Home is a Moving Target

Well, folks, this is it: my final blog post. I didn’t exactly keep up with this blog as much as I intended to this year…or at all…which is pretty par for the course, honestly. But I still thought I would leave you with some final thoughts. Also, I had a lot of time to think and write as I drove back to Texas from Ohio, which is when this post was composed (hence the somewhat strange use of present tense/incongruous temporal references in some places…just roll with it).

But first, here is a picture that pretty perfectly captures how I looked all of grad weekend: vaguely excited, slightly perplexed, and gloriously be-robed.

But first, here is a picture that pretty perfectly captures how I looked all of grad weekend: slightly perplexed, vaguely excited, and gloriously be-robed.

If there’s one thing that road trips are good for, it’s introspection. Well, that, and billboards reassuring you that hell is real. Those are always a treat.

When you’re on a long haul trek like the one my brother and I are making for the third time from Ohio to Texas, you have a lot of time to think. Sometimes, you’re behind the wheel, a Spotify playlist blaring as your brother naps with his baseball cap over his eyes. Other times, you might be cross-legged in the front seat, occasionally snapping out of your internal reverie to make a snarky comment or compose an artful snapchat of the passing scenery (#roadtrip). Either way, you’ve got a lot of time to sit (and sit…and sit…) and ruminate.

Honestly, it’s not a bad thing. Monday, I graduated from college. Friday, I will leave for a summer in Panama working with an international youth leadership development organization. Sometime soon after that, I will head to the other side of the globe, to spend a little under a year as a faculty intern at a university outside of Accra, Ghana.

You could say I have a lot to think about. (I phrased it pretty eloquently when I texted my friend after graduation: “Holy shit there are so many feelings.”)

As I watch the states whiz by (we took a scenic detour in Kentucky; it was very green), I keep thinking of the Intercultural Communication class that I took this past semester. Between discussions of intersectionality, the fluidity of identities, and intercultural praxis, we spent some time theorizing the idea of “home.” Despite my newly minted degree, I’m still not completely convinced that I’m qualified to theorize anything, but, under the circumstances, I have been thinking a lot about the idea nonetheless.

In my final weeks at Wooster, I picked up the phrase “it’s a moving target.” I used it ad nauseam – and then some. (Examples: Flippantly answering a question with, “My future? A moving target.” In a more abstract, and more pseudo-philosophical sense, reassuring mini-existential crisis-ing friends that “life is a moving target.” I even apparently used it to inadvertently imply that someone was more or less a floozy. Whoops.) It is this phrase that keeps popping up in my head as I think about this idea of home, and so, as I pretend to theorize on this great inter-state adventure of mine, this is my conclusion: home is a moving target.

To stick with the “target” metaphor for just another awkward second, I hit the mark in a lot of ways when I chose Wooster. Tiny Caroline (as I like to refer to my younger self) picked Wooster out of the Fiske Guide to Coleges (and yes, I reviewed the entire thing) because it fit a mish-mash list of criteria that I put together based on my romanticized image of what I wanted in a college. It was at the bottom of my list, actually, in the section labeled “safety schools.” It survived several systematic culls of said list, mostly because I thought the name sounded funny, and because I was intrigued by the idea of a school with so many weird traditions. (Kilts? Cool.) Also it accepted the Common App, and I wasn’t really interested in writing extra essays.

I’ll spare you the college application story, because it’s long and not particularly thrilling or germane. In the end, I was choosing between two schools, and Wooster was one of them. It’s pretty easy to guess how that decision ended up. Ironically, I learned that the silly name that had drawn me to the school in the first place (I thought it was WOO-ster) wasn’t actually pronounced the way I had imagined…(talk about a let down!) I got over it. I settled in and quickly realized that, silly name or no silly name, I had made the right choice.

And here is the part where I get sappy, as is my god-given right as a recent grad:

In a lot of ways, I found home in my time at Wooster.

I found home on my class Facebook page, where I met a small girl from Tennessee with a big attitude and a bigger heart. We ended up living next door to each other, and the rest is history. From sophomore year roommates to senior year partners in crime, we have stuck together through a helluva a lot, laughing all of the way. Our friendship works in the way that most good friendships do: by growing apart and together again in oscillating cycles, but never ceasing to care intensely and aggressively, tied together with inside jokes, fierce loyalty, and lots of Taylor Swift. I found home with a beautiful, loud Mainer who insulted my state and poked fun at my accent in a loving-but-initially-intimidating way. I sobbed saying good-bye to her before we both went abroad, surprising my normally emotionally-inexpressive self with how much she meant to me. Her bright, effusive energy complimented my more reserved side and brought out the best in me, and we spent the majority of our one class together leaning on each other’s shoulders, absent-mindedly comfortable in the simple joy of each others’ presence.

This is one of those pictures that you frame on your mantel for literally forever.

The culprits. Alternate caption: this is such a cute picture it makes me want to cry.

I found home in long-distance friendship, while walking aimlessly around campus, alternatively soothing and sobbing to my two best friends since middle school. When I decided that my world was crashing down around my ears in my final weeks on campus, I found myself dialing their numbers and talking in disjointed circles for almost an hour as they listened patiently and made reassuring noises at all of the right times. When I was so excited by a job offer that I felt like I would probably choke on my own heart, I called them because my joy needed somewhere to land and they stuck out their hands to catch it. When I wandered home to an empty room one night, profoundly lonely, hungry, and broke, they ordered me a pizza from across the country and sent me reassuring text messages until I was able to eat and fall asleep feeling loved. I found home in the countless hours I spent perched in the front seat of my car with their voices on speaker phone, or sprawled in a lounge trying to figure out how to work that damned G+ video hangout for the umpteenth time.

We have perfected the art of the selfie. Note the floral backdrop.

We have perfected the art of the selfie. Note the floral backdrop.

I found home in my first year dorm, in a gaggle of freshmen just as eager and frightened as I was. I found it in a sorority, in a group of girls who, in just the right way, let me pour my effusive love into their open arms, whom I sometimes even allowed to love me back. I found it while holding a colorful pen and a clipboard in the newspaper office, laughing cautiously and later without inhibition, surrounded by happy chaos and half-empty to-go boxes. I found it in acquaintances turned friends turned acquaintances and back again, in small acts kindness and having someone to sit with in the dining hall, in spontaneous heart-to-hearts and in drunk strangers. I found it in an uncanny resemblance to a first year friend turned perpetual counterpart, in silly text messages and half-whispered admissions of self-doubt and in margaritas and life chats and the most sincere of encouragements. I found home in one-off interactions and friendships that moved, changed, and ended.

Just some of my favorite academics/people.

Just some of my favorite academics/people.

I found home when I built it with my own two hands, creating a nest for myself out of books, a hapless pursuit of knowledge, Diet Coke bottles, and encouraging notes. I found home while getting lost in the stacks because one thing leads to another and all of a sudden it was dark out and I hadn’t even realized that I’d spent three hours Dewey-decimal hopping; while writing excited annotations filled with cheeky jokes that only I would read; and while closing my eyes as I typed and forgetting how ridiculous I might look to the nearby table of underclassmen as I got lost in the delightful puzzle of fitting words together so that they sounded just right. I found it while napping in the lounge of Wishart Hall, in my classes and the exciting thrill of making everything connect and then expand and connect again. I found it behind podiums, when my legs shook but my voice didn’t (mostly). I found it in my professors, in awe and admiration for their knowledge and kindness in equal measure. I found it in my carrel, my I.S., the library, and the act of writing, in finding my passions and learning how marvelous it felt to chase them even when I felt like I was running blind. I found it in my ability to turn off the world when I needed to, to throw myself into something with reckless abandon and to emerge from it full of joy, accomplishment, and undiminished passion.

One of the more literal manifestations of home: some would argue that I actually lived at my carrel this year.

One of the more literal iterations of home: some would argue that I actually lived at my carrel this year.

I found home in so many people and places throughout my college career, and yet, as this car hurtles across the country, I don’t feel like I am leaving home behind any more than I feel like I’m heading back toward it. Instead, I feel myself settling into my own skin.

Home is a moving target and I am taking it with me.

It is a strange feeling, one that’s not fully formed, and it keeps shifting and poking itself through my ribs before settling back into a lovely, misshapen lump in my chest. It is a chaotic calm, a giddy anticipation at the skeleton of a tomorrow that I keep glimpsing in my fitful naps and an unfamiliar peace that sounds like being okay with where I am right now. It is never static and sometimes exhausting, but it feels right, and that’s all that really matters, I suppose. Home is an ever-changing thing and Wooster has helped me learn to bend and mold with it, to grow and change and pause and continue and start again.

All of that, of course, is very vague and mildly poetic and not at all concrete, but I think that’s all I can really ask for at this point. Home is undefined, but, at twenty-two, so am I. And I think I like it that way. After all, there’s so much more left to see. And though I don’t exactly know what’s out there, or what it will look like, or how I will react, I do know that I’m excited to find out. Whatever it may be, whatever life is going to look like or throw at me, I think I’m ready. As we used to say at sporting events (and in pretty much any other circumstance, albeit somewhat sardonically): here we go, Scots.

I love everything about this photo. Our selfie game was so strong at Baccalaureate.

I love everything about this photo. Our selfie game was so strong at Baccalaureate.

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Third time’s the charm?

I don’t actually know if this is the third time that I’ve tried to revive this blog – it’s probably been more than that – but that’s not the point. The point is that I’m back, and this time I’m serious about keeping up with this blog, if only casually and if only for my own personal benefit. I won’t make any promises or set any schedules, but I will say that I hope to use this as a space to document and debrief my senior year.

Speaking of, senior year! Wow. The question of the day seems to be: how did we get here?

Today was the 145th Commencement here at C.O.W., and my fellow seniors and I traipsed in our academic regalia (read: polyester graduation gowns) through the halls of McGaw Chapel to the sound of bagpipes, to sit out scholarly selves down behind the faculty and listen to Grant Cornwell inaugurate the 2014-2015 academic year. Then we stumbled gracefully out into the sunlight, blinked away the brightness, and asked each other, how did we get here?

photo 1

Of course, in between our fits of nostalgic musings, we also took pictures.

Of course, I remember the past three years. If I squint my eyes a little bit and think back, I can still picture my freshman self: headstrong, confident, and scared out of her mind. I did some silly things (dyed my hair several times, danced across the quad singing Adele in ghost voices) and some wonderful things (introducing myself to my hall mates despite my nerves, signing up for a Communication class) and lots of things in between. And in the time since that first awkward and exhilarating week, I’ve done lots more. I’ve studied abroad in Chile, presented a paper at a conference, and joined a sorority.

And I’ve got lots more to do yet. This week marks the beginning of my last – and hopefully best! – year at Wooster, and I’m ready to wring the most out of it. I’ve already started decorating my carrel, set up my meeting with my I.S. advisor, and begun anxiously chomping at the bit, so I’m ready to dive in to I.S., and beyond than that, I’m ready to cherish the good times and roll through the bad, with my favorite crew of Wooster-ites at my side.

There are lots of cheesy quotes that I could use to end this post, but instead I’ll share my favorite piece of advice from my father, the quip that I try to live by as much as possible: Knock ’em dead. (For the record, it’s meant figuratively.)

So watch out Wooster, I.S., and fellow Fighting Scots: senior year, here we go!

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Here I Am and Where I’ve Been

Now that I’ve been back on campus for just around a month, I think it’s time for me to get back into this blog. I’ve been putting it off for a while now, mostly because I don’t know what to write, but it’s a lazy Thursday, and I’m relaxing by the fire in the Pit, so I decided that now is as good a time as ever.

So. Back at Wooster. Where to begin?

I guess the best method would be to do a sort of “highlights reel,” to bring you up to date on what has been happening in my life since I last blogged. So let’s start with that.

First of all, there were those six months that I spent abroad. You can read about them on my abroad blog, and I could write about them for days, but that’s not the point of this blog, so I’ll just touch on them ever so briefly. My experience in Paraguay was incredible. I was working for an organization called Amigos de las Américas, and just as my two previous summers with them have been eye-opening and life-changing, so was this one. I think it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it was undoubtedly the best summer of my life, and it ranks among the very best experiences of my life.

My volunteers, the eight crazy kids that I spent my summer supervising. They taught me so much, and I'm incredibly proud of each and every one of them!

My volunteers, the eight crazy kids that I spent my summer supervising. They taught me so much, and I’m incredibly proud of each and every one of them!

Then there was Chile. Heading straight from Paraguay to Chile (essentially – I did stop back in the States for a few days to pick up my visa and swap out my wardrobe) was a decision that I gave a lot of thought, because such a quick transition can be rough, but in the end I decided that it would just be easiest to cram all of my time abroad into one window so as to only deal with reverse culture shock once, and also because I wanted to be on campus in the spring for various events, including I.S. Monday and graduation, due to how many of my friends are seniors and will be graduating.

Though I stand by my decision and 100% sure that it ended up being the best choice for me, I have to admit that, at first, it made things a little bit more difficult. Transitioning from living in rural Paraguay to metropolitan Santiago was a bit of a shock, and when you factor in the weird Chilean Spanish, let’s just say that I was met with some stumbling blocks during my first few weeks in Chile. Ultimately, though, it ended up really well. It was nothing like what I expected, and I truly believe that that made the experience all the more valuable. I learned a lot about Chile, education, and myself, and I got to see a different side of Latin America than that to which I had already been exposed.

One of those sides included a delicious Chilean drink known as mote con huesillo -

One of those “sides of Latin America” included a delicious Chilean drink known as mote con huesillo, sold out of metal carts such as this one.

Which brings me back to Wooster. Within days of rolling back into campus, I had set up a meeting with the chair of the Latin American Studies department in hopes of declaring a LAST minor. Although I am waiting on my abroad transcripts to come through before I do so, I’m looking forward to adding a new layer to my course work, on top of the COMM and Spanish sides that I already enjoy so much.

Speaking of COMM, this semester is an exciting time for me and my major, because I have started my Junior I.S.! The way that the COMM department does it, it is very much in my interest to stick with the same topic for Junior and Senior I.S., because we essentially start on our I.S. this semester. This just means, though, that choosing my topic was extra stressful, because I wanted to make sure it was something that I really wanted to study for the next three semesters. I actually ended up changing it after deciding on it, and I am currently in the process of tweaking it, but what’s new? I have this habit of finding general topic areas, selecting and re-selecting topics within that area, and continually whittling them into what ends up being the perfect one for me, so I’m not concerned. Right now, I’m looking at (three specific) voluntoursim organizations’ rhetoric on their websites. It’s a bit more involved than that, but that’s the general gist that I’m working on refining.

Beyond Junior I.S., I’m taking Argumentation and Persuasion in the COMM department, which I am really enjoying. It’s sort of refreshing to actually look at argument through different frameworks and explanations instead of just analyzing it on a surface level. I’m also in Structure of Modern Spanish – basically a linguistics course taught in Spanish about Spanish AKA the best – and Modern Latin America, which is a history class that is also hopefully the jumpstart to that LAST minor I mentioned!

All in all, it’s a nice class schedule, filled with topics that I like and good professors. It gets a bit tiring, because I have all of my classes MWF, with one hour gaps in between (AKA class at 9:00, 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00), but it means that my Tuesday/Thursdays are GLORIOUS. I’ve been making good use of them to catch up on sleep and work, so I suppose I can’t complain.

Other interesting updates in my life include the initiation of a new Pledge Class for Theta – yay!


Photo by the illustrious Kaitlin Starr!

They’re all lovely, beautiful souls whom I am beyond excited to get to know further in the coming years. I seriously have never met a more collectively chipper group of girls.

There are a few other exciting things going on in my life – potential conference paper edits, Fulbright apps, and excitement for my summer job, to name a few – but the longer I put off finishing this post, the less likely I am to actually post it and the longer I will delay my return to the blogsphere. Whether that would actually be a cause for concern is another matter entirely,  but for now I’m going to end this post here, signing off and sending my warmest regards to any potential readers.

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Study Abroad Blog!

Hello, all!

I know I said I’d post this link when I created my study abroad blog, but it was boring then and had no content. Now it has a few entries about my summer, and things are about to pick up, as I leave for Chile on Monday!

If you’re interested in hearing about my life abroad, or if you just can’t live without my sporadic inane ramblings, feel free to tune in to carolinadelsur.wordpress.com, where I’ll be chronicling my adventures.

Otherwise, I’ll come back to this blog in January, when I return to the Woo.

Here’s hoping you all have marvelous fall semesters!

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2012-2013 in pictures

It is worth noting that this is just a small glimpse at this year, but it’s the best I could do in a limited space. They are also not in chronological order. Sorry!

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I’ll Be Back: Thoughts on Leaving

The last few days have been a whirlwind of paper-writing, packing, and tearful goodbyes. I am writing this from the front seat of my car: my little brother and I are currently 700-something miles into a cross-country trek back to Texas, although by the time I post this, I will likely already be home, as I doubt I’ll have internet access before then.

Still, I have a lot of time to reflect during my stints in the passenger seat, and it seemed appropriate that I write one last blog post to wrap up the year before I drop off the face of the earth until January 2014. (Oh, and on a more logistical note, if you actually read this blog regularly – or as regularly as is possible with my posting schedule – you should note that I won’t be posting here while I’m abroad. I’ll be running an abroad blog, though, so I’ll put the link up here when that’s created.)

This year was intense. It was intense in every way: intense workload, intense stress, intense emotions, intense experiences. I don’t mean to say that it was bad – I felt intensely happy for huge chunks of it. But everything about it was powerful.

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A COMMendation

Last night, a friend stopped by my room to ask me if I had read an article for class yet – I hadn’t – and if I understood it. I couldn’t help her, but we started talking anyway, chatting about our upcoming final paper for the class. We are writing some sort of rhetorical criticism of a message: they will be roughly 20 pages long. She is doing a narrative analysis, and I am doing a postcolonial critique.

From paper topics, the conversation drifted into the realm of I.S. We gushed over one professor, discussing how much we wanted to have her as our I.S. advisor. We chatted about different topics that we are considering, and she laughed at me about my enthusiasm over postcolonial criticism. I probably said, “Postcolonial is my jam!” at least three times, and I grew ebullient and effusive as I explained the different ideas I had had.

It was lovely. My roommate came back at one point and chuckled slightly at our bubbling COMM major gossip. We discussed different professors and what we liked about them, the classes that we wanted to take, and our academic plans for the next two years.

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On Going Greek as a Geek

I am from Texas, a huge southern state where Greek life has a certain impression attached to it. It is a land of national organizations, formal rush periods, and high heels and pearls. I can only imagine that this is why, when I mention that I am in a sorority, people back home tend to react in a confused way: because I am not the stereotypical sorority girl. The only pearls I own are plastic, and I get excited over rhetorical criticism. I don’t know how to curl my hair – nor do I have enough hair to curl – and I am bemused at the prospect of finding a date for semi-formal.

Still, I am a sorority girl. It’s not something I planned, or even wanted, but it’s something that happened, and I couldn’t be happier. I wear my letters with pride – and almost constantly – because I love that I am affiliated with such an incredible group of girls.

I didn’t always have this attitude. In fact, up until my arrival on campus, I was a Greek nay-sayer as much as some of the people who now judge me for the lavaliere around my neck. I saw the whole system as unnecessary, and I knew that I would never want to be a part of it.

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Spring is sprung!

It has been a long time since I last posted here. In fact, the seasons have changed, and my life has progressed quite a bit.

Looking back (even though we still have about a month left), I am realizing that this semester has been a challenging one, but also a great one. My classes have made me really work hard, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also grown socially – I’ve found my niche both with Theta and my other friends here on campus. I’m starting to figure out where I think I’m heading with my life, which is both exhilarating and terrifying.

As the semester winds down, there’s both a lot to do and a lot to look forward to. I need to get all of my ducks in a row for study abroad, prepare for my job this summer, and keep studying/working so that I finish strong in my classes. I’ve also got work and Theta things that keep me busy most weekends, as well as spending as much time with my friends before I leave them for a semester. Still, it’s all good fun, and I’m looking forward to semi-formal, to my final paper in Rhetorical Criticism, and to a wonderful summer and fantastic fall semester, inter alia.

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Better late than never?

The question mark is there because I am hesitant about the validity of this statement as it pertains to blog posts. Regardless of this platitude’s accuracy, however, I am making my unceremonious return to the blogging world for the spring semester, and I’m only a month late!

There are a couple of weak excuses that I could make for my tardiness in posting (I was pledging; there has been a lot of work; I like to sleep…), but I think I will refrain for now and jump straight in. (And I’ll add a “read more,” as this is shaping up to be quite the lengthy post.) Continue reading

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