Blog Archive

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Next up...

Internship at NASA JPL then grad school in France. (Toulouse, just like I predicted a year ago).

New shananagins = new blog. Check it out:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A three week layover in Pittsburgh

Home at last. In Paris, I did exactly what I wanted—I relaxed in a garden between the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre for a few hours. Then, upon returning home, I went straight to CMU to watch my friends graduate and say goodbye to those leaving Pittsburgh. Now, four days after landing in Pittsburgh, I can finally make myself a cup of tea, sit on my porch, and finish the story of my semester.

Last fall, as part of a scholarship application, I made a list of goals that I wanted to achieve while abroad. Had my academic advisor not pointed me to this opportunity, I probably never would have made this list—and as I sit here, I’m thankful to have some insight into my thoughts prior to last January.  

A few of my goals and their outcomes:

1.     To learn French to a level that will allow me to live and work in French-speaking countries comfortably beyond the conclusion of this program.

Victory for Cecily  : )  When I return to France (without an English-speaking university as home base), I will survive. Yes, I will struggle, but I will be ok. To be honest, I am disappointed in the final speaking level that I attained. Maybe I placed my expectations too high, but I feel like I comprehend French at a high school level and speak it at an elementary level. Oh well—better luck next time. I plan on maintaining what I have gained by listening to French audio books, taking classes, and of course by writing and speaking to the friends I met while abroad.

2.     To force myself away from the comfort of Pittsburgh, where I have lived my entire life.

Achieved as of January 4th. I was definitely out of my element in Europe—no need to elaborate on this point anymore as it is a reoccurring theme in my other posts.

3.     To experience the sense of absolute independence.

In France, I felt completely alone. I of course made friends, but four months isn't really enough time to acquire the type of friends that transform a place into a home. Actually, the majority of people I hung around with had already lived in Metz for some period of time, eliminating the factor of a “shared experience” that should have brought us closer together. On one hand this pushed me to adapt to my surroundings quicker, but on the other, I felt even more isolated and silly for being intimidated by inconsequential tasks (like going to a doctor alone). Furthermore, I never expected to get home sick (or rather, people sick), but I did.

I came to France feeling like I had to be alone to be independent. This isn’t true at all. I took care of myself the same abroad as I did in Pittsburgh. I was already independent.  What I discovered is that I am still a little shaky when I feel ‘alone.’ So, I must be alone again. Longer next time I think. Then I can learn how to be comfortable with absolute independence AND absolute solitude.

4.     To grow as an individual by becoming confident in my actions and problem solving abilities.

Yes. I feel invincible right now. I learned how to decipher metro maps, communicate without words, and well, fend for myself in a foreign country.

Phew. If this were an essay, I would have surpassed my word limit. That means it is almost time to stop rambling. As much as I struggled, my time abroad was amazing. I would trade my life saving to do it all again if I could. And I will. Next time however, I will not travel Europe as I did this semester. I will pick a city and stay put for more than 3 days at a time.  I will also fully immerse myself in another language. No more handicaps.

What next? Alaska, Oklahoma, and Texas. My travels are not over yet. Thanks to a slightly random and incredibly unique internship position, I have 10 flights and five cities standing between me and my senior year. Awesome. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Beautiful Disaster

Most of what I wrote in my blog was about traveling and not sleeping (thanks to my top-notch procrastination skills). Obviously there is more to my study-abroad experience than travel and work, but it isn't really my style to discuss my struggles and triumphs on the web. I think I would be doing both myself and my family an injustice, however, to wrap up my experience with something like..."Traveling was awesome! I saw loads and learned loads more! School was school. I didn't work as often as I usually do, but I worked just as hard so all ended well."

Accurate...but lame.

The truth is, the past four months were a wonderful mess. I failed more than I succeeded, I found my ambitions to be limited by my abilities, I  struggled to keep my self esteem intact, and I met people who turned my world upside down....and then blew it up. Fantastic.

I have one day left in Europe and I will be spending it in Paris, reading a book in front of the Eiffel Tower. I'm tired, and as much as I hate to admit it, ready to come home. I have much more to write about my semester (more for my own sake than anyone else's), but I will save it for tomorrow evening....I still have to pack. Surprise!

Dublin, Ireland

I’m still alive in case you were wondering. Finals destroyed me. Well, not really,..I have my grades back and they are pretty close to what they usually are,…but getting those scores was a seriously last push effort. I guess that’s what happens when you travel four days a week and only study three. 

If school work was my only concern the past two weeks, I would have been golden. Unfortunately, I was also ambushed by a whirlwind of unforeseen monsters. Blah. As I always do, I fought my way out of that mess, bruised and battered, and jumped on a plane to Ireland to recover. And a brilliant recovery it was. Following my sister's advice, we took two 8hr bus rides around the countryside. This was exactly what I stare blankly out a window and give my mind time to process all I have been through during the past four months. When we were tired of thinking (or when we ran out of bus tours...don't know which came first), we hit the pubs and enjoyed some Irish coffee (Josh drank Guinness of course) and live music. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finals : (

I want the next 3 days to be over....and I want them to go on forever. I need more time.

1 final done and 1 class passed... 2 tests and a HUGE paper to go.

Friday, April 22, 2011

my wish at 11:11

17 minutes ago, I wished that I could spend Easter at the river with my family.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Small Victories

In case you were wondering,...yes, it is possible to learn 3 chapters of heat transfers, 4 chapters of statistics, finish 2 homeworks sets, and complete research in only 3 days. Thank you Brain, for transforming my procrastination into a lesson of efficient functionality.  I feel like a Carnot engine right now,.... it's awesome : D (Apologies for the super  nerdy remark. I haven't slept much since Sunday).

I think I will celebrate this victory by going to Italy for the weekend : )

In other news, my room looks like a terrorist hole. I've barely had time to eat, let alone clean. I actually try and avoid my room as much as possible anyway because 1. it's lame and 2. my desk is so messy I go into panic mode every time I see it. Now that I think about it, I haven't used my bed since last Tuesday night. Trains, couches, hostels, and even friends' floors make suitable replacements. I should stop paying rent.

Last night, I feel asleep on Siri's floor to this song,

and I woke up 2 hours later to this one: