Some days for dinner I sit with a large group of exchange students from ETH Zurich. I feel a little weird about it on occasion.. I'm not quite sure how to feel about the fact that it's usually me and like 6 guys. Then again, this isn't too different from how things sometimes are when I'm at home, so I guess it's okay. I'm enjoying getting to know them, definitely. I find myself comparing my own study abroad experience to theirs, and I think that the two must be very different. I mean.. I was living with a family first of all, and well, my classes were basically jokes. But they all have the advantage of knowing English better than I knew Spanish - I feel so many doors are open to them that I probably wasn't capable of finding.
I also feel some urge to show them the best of Chicago. When I studied in Spain, I remember being so grateful to the person who really took me around Sevilla, showed me the city's rich traditions and shared his life and friends with me. And I shared my friends with him, too - despite the differences in age and culture, we connected through a mutual hunger to understand each other.
There is never any obligation, when you study somewhere, for anyone to be your friend and show you kindness. To have had someone do that for me, and to have had my experience in Sevilla SO enriched by it made me feel I had lived more completely.
In some ways, studying abroad can be a bit of a selfish experience. You're in a program that gives you housing, new experiences everyday, it's like you're always getting. I remember thinking to myself that if I ever got really rich, I would have wanted to give Pablo and Luis the chance to study abroad - the one that was so hard for them to obtain because of financial restrictions. I remember the experience being so much.. mine. I really felt in possession of it, and yet I also felt I hadn't done anything particular to deserve it. Even now, I try to find ways to take that experience into my life here at Northwestern, to make it have some greater effect that I can use to give something back.
Now that I know people who are studying here for a short period of time, I feel like I can put myself back into the community of "people who have studied abroad". Not only that, but here is a way to forge valuable friendships with people who are intelligent and thoughtful, and who can teach me about myself and things I take for granted.
I love that having met these wonderful people, I can go back to my own memories and understand how they are still shaping me.
This weekend is the UMich competition, so I'm trying to get as much work done as humanly possible. It may be another late night, although I hope not because it's starting to really catch up to me. I know I've been saying that for three days now, but I think it might finally come true. I was trying to play tennis today, and it was pretty hideous.
I was looking forward to teaching BLAST classes on February 14.. I figured - I'm obsessed with dancing, why not spend Valentine's with something I completely adore? But they canceled them. *sigh* go figure.