As you may already know, this next year is going to be my craziest yet. A crazy year meaning a “sometimes-I-question-why-I’m-doing-all-this-but-it’s-going-to-be-amazing” year. So naturally, this past semester when people started asking about my plans for the summer/next year I was subsequently bombarded with a multitude of questions, to some of which I didn’t even know the answers yet. Although it’s been a few months and after answering the same questions, I think I’ve finally got it all down pat. So if you haven’t already heard my whole spiel, brace yourself, the suspense is over!
Q: Meriel, what are you doing this summer?
(short) A: I will be spending 8 weeks in Calcha, Bolivia with my project team, Engineers Without Borders, constructing the suspended footbridge that we have been working on for the past two years.
(long) A: http://ewb.engineering.cornell.edu/
Q: Wow that’s super awesome! Will you be able to keep in touch with people while you’re there?
A: Probably not. I won’t be bringing my phone with me and even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to use it in Calcha anyway. The plan is to drive to Potosí, one of the larger cities that has electricity/wifi, about once every two weeks so I may or may not be able to check my email. And even if I do have the opportunity…I may just not check :)))) I personally love spending time “off the grid” and away from the overwhelming connectivity.
Q: Fair enough. When do you leave?
A: I leave on June 10th and arrive back in the U.S. on August 8th.
Q: So you’ll be there for essentially the whole summer?
Q: Ok, so I’ll see you when you get back, right?
(Melbourne) A: I’ll be in Melbourne from the 8th until somewhere around the 20th so if that’s where you’re at within that timeframe, then definitely!
(Cornell) A: Unfortunately no because around the 20th I’m hopping on a plane to study abroad in Santander (northern coast of Spain) at the University of Cantabria.
Q: So you’re not going back to Cornell before going to Spain?
Q: Ah ok. So you’re studying abroad for a semester?
A: Welllllll it’s actually for a year.
Q: THAT’S SUCH A LONG TIME!!! [not really a question but every person has kept me well informed]
A: Yes. Yes it is.
Q: But you’re coming home for Thanksgiving/Christmas*/Easter/Slope Day, right?
A: No, unfortunately. They don’t have Thanksgiving over there, the Christmas break isn’t long enough and I’ll have to study for finals anyway (because they’re after the break, which is super annoying). I honestly don’t know if we have any sort of break in the spring. Exams aren’t even until the first week of June so there’s no chance of stopping by Cornell on the way home, and I hope to get an internship there over the summer anyway. Regardless, it’s too expensive to fly home for such short amounts of time, and I’ll only be there once so I want to make the most of it.
*I’ll be spending Christmas with my Aunt and Uncle who live in England though, so don’t worry, I’ll still be with family!
Q: Wow, that’s a long time. But you’re going to have so much fun. [see previous comment]
A: [I’m never really sure what to say to this because it feels more like a command than a statement… Yes I hope it will be fun, but I can’t imagine every waking moment getting lost in a foreign country, struggling through a foreign language, away from my family and friends, not knowing anyone, and staying on top of difficult classes will be sunshine, daisies, and rainbows. Goodness, I wish!]
Q: How is the visa process going?
A: As of May 27th I have my visa!! (To the people who asked me between January and May I told them it was the bane of my entire existence. But that’s another story entirely).
Q: You can travel all over Europe! Where are you going to go?
A: Actually, I don’t know how much traveling I’ll do. My mom’s side of the family lives in Ireland, England, and Scotland so if anything I’m going to visit there because the last time I saw most of them was 6 years ago. The only thing I’m dying to see in person is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I wrote a 10 page paper on it in my Modern Structures class freshman year and it’s hands-down the COOLEST building to have ever been built.
Q: Will I be able to contact you while you’re over there?
A: Yup! I’ll have to get a Spanish cell phone so I can’t call or text anyone in the U.S. but there’s always facebook message and email!
Q: Where will you be living?
A: I will be living in a homestay (with a family) for the first month, before real classes start and while I’m taking the required intensive Spanish class. Then I will hopefully find some friendly international students to rent an apartment with.
Q: What will you be studying?
A: Civil Engineering (my major). If you’re into specifics, I will be taking Intermediate Sold Mechanics (I think it’s like dynamics…or more statics maybe?), Computational Engineering (stats), and various Geotechnical, Foundational, and Coastal Engineering design classes.
Q: Are the classes in Spanish?
A: No, they’re in English (thank goodness). I can barely understand my engineering classes in English so I can’t even imagine trying to learn it all in Spanish haha 🙂
Q: How are you going to survive for a whole year?
A: Great question. When I find out I’ll let you know 😀
And the questions no one has asked me yet, but I ask myself almost every day:
Q: Am I nervous/scared?
Q: Am I still going to go?
Of course, these are the easy questions and these aren’t even all of them. And sometimes by the end of the conversation I get a “Wow Meriel, you sure seem to have your life figured out.” Rest assured, I do not. In fact, most days at school I feel like this:
And when I’m not at school, I’m at home baking my heart out like: