Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The End to a Long, Winding Journey

Making a home out of a new city and a completely new place in the short span of three weeks is not an easy thing to do, both in theory and in actuality, as I have learned. I think this rang true for me the most, the one who is more reserved compared to the rest of my cohort.

It never really sunk in for me until departure day that I was going away to a foreign city, away from my family, leaving all my friends and everything I’ve known so far (okay – maybe that’s a little dramatic). Maybe a part of me just denied it until the very last minute, but it definitely hit me – and hard – on departure day, as we stood in front of ECHS for hours waiting for our late shuttle.
Arrival to UChicago
The first few days at UChicago, I spent a bit of time away from people in general, however hilarious that might sound. I saw my cohort here and there, but I retreated to my dorm room whenever possible. I think I needed that break away from everyone. Everything was moving so fast; I needed that time to regroup and figure out where I stand on this shaky, new ground.

I am not afraid to admit I was intimidated at the beginning, by all my fellow summer session students and even by my own cohort. I was suddenly dropped in an environment where everyone was talking about their fours or fives on their AP tests and their high SAT scores that they are still not satisfied with. On the RA tour trip the first day, that was basically what everyone talked about. Everyone was so much more competitive than I am, and when even some members of my cohort were feeling the pressure, I had to wonder what did that meant for me, when the schools my cohort are from back home here are generally considered much more competitive than mine.

Somehow, though, I dealt with the pressure. I knew I could either cave in or strive to do better, and I chose the latter. And in doing so, I learned many things. The most important and surprising thing– maybe even to you all – is that while there is undeniably a certain, solid gap between standards here at home and at UChicago, it wasn’t nearly as wide as I thought. Either it was that, or Dr. Fineschi did such a beautiful job of going over basics that I honestly never really felt like I was somehow behind or lacking compared to my classmates.

I might have experienced some struggle finding my voice and my confidence inside the classroom in the beginning due to my own insecurities, but if you have read my blogs, you will know that I was soon very engaged in the class discussions and enjoyed every minute of it. I fell in love with the learning atmosphere of our class, with the way Dr. Fineschi always encouraged questions and anything that involved us thinking for ourselves, with everything we did in our labs, and with my whole class as a whole.
I don't know who took this picture (actually, I think Dr. Fineschi did), but I've yet to figure out why it's so yellow. 
There were so many lovely people in my class, and although we were all awkward with each other in the beginning (surprisingly, there wasn’t any really super outgoing person person), we soon became familiar with each other. We made fun of Jonathan, with his “headaches” and how he thought we didn’t have class on Thursday. We loved Isobel’s British accent, and we literally told her to just keep talking so we could hear her voice. We made so many good memories with each other, the whole class went by in a blast, and I wished I had more time to get to know them better.

Over the course of these three weeks, there were times I admit where I envied my cohort’s wildness and their ease in making friends. I wondered and worried at times whether I was simply too uptight, that maybe I should let go and just go with the flow more. But I also realized long ago, in the beginning of the trip, that that wasn’t me – because I have been there with them, and I learned that while I love my cohort with all my heart, I needed to stop myself from feeling like I have to change to catch up with them. I have my own comfort zone, which is different from theirs, and that’s totally okay, too.
Another thing I forgot to add - my photography skills became much better!!
Although I still hung out with Jahnvi, Lindsay, Raqueeb, Olivia, Kara, and Michelle very frequently (featuring Kara pounding on the door and taking naps on my bed while I wrote my blog), I made sure to go out and make my own friends – and I did. I met Karla, and through her, Makayla and Elena.

Karla, who was my gym buddy, who talked about everything from books to anime to Game of Thrones with me, who would gush over our favorite character’s birthday with me. She was easily my best friend at Chicago. Then, there’s also Makayla, who ate cereal at almost every single lunch, who also went on that last RA trip to see the sunrise, and Elena, who was so nice and sweet to me when I first began sitting with them at their table during lunch. I am the type of person who likes to stick with only a few close friends at any given time, and those three were definitely it for me.
Makayla and I were walking buddies on the RA trip to see the sunset on the last day 
It was sad to part way with everyone I've gotten to know. I have spent so much time with Karla, Elena, and Makayla; it's going to feel weird without them to eat lunch with me now. Michelle was a wild roommate, but the dorm never felt the same after she left. I will never forget how Kara and I got matching rings for 99 cents that were supposed to be our wedding rings, but I had to wear mine on my pinkie while she wore hers on her middle finger because of sizing issues. Olivia is the nicest being on this planet, and I am forever grateful to her for letting me stay in her room that one night even though I kept her up with my typing. Raqueeb's sleeping posture, or lack of, is comically and legendary, something I'm sure none of us with ever let him live it down. Jahnvi and Lindsay made me question whether they were long lost sisters separated from birth. 

I’ve grown into my own person over the past three weeks, and I would never have been able to do it without the awesome friends I have made on the way (both new ones and old), my family (I called them very often), my lovely and ever so lively cohort, the best chaperone ever, and Good Don on my side. That’s a lot of people, and it’s thanks to each and every single one of them that I was able to find my footing when I was at a lost.
The class picture were finally uploaded to us!
Although there are still many thing about my future I haven’t figure out, my time in Chicago has made me sure of who I am and who I want to be.

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