I am starting my spring break.

I felt tired, but at the same time, excited. Right at this moment I was really excited to see what Miami had to offer, but at the same time I felt the need to reflect about the last two months. I felt this way, because the spring break not only means taking a break, but it also means the end of the first part of our semester. Two months, I can’t believe they passed by so quickly. What was I doing? What things were unexpected?  Which aspects of the exchange shouldn’t I repeat? How am I spending my time? What should I keep doing during the rest of the semester? What have I learned? Is there something that I can improve?

A bunch of moments come to my mind, the first weeks in Boston, the first week with the exchange students, the first week with my class, my first friends, my DC routine: running, community service, now also GW class council, events in the university, New York, DC, parties, classes again. I can talk again about each moment, but I think that the two last days are a good representation about what was going in my exchange.

Last Friday, 6 am, I had to wake up, two exams were waiting to be taken, one in three hours and the other one, in ten hours. I feel like I did not studying enough, now this feeling doesn’t matter, it is not the moment to regret, I just had to be focus, I was telling myself. Definitely, the three first hours of this Friday were really efficient: the pressure to do well on the exams was the perfect reason to stay focus. It’s 11, I already took one exam, and I just have three more hours to prepare for the other one. It’s 12, a classmate asked to study prior the exam together, 12.30 another friend offered to explain some terms to me, good classmates are always present. 5 pm and this exam was done, I just started my spring break, I can’t believe it, time to update my Argentinean friend. A couple of Skype calls to Argentina, messages on WhatsApp, inbox on facebook, calls on Google hang out, all these are being essential for me to feel the affection that we share. 7 pm I received an invitation to hang out with a new friend, but I couldn’t accept the invitation because my Argentinian friend, Pepi, who is on exchange in Richmond was coming to DC. 8 pm we are doing one of the things that we love the most: running. 10 PM we are cooking, great homemade dinner then pregame with Pepi’s friends, 12 am another exchange students’ party. 3 am after-party in City Hall with a couple of friends, we just talked. 4 AM Pepi and I got hungry so we ate again. Shortly after I felt asleep. Saturday morning, 10 am, I started to prepare the thing for Miami. I am also finishing some pending assignments. 12pm I am going to the homeless shelter: another afternoon is waiting for me to share with the homeless members. 2 PM, in the middle of a sunny afternoon on the shelter I am sharing one of the best talks of my exchange with Ahmad an Iranian. 5 pm I went to finish some last minute shopping for the trip. Around 10 PM I hanged out with an American friend that I met in Argentina. It’s being a long time since I last saw him. Good time, a warm hug and good wishes for his spring break. Around 12 AM just a few minutes to prepare my bag, I promised a Mexican friend to hang out before my trip, long talk: I am hearing one of the chapters of a novel he is writing, amazing. I felt like I knew him since forever. 3.30 AM I just realized that I lost the train to go to Baltimore. 5 am my friend is bringing me to Union Station: I almost missed the train again, but I took another train. 6 AM, Baltimore Airport, I am trying to meet with another friend in the Airport who is going to Costa Rica; finally we talked on the phone. A few minutes before the flight, I talked to Pepi who was in Miami already.

9.30 am: here I am, thinking about what I did these last two days, thinking that I have to choose the best moments of only these two days, it was definitely the people. I feel so grateful to be accompanied with really nice people. Having a friend waiting for me in Miami, getting a call from another friend wishing me a good trip, having another friend bringing me to the station are gestures that I never thought I was going to get in such a little amount of time. I remember the situation was the opposite my last days in Tucumán, Argentina before coming to US. It was really difficult for me to get my friends to want to hang out with me, or do something. I think that the difference lays not only in the fact that the people here are more friendly, but I also think it is a consequence of my willingness to be more friendly and more attentive with my new friends, something that I was not doing in Tucumán. I know that I cannot fix my relationships with my Argentinean friends now, but I learned that I have to come back and focus all of my energies on them in order to strengthen our friendship. I definitely miss them. If something is hard now, is not being able to share all of these amazing experiences with them. Each of them taught me a lot, and is hard not being able to share what is going on, because we are growing apart. One of the most important things that I have learned is the importance of being careful about our friends, and to value our personal relationships.

Another thing that I realized during the trip is how fortunate I am. I compared something that we learn in Latin American, it was about how the majority of the Latin American people living in the US are illegal immigrants and how they have the courage to leave their house and face hardships, because they are seeking to improve their lives. Understanding that makes me realize how fortunate I am to be a Latin American studying in the US at a very good university and receiving such amazing opportunities. Also, comparing between my experience and a homeless man Ahmad, I am able to realize how values were my opportunity. He told me “slow, slow you will hate the Americans, they discriminate the foreign people, and they are racists, as an Iranian I had to face a lot of troubles”. Definitely my perception of my experience living in the United States is totally different, maybe because of how different my experience is, or maybe because of how lucky I am of attending a university and getting a scholarship to be here. Situations where I am able to compare myself with another foreign person encourage me to reinforce my willingness to take advantage of every opportunity here. This situation gave me the criteria to decide how to spent my time, have to go party more, hangout, spent time with my friends, or having to reject plans so I can study more, be more focus in my activities? I think that I have to grow up academically, this is my priority, and if sometimes I have to reject fun times, that is the way to be responsible about the opportunities I receive. At the same time I know that both things, studying and having fun, can complement each other. The challenge now is know what I can do to be more focus in my studies, but at the same time save time to hangout with my friends. How can I get this equilibrium? I don’t know but I have a week to think about that, these days will be enough time to relax. I have to leave now. Pepi is calling me; he and his friends are waiting in the car we rented for our trip. Hope that next time I am able to have a better story to learn, to tell, and to remember. I am half way through my exchange, although this is sad, this reality came with the gift of enjoying an amazing break in Miami.

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