Olivia in Sweden: School and Flowers!

April 13, 2017

One thing I miss from UR is our dining hall, which is a sentence I thought I would never write. Students here don’t have a meal plan, and must frequent the local grocery store for all their eating needs. Thankfully, there are some eating areas to be found in the multiple academic buildings on campus.

 

 

The building I frequent the most is Engelska Parken! Here is a picture of the eating area. Not as much variety as our dining hall, eh? But the coffee and food is always delicious.

 

The style of teaching here is also a little different from back home.

 

 

It is very discussion based. Usually, we read an article for class, and then the professor breaks us up into smaller groups to discuss what we read. To finish up the class, we come together as a class and share what we learned. Much of what we learn is self-taught. This has taken a lot of getting used to. I am also enrolled in a class that never meets until the final exam!

 

 

The self-motivation for academic pursuits will only get tougher as the weather keeps getting more and more beautiful. At last, some flowers are beginning to bloom! So excited to see the full impact as spring gets closer!


Tori in Spain: Saying Yes to Hard Things

February 2, 2017

“How was abroad?” “Did you love Madrid?” “Your semester looked amazing, tell me about it.”

These are the questions I returned to. I have found it incredibly hard to sum up such an impactful experience, and honestly since being on campus abroad has felt like a distant dream. I lived in a faraway land for 4 months, got to learn a different language, and developed friendships that I wasn’t quite able to pack up in my suitcase and take home.

The one theme that has permeated my thoughts and reflections on abroad is how rich life is when we say yes to hard things. “Say yes to hard things” has become my slogan of the semester, and it is my biggest take away.

Showing up at a Spanish speaking church alone was not the most comfortable thing in the world. The prospect of leading a group of students, into a city I barely knew, to speak with strangers living on the street, in a foreign language, left me feeling unequipped and frustrated. Walking into the little bar next door to Amalie & I’s apartment on our last night in Madrid felt very inconvenient due to the flight I had to catch in the morning. Stopping to chat with Karrol when I was late to class seemed unproductive. Initiating conversation with the woman next to me on the subway felt awkward.

None of my sweetest memories abroad came from choosing to do what was the most convenient, socially acceptable, or comfortable. Life begins when we get out of our comfort zone and push ourselves. This can manifest itself in big ways or little ways, but it always involves leaning into the moment and being present. Even when I said yes to hard things begrudgingly, it lead to really special times. I need to ask, Lord, what do you have for me here? And it will lead me to love and think in a way that is more people-conscious, out of the knowledge that God is enamored with every soul I encounter on the street. Every little human bopping along in Madrid, Richmond, Winston Salem, or wherever I am, is created in the image of God and so in my every interaction I am interacting with one whom is dearly and sacredly loved by God.

 

 

 


JanusInSingapore: The Flat, The Mates

February 2, 2017

A Filipino, a German, a Belgian, a Brit, and two French girls walk into a bar…

It sounds like the beginning to a drawn-out and not-so-funny bar joke, but it’s a weekly reality for me in Singapore as I happen to live with these people. One of the things that makes that’s made this semester abroad so special for me is that I actually have had the opportunity to spend time with and get to know people from all over the world.

Yes, last semester, I did get to interact with Chinese people every day. Yes, I did get to meet a bunch of Europeans and Australians and New Zealanders while playing rugby in Beijing. But, there’s something different about actually sharing a living space with foreigners every day: sleeping in the same house, eating dinner on the same table, and telling jokes and exchanging stories on the same couch. It feels like a deeper connection because the conversations extend beyond “so how is your country different when it comes to ___?” You actually get to experience the differences yourself rather than hearing the redacted version from someone telling you about their country and culture, and start seeing habits or common themes in how they perceive things, particularly the mundane.

An example. Stereotypes are obviously quite harmful, but many of them exist for a reason and are probably based on some truth in the real world. I’ve heard of the stereotype of German uber-efficiency before, but didn’t quite realize how widespread it was until I found myself in our flat for the first time with my Belgian roommate Loic, one of my French flat mates Lucille, and our German flat mate, Anna. While Loic, Lucille, and I were stunned at how wonderful the space was, Anna walked around and started listing the things that were less than ideal about flat.

Most people in Singapore live in public housing commissioned by the HDB, the Housing & Development Board

Most people in Singapore live in public housing commissioned by the HDB, the Housing & Development Board

The refrigerator wasn’t cold enough. There was a slight smell in the kitchen. The shelf is a bit dirty. There aren’t enough sockets in the living room. Is the air conditioner inverter? If you were to just listen in to the conversation happening in the room, it would seem like we were scammed into an awful living situation for the next four months. To be honest, I started doubting myself – are my standards that low that I didn’t notice all these faults?

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The front of our apartment complex, the most common form of housing chosen by exchange students at SMU

When we went out for lunch afterwards, Anna split off to run errands, and the three of us that remained looked at each other and started laughing. “I’m not crazy, right? The flat is sick,” I said. Loic and Lucille agreed. “Germans,” they said in unison.

We need someone like that in the flat, though, and I appreciate what Anna brings because I think of myself as a fairly wasteful person. While it’s a bit annoying to have someone remind me to close the the door and shut the lights every time I finish using the bathroom, I do admit that some of my habits, like leaving the AC on when I leave the room for an extended period of time or using two laundry loads when one would suffice are habits that I can change. And every time Anna leaves for a trip to Malaysia or Indonesia, the flat quickly ends up becoming something of a mess. The chairs in our dining/study table don’t get pushed in, the dishes start to pile up, and doors and windows are left open all over.

One look at the difference between my room and Anna’s tells me that I have a lot to learn from her, however annoying it can be.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The flat itself is gorgeous. We six exchange students share a three-bedroom flat on the 24th floor with a fantastic view for the price of S$1000 a month, or roughly $700. While the price may seem excessive for a shared bedroom, the flat’s location and the complex’s amenities more than make up for it.

The complex’s lap pool – usually filled with children taking swimming lessons in the morning, but empty at night!

The complex’s lap pool – usually filled with children taking swimming lessons in the morning, but empty at night!

There’s an outdoor lap pool as well as few smaller pools for children or for those who prefer to lounge about in shallow waters, as well as both an indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi. At one end of the lap pool are a few barbeque stations that can be reserved for parties and events, something we definitely want to take advantage of before the semester is over. There’s a gym, too. It’s a bit small, so I’ve decided to purchase a membership at a local gym, too, but it does allow me to get a morning or evening run whenever I decide to be particularly ambitious.

The complex’s lap pool – usually filled with children taking swimming lessons in the morning, but empty at night!

The complex’s lap pool – usually filled with children taking swimming lessons in the morning, but empty at night!

The flat’s common area. The six of us spend most evenings together here, eating, watching Netflix, or doing what work we couldn’t finish at the library.

The flat’s common area. The six of us spend most evenings together here, eating, watching Netflix, or doing what work we couldn’t finish at the library.

We’re located just outside the city center. Kerrisdale Residences (our complex) is right smack in the middle of Little India, so there are already a variety of unfamiliar food choices to explore. Kampong Glam, the Malaysian/Middle Eastern ethnic quarter is a twenty minutes walk or five-minute bus ride away, while Chinatown is a ten minute MRT ride. A fairly large mall, CitySquare Park, is a three minutes walk away, complete with an MRT and bus station. SMU and Clarke Quay, the nightlife center for college students, are both fifteen minutes away by public transportation.

The flat assembles for its first night out!

The flat assembles for its first night out!

The one downside to having all these opportunities to try new foods or visit sights in Singapore is that I’m already way over budget for the month I’ve been here. Hopefully, I can catch my parents in a good mood sometime soon.


Jack in NZ: Adult-Lite

December 5, 2016

“The autobiographer is almost forced to the conclusion that she pitied herself for being so free” – Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

“White Male Privilege Squandered on Job at Best Buy” – The Onion

Here it is, the‘What I’ve Learned From Studying Abroad’ post:

One of the major questions we all have to contend with is “What do I do with the time I have on Earth?”. Most people have this question answered for them by circumstance. They’ve got mouths to feed, jobs to work, a mortgage to pay off, external circumstances that keep them locked into their lives.

Ostensibly, the more latitude you have in answering this question, the freer and luckier you are. Which would make me, having had essentially no external circumstances that compelled me to do anything (other than publish an occasional blog and get at least a 55% in each of my classes), incredibly free and lucky.

Being free and lucky really sucks. I wish someone had warned me.

“Hey Guys, we’re gonna give you four months of vacation in a beautiful country halfway around the world where your classes are pass/fail, attendance isn’t taken, course materials are all on Blackboard, and you have your expenses pretty much covered by your parents. Don’t slack off.” wink

What did you think we were going to do in this situation? Go to class?

It was like giving a bunch kids the keys to a candy store and telling them not to eat themselves into obesity.

Which is essentially what I did.

I slept in until 11 every day, skipped all but my mandatory labs, only did homework when I absolutely could not put it off any longer, and went out traveling and drinking on the weekends. And the weekends were from Wednesday to Sunday.

A successful day for me involved not rolling around in bed and playing with my phone for an hour before I got up, going for a run, reading a chapter or two of whatever book I felt like reading, and cooking a good meal. I think my single greatest accomplishment was watching all of Game of Thrones.

And this may sound like the best semester ever, but it was incredibly tedious. Somewhere around 20 minutes into the third consecutive episode, it was no longer fun. It was fun in principle, but in practice it was unfulfilling.

But because it was still way more fun in principle than schoolwork or actually publishing a blog on schedule for once, it was easy to keep doing. Keeping the laptop open was the path of least resistance, and there was no external pressure to push me out of the rut.

For the longest time I’ve railed against this sort of external pressure. Expectations that I attend every class drove me up a wall: “Why not just throw the Powerpoint up online and let me learn the material on my own time?”

These sorts of things didn’t just seem inconvenient; they seemed to insult my maturity, my independence. It was as if the professor wasn’t treating me like an adult.

And they were right to. Because if I’ve learned anything from abroad, it’s that I’m still very much a child.

I took my freedom and ran with it. I was a slave to my lizard brain, letting my dopamine system jerk me around from Youtube video to Youtube video, working only when I had to, not really accomplishing any of my loftier goals I brought into the semester.

Faced with infinite free time, ‘writing for an hour everyday’ became, ‘eh, maybe tomorrow, back to GoT’, ‘staying on top of my classes’ became ‘eh, three days before the final is probably enough time to learn a semester’s worth of material’.

In short, I really screwed myself over.

But I think it was ultimately a good thing. As a result, I’ve got a lot more appreciation for what I used to see as unnecessary structure. I can’t wait to get back to Richmond to wake up for 9am’s every morning, I can’t wait to submit regular homework assignments and take a test every 4-6 weeks.

And I now know that when I’m dumped at freedom and adulthood’s doorstep after graduation, I had better have my act together. Working to slowly wean myself from contrived structure and learning to impose my own will ensure I take full advantage of my freedom and my luck.

 

 


Naomi at Akita Week 13: Mission Impossible

December 2, 2016

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Remember how it snowed for the first time a couple of weeks ago? The snow melted right away and since then it hadn’t snowed. Well, it started snowing again this past week and it was actually pretty bad. Some of the snow melted and froze during the night; the next day I could barely walk. I was basically ice skating everywhere in my slip-on Vans since I wanted to refrain from slipping and falling on my butt. I really need to buy some snow boots…

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Thursday evening, my mom and brother, Tyler, landed in Akita! They stayed in a hotel near campus – only a 5-minute walk away. My mom decided not to get a rental car in fear of sliding on the icy roads. Practically all of the ice had melted by the second day they were here but she insisted on using the buses and trains for transportation. We all got dinner in the school cafeteria since my mom wanted to try the food they served there. I was surprised to see that there was a Thanksgiving special considering we’re in Japan! The turkey was actually very delicious when drenched in gravy. Since we had nothing planned for the night, we took the bus to AEON so my mom could buy some food for breakfast. We met Patrik there – he went earlier to get a haircut before the shop closed. After the mall, my mom and Tyler headed back to the hotel. They were tired from traveling and Patrik and I had to work on Japanese homework due the next day.

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After my 10:30 Japanese class, I walked to the hotel. My mom’s friend and husband from Iwata (different prefecture) drove about three hours to visit us. My mom has been a friend of this woman since 3rd grade – they’re pen pals. The last time they saw each other was in 1993…that’s 23 years ago. She lives in the area that was affected by the tsunami in 2011. My mom wanted us to visit her there but since we didn’t have a car we would have had to travel by train and it would’ve taken 6 hours. For lunch, we ate at the restaurant in the hotel. I got the Lunch Set with the ハンバーガーステーキ (Hamburger Steak) and it was delicious. Afterwards, we decided to walk around my campus. We showed them our beautiful library and stopped at the only café on campus for some coffee. They left around 4pm so my mom and Tyler just sat at one of the tables outside of the café. Patrik and Isabella both ended up coming to hang out with us before Isabella left for dance rehearsals. They both kept asking my mom and Tyler for embarrassing/funny stories about me, giving Tyler the opportunity to make fun of me. All of us were laughing so hard, especially Tyler and me. The both of us even started tearing up – it was great.


After Isabella left, we got on the bus and headed to AEON for dinner. Tyler wanted to go to 焼肉 (grill in the middle of table so you cook your own meat) and Patrik found one that was a 15-minute walk away from the mall. However, while on the bus, Patrik admitted to not wanting to go because it was cold and snowing outside. So, we walked into the restaurant area of the mall not knowing where to eat. We looked at the menus of all the restaurants there and then stood in the middle of the walkway trying to figure out where to eat. It was very inconvenient that the four of us were all very indecisive. Thankfully, Patrik had made an earlier comment that he hadn’t eaten pizza in a while so my mom said we should go to the Italian restaurant. Once we sat down we realized that the pizza given to us wasn’t that big, it was more of a side of pizza – only 15cm wide. The four of us ended up getting spaghetti with a side of pizza. Patrik and I both got spaghetti with squid ink – it was a Black Friday special. Patrik got honey pizza and I got pizza with spicy pollock/cod roe. It was obviously a Japanese-style Italian restaurant! After dinner, my mom insisted on going to Baskin Robbins so she could get a free scoop of ice cream with a coupon she got from her phone company. Once she got it, she took two bites, said it was too sweet, and gave it to Tyler to finish. Oh brother.


On Saturday, Patrik and Isabella joined us to head into the city. My mom was on me about making Christmas cards to send to family and friends. I told her we could use pictures that we took together during the summer in Okinawa but she was persistent in taking some pictures here. While I gave my camera to Patrik and he proceeded to take some pictures of us.


Oh, here are some pictures of me throwing a snowball at Patrik. I missed. BUT, I missed intentionally because I didn’t want to hit my camera.


We got to Akita Station and saw some guys dressed as Namahage! My mom told us to run over and take pictures with them before another group of kids jumped ahead of us. I felt like an elementary school student being forced to take a picture with one of the scary movie characters at Disneyland. After we took that picture, we walked towards the city and passed a souvenir shop with a big stuffed bull. Isabella started freaking out and I could tell she wanted to go hug it so I told her I would take a picture of her with it. Tyler ended up jumping in too and the both of them look so happy! It makes me happy.


We walked to a fish and vegetable market. There was a guy chopping off fish heads. We saw puffer fish and lots of cheap ikura (salmon roe) – Tyler’s favorite. I actually really love going to fish markets. I don’t know why. I love seeing all the different kinds of fish and as weird as this is going to sound, I appreciate the smell. We walked outside and saw someone selling different kinds of mochi – a Japanese rice cake. The rice is pounded for several hours until it turns into paste and then shaped. In Akita, zunda mocha is popular so my mom bought a package of four. Tyler and I shared one. It tasted nothing like the mochi we are used to; it was super sweet and soft to chew. I guess the rice was pounded for a longer time.

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After the market, we walked to Senshu Park. Isabella and Patrik have never gone so I decided to take everyone there since there isn’t that much to do in the city here. Tyler’s a senior in high school so he needs senior casuals for the yearbook. I offered to take some pictures for him. He found a bunch of leaves sprawled on the ground under a naked tree. The leaves matched with his hoodie and shoes so we thought it would make for a nice set of photos. I told him to throw some leaves for a couple of the pictures and it turned out looking pretty cool. There’s a castle at the park that I wanted to show my mom but we had to climb up a pretty steep hill. Tyler had to help her out and we were all laughing, even my mom. She felt like a grandma hanging out with us kids, she said.


After the park, my mom treated all of us to some ラーメン (ramen). The place was very small and only had maybe 15 seats altogether. Each table only seated three people so we had to sit separately. You had to order at a machine, which allowed you to receive a ticket you give to the cooks. I was shocked when my mom told me the only sizes they had were regular, large, and extra large. We all got the regular size but the bowl was still so huge. I’ve never eaten so many noodles in one sitting. Isabella couldn’t even finish her bowl. Tyler was still hungry and ate some of hers before we headed out. His stomach is bottomless, apparently.


Saturday night, we went to Isabella and Annabelle’s dance performances. There were 24 dance teams performing at Dance Virus. It was the last dance event for the semester so it was very emotional for the seniors graduating soon. It was a lot of fun to watch though and I’m glad my mom and Tyler came this weekend to see everyone perform. Even dance teams from other schools came to perform. The last performance was very exciting though. A bunch of people danced to “You Can’t Stop The Beat,” the song from Hairspray. Not many people know this about me but I love watching musicals. My mom watched them while I was growing up so it has rubbed off on me. I was rocking out in my chair when the song played.

 

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My mom and Tyler had to leave for the airport at 10am today but Patrik wanted us to complete Mission Impossible before they left. We met up at 8am and Patrik gave us that first paper shown above and told us good luck. There were 7 missions and we had to walk around campus looking for the next clue. I was laughing throughout the entire game. It amazes me that Patrik made this for my mom and Tyler; he’s such a sweetheart. He even created mp3 files that we read with a QR scanner on Tyler’s phone. We had to guess the national anthem of different countries to find the next location. We used Shazam to find out some of the anthems – we couldn’t figure out the Italian national anthem. We told Patrik that and he told us they sing “Italia” in the song….I guess we have bad hearing. At the end, my mom and Tyler were rewarded with maple cookies and syrup from Canada. Patrik’s sister lives in Canada so he asked her to send that over for us. What a wonderful weekend. It makes me happy that Patrik gets along with my family so well considering he’s going to Okinawa with me this winter break.


Olivia in Scotland: Easy as 1, 2,3

October 28, 2016

Hello again!

So, it may not sound like it from my previous posts, but I’ve actually been going to classes while I’ve been here! Shocking, I know. It’s definitely a lot harder to focus on them here than it is when I’m at UR, but I’ve enjoyed them and learned some cool things about Scottish culture and how their universities work.

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Jumping into classes at Edinburgh! #badpun #notasmanycoolpicturesforliteraturecourses

Class #1: Early Modern Tragedy. This is a 3rd year English seminar with a very depressing title. Luckily, our tutor (they don’t call them “professors” here) has that wry, Scottish sense of humor that can find something to laugh about even in the darkest of texts. Like my English courses at home, this class is largely discussion-based, but it only meets once a week and each student has an assigned Autonomous Learning Group (ALG) that you have to meet with outside of class as well. It’s definitely a lot of independent learning, but thankfully you have a group of people to talk through the texts with when they get confusing. One cool thing: I went to see Macbeth at the Globe Theatre a few weeks ago, and while we didn’t actually read that play in this course, I felt like I had a much deeper understanding of the genre and themes because I’m taking this.

Class #2: Edinburgh in Fiction/Fiction in Edinburgh. In this English seminar, we read novels from various time periods that are set in (or partially set in) the city of Edinburgh. This course can be really cool because you can actually picture the places that they talk about in the books; in one novel we read, the characters actually lived in my neighborhood! I love getting to hear different authors describe the city in different contexts and learning more about its evolution over time to where we are today. There’s only one problem with this course: there’s more reading than just about anyone in the class can actually finish. One of the big things I prefer about UR is that the professors tend to split up texts between different class meetings whenever possible so you get a deeper understanding of fewer texts. Here, it feels like you tend to get a shallower understanding of more texts. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the essay will pan out because of this. And yes, as you may have heard, nearly all your grade is determined by an essay at the middle of the term and another one at the end of the term. (Keep your fingers crossed for me please.)

Class #3 (my last class because the courses are worth more credits here): Scotland and Orality. This is a course I’m taking just for fun because I can’t really take it anywhere else in the world. We look at Scotland’s oral tradition—that means ballads, fables, myths, legends, songs, children’s games, and lots more—past and present. One of the strangest things about this course for me is finding out that some of the things I think of as distinctly American are actually Scottish things. In our first course meeting, we listened to some fiddle music, and it sounded pretty much exactly like Appalachian fiddle music in the US. This made sense to me since I myself have Scottish ancestors who immigrated to those mountains, but I just hadn’t thought about it before. There have been lots of moments like that here—for instance, when I realize that Americans and Scots are both famous for frying food or that ceilidh dances here are a whole lot like square dances—but this course has given me a closer look at some of those things. Another cool moment in this course was when we talked about children’s games. A Scottish student and I tried to remember the words to the old game Miss Mary Mack together, and we knew all the same words except for one: I said “50 cents” and she said “50 pence!” Some things aren’t so different between the two sides of the Atlantic.

Those are my classes! Things are a lot more independent here and I definitely miss the more direct access to professors that you can get at UR, but it’s a good learning experience.

To close—living here longer makes me appreciate this city’s beauty even more. I can’t believe I’ve only got a little less than two months left!

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The view of Prince’s Street and Edinburgh Castle from Calton Hill. Gorgeous, right?

Till next time!


Jack in NZ: Regular

October 27, 2016

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” – Unknown

“To be, in a word, unborable…. It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish” – David Foster Wallace

“There is a story of a man fleeing a tiger. He came to a precipice and catching hold of a wild vine, swung down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above while below another tiger growled and snapped waiting for him to fall. As he hung there two mice began to gnaw away the vine. Just then he saw a big wild strawberry growing nearby. Reaching out with his free hand he plucked the strawberry. How sweet it tasted!” – Joseph Goldstein

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The coffee is lukewarm.

It’s the dregs from yesterday morning my flatmate has left in the pot to condense overnight, my first cup in 72 hours. I spent the previous several days hiking the Kepler Track, staying in huts lacking electrical outlets and precluding the convenient preparation of caffeinated beverages lest a maker with 60-kilometer extension chord in tow be lugged for the duration of the trip. The surface interval has done me good, offered me a gulp of fresh air before plunging back into the caffeinated depths of exam week. The ‘how many shots in a long black?’ and ‘yes I’d like an extra’ surely in my near future, hooked on black ambrosia and a gradual acceleration in life’s pace that will bring me to the exam desk and airplane terminal in two-shakes of a freshly birthed NZ lamb’s tail.

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Today marks the beginning of the end. I can practically smell the salty sea air of the Malaysian beach where I will sit and luxuriate in post-finals freedom. I can feel my feet digging into the sand and the equatorial rays on my skin. I can taste the strawberry daiquiri. And the second one. I can hear the waves lapping at the shore and the inoffensive tropical music over the hump that is the next week.

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On Halloween I will sit for my remaining exams. Two days later, I will leave New Zealand for a cheeky jaunt through the South’s of East Asia and Africa. If all goes to plan, this trip will continue to add hours to the time of my life.

But I’ve got a long way to go.

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My first order of business is to dig myself out of the academic hole in which I have wallowed for far too long. Baring a mad scientist tainting the water supply with amphetamines, it seems as though this project will consume most of my remaining time. The odds I go on another backpacking trip are slim, the chances I see the stars at Lake Tekapo dubious. So be it. I may never return to check them off my bucket list, but the experiences I’ve had so far more than compensate.

My second task involves gradually extracting the roots that have begun to take hold. I need to find homes for all the stuff I’ve acquired over the past few months. I’ve got books to read, camping gear to sell, and a cactus in need of adoption. I’ve also got 20-odd liters of homebrew to humanely dispose of, a confounding variable I could probably do without. And of course there are the goodbyes, the U.S. phone numbers, and the hugs to exchange before I can step on the plane.

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The flatmate has brewed another pot this morning, leaving a half-cup a few degrees hotter than the previous one. Impossible to resist, I refill my mug.

The law of diminishing returns applies in spades to the bitter liquid; coffee is a crazy new girlfriend, an initial rush of euphoria in exponential decline, creeping resentment brewing with every minute together, a reluctance to break things off given the threat of an unknown but definitely not good subsequent several days and because my goodness is she seductive. A constant teeth gritting of which one can never quite determine the origin concomitant in each study session, bouncing one’s leg up and down to the erratic scribbling of notes, work a means to the end of going home and passing out so you can wake up and do the same thing the next day. It’s perversely enjoyable, finals a sort of free pass to stay up at odd hours and embrace a strung- and stressed-out lifestyle with a clear end in sight.

This week is the climax of my semester. Rather than enjoying the perfect cadence of a contemplative and restful study abroad denouement, I will race toward the finish line. I will ignore the birds in the botanical garden and I will not stop to smell the flowers. I will spend hours in the library and consume tepid cups of methylxanthines and fit in travel planning and friends at the margins. The hectic state of mind is all too familiar, and perhaps unavoidable, but at least I know it’s coming. I will do my damnedest to enjoy it.

The last sludgy sip has been consumed, straggling grinds and all.

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