Learning and Listening While Walking Backwards (But Not Really)

Campus Visits has given me so much over the last three years. In part, this includes public speaking skills, six free shirts, many free meals, the ability to walk backwards, and some of my best friends.
In our office especially, a huge emphasis is placed on “shared experiences.” That is, sharing our IUPUI experiences with guests in such a way that they feel it could also be part of their experience one day or can imagine themselves as part of our community.
Little did I know when I started that the guests would sometimes be sharing their experiences with me and I’d learn more about my community and environment surrounding my college bubble than anywhere else.
Campus Visits has also given me invaluable insight in the various school systems of Indianapolis and Indiana in general as well as insight into the minds and hearts of kids of all ages. I’ve given tours to township elementary schools, IPS middle schools, Carmel/Fishers high schools, and every possible iteration of the above.
As you can imagine, the feel of these tours is incredibly unique depending on the demographics of the group in question.
As such, I’d like anyone who struggles with stereotyping and preconceptions to take over our job for awhile.
Because yes, in general the inner city IPS schools are a little more rough around the edges. In general, the middle school kids are the hardest to keep control of. In general, the elementary school kids have a much shorter attention span.
But in all three of the above groups, OFTEN they are far more interested in what I am saying, have better questions, and are more enthusiastic about college and the information they are intaking than the more “desirable” groups from better areas. Or the high school seniors who should care but don’t and actively show it with their lack of eye contact and stubborn silence.
I would take a group of rowdy middle school kids who ask good questions and laugh at my jokes over quiet high school kids who stare at me with blank disinterested faces any day.
I’d also like to encourage anyone who has an issue with dismissing kids or ignoring them as “stupid” to go on a tour.
Last week I had a group of elementary students (5th/6th grade) that was probably in the top three tours I’ve ever given bar none. Elementary kids are difficult to plan a tour for because they’re not old enough to care about things like the FAFSA, but you want to give them a good idea of what college is like and all about so that that impression sticks with them until they start thinking about it more their junior/senior year of high school. I wish I could’ve taped this particular tour so you all could see the excitement on the kids’ faces as they heard about possible majors they had never heard of before. Or as they marvelled at the fact there’s a Chik-fil-a on campus (it really is the little things).
I wish you could’ve seen the little freckled girl with glasses. And that’s not just because she was basically my twin from when I was younger. I wish you heard her ask me throughout the tour when we were going to see the library and then as we walked through it, seen her wide-eyed gaping at everything and hear her (what seemed like) a hundred questions about the kinds of books we have and where you can read on campus etc.
I wish you could’ve heard the boy (who had been diligently writing down notes the entire tour) quietly walk up beside me and ask if bullying was a problem at college because, “I have ADHD and I’m smart which is two strikes against me.” This is a statement I never want to hear from A TEN YEAR OLD ever again. I about lost it but I was very proud to inform him that no, college and especially IUPUI does not have a bullying problem and we love smart people around here.
I wish you could’ve heard another kid tell me he wanted to be like his mom and study at the Herron School of Art and Design here. THAT’S the level of excitement and innocence that makes up for a thousand pissed off/moody teenagers from privileged neighborhoods, who take for granted the fact they get to wear their Ugg boots on tour (YES THAT HAPPENED IN SEPTEMBER WHAT IS WRONG WITH FASHION THESE DAYS) and complain that they’re hungry and then go back to their top-tier education they’re blessed to have simply because of where they can afford to live.
Or the tour today for a gaggle of 5th-grade girls from (that is the correct term right?). When I asked them who liked to write (this is usually an iffy prospect at best), nearly the entire group of 30+ shot their hands in the air. We had a million questions about everything from how to become a doctor to if the teachers are nice. The fact that this is a concern among 5th graders is also somewhat disturbing. Whereas many parents and older students scoff at the renovations going on in the Natatorium right now, these girls were amazed at the size of the facility. They saw the big picture, not the current griminess and I loved it.
I’m a tour guide. It’s stressful. It’s hard work. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. I’m an orator. I am, in some ways, a teacher. I’m a fount of knowledge (that’s probably the most pretentious sentence I’ve ever written). I’m also a glorified babysitter at times.
College in general is eye-opening and expands your horizons. But my job has given me access to a part of Indianapolis and Indiana that I don’t think I ever would have experienced in such a unique way anywhere else.
So in addition to the above, contrary to my entire job description that requires me to talk for two hours on end, I am also simply a learner and a listener.

London: Day 1

Hi all. Do I win the award for Worst Travel Blogger Ever? Probably as it’s now been two months since this trip.

Free travel tip: If you’re traveling on Virgin Trains from Birmingham to London and buy your regular-coach ticket online, on the day you travel, you can go by the office at the train station and upgrade to first class for only 10 pounds.

Jess and I did so because, I mean, first class.

Free snacks and a comfy two-hour ride later, we arrived!

After dropping our stuff off at our hotel (only a few minutes walk away from the 2012 Olympic Park), we headed off into the city.

We were starving by that time, so we headed to Burough Market.





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While we did not buy any squid (no fridge in our room unfortunately), we did get some other delicious items to share and try.


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After lunch, we walked along/took the metro down to the waterfront. We wandered past some iconic and historic London sites:

Something Old–Oldest cathedral in London
Something New–The Shard


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cute little guy in St. James’ Park
Look! There’s Big Ben!

Finally we returned to visit the London Dungeons. This was Jess’s idea and while I’m terrified of haunted anything, it was something I hadn’t done the last time I was in London so why not? No pictures because it was too dark and I was honestly not thinking much past not having a heart attack. Jess can confirm the amount of screaming I did.

With that and some yummy dim sum by our hotel, Day #1 was a success!


Being Home

The number one question I’ve been asked is, “How was Spain?”

My standard answer: “It was amazing.”

Because how else can you summarize seven months of living a dream?

The number two question I’ve been asked is, “How is it to be back?”

My standard answer: “It’s nice to see everyone but I don’t like it.”

And that’s the most honest and concise answer I could possibly give without crying.

I don’t want to be here. In all honesty, I highly resent the fact that I have one more year of school left and thus, didn’t have a choice. I had to leave.

It makes for an interesting situation these days. Most people hype up senior year as the ultimate of life experiences. Senior year is supposed to be full of fun and excitement. We’re at the top of the totem pole, so to speak. We get classes in our specialties. We know what we’re doing and we’re confident.  And then, after May 2016, it’s all downhill into the workforce and drudgery of adult life.

So what am I supposed to do when in my head, the ultimate of life experiences already ended on July 31, 2015?


Now before everyone starts going in on me about all I have to look forward to this year…I know.

Believe me, I know. Because I repeat them to myself daily to remind myself that it’s not all bad.

I’m on the student boards of two organizations I’m highly passionate about. I have classes I (mostly) like. I get to start writing again. I get to dance again. I get to see my family and friends whenever I want.

And I know I have a lot to look forward to afterwards. A job back overseas (probably? hopefully?). Being a completely autonomous adult. Etc.

But I’m struggling a lot.

Most people assume it’s because I left a boyfriend behind. I do miss him a lot. An intercultural, intercontinental long distance relationship isn’t easy. So in one sense, they’re right. This period of adjustment and reintroduction to the U.S. and my old normal would be made slightly easier if I didn’t have that connection.

But I miss Spain. I miss Sevilla.

I lived in Indianapolis for 20 years but it took until college for me to feel any kind of deep attachment to the city.

I was in Sevilla for about two weeks before I told my mom point blank that I didn’t want to come home.

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I knew from my time in Mexico that coming back from Spain would also be hard, especially because I’d desperately wanted to go for so long. But in my head, it was a rainbows and roses vision of trying not to preface anything with, “When I was in Spain…” and then telling all my tales of going out with friends and traveling etc.

It’s not all rainbows and roses. Or unicorns.

It’s thunderstorms and thorns. It’s trying so hard to recapture that perfect senior year mindset and attitude so that I don’t look back with regrets on this year. It’s simultaneously missing a particular city and people. It’s having a few hours open up yesterday afternoon and having my first thought be, “I wonder if Ale is free?” before remembering that no, he’s not, because he’s not even on the same continent. It’s giving my Universidad de Sevilla ID card to the lady at IUPUI Parking Services. It’s ordering my coffee in Spanish several times before realizing that the baristas aren’t stupid, they just literally don’t know what I’m saying.

It’s also little things.

It’s trying hard to get used to non-Costa iced coffee. It’s remembering to check for my driver’s license not my metro card. It’s refusing to ever eat broccoli again. It’s missing all my fellow CIEE participants. It’s running through various routes to get to the Fabrica in my head while knowing I most likely will never have to know those routes again.

I’m getting ready to do a study abroad panel/event in a few weeks and there I’ll give my spiel about how much fun Spain was, how I came home basically fluent, how I got to travel a ton etc. I’ll also tell them that it is hard to be dropped into another country. To be prepared for the cultural and linguistic barriers. I’ll give my stories about going to class at a local university and traveling on my own. Basically the same type of stories and spiel I received prior to arriving.


But I wish someone had told me that sometimes returning home is as difficult as leaving. That reverse culture shock is a very real thing and that the one paragraph about it in your pre-departure materials has not adequately prepared you for the very possible reality of feeling completely lost on your return home.

It’s getting better a tiny bit every week. Being in a routine with classes and work helps. I’ve gone back to the “normal” I knew before January. My brain can’t focus constantly on what I don’t have. So I really can’t blame it for not being the normal I really want back, the normal I had found in Sevilla.

So for now, I’ll drink my Americanized tinto de verano, relish the moments in class when I get to speak Spanish (something I once dreaded), and finally never stop encouraging other students to study abroad. Because despite all of this and the struggles to readjust, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

As the infamous Winnie the Pooh said (really A.A. Milne said it let’s be real):

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Idina Menzel

So last summer my mom, my best friend, and I drove to NYC to sight see and take in some Broadway. One of the shows we saw was “If/Then” starring Idina Menzel, who I long adored because of “Wicked” and had dragged my friend into my obsession with me.

Well while in Spain, I did have a birthday, and on that birthday, I got an email from my parents notifying me that their gift to me was tickets to Idina’s concert in Indianapolis this past Sunday night because they knew how much I love her and that it would give me something really special to look forward to.

So off Cali and I went to see her perform almost exactly a year after seeing her the first time.

Let me tell you, it was magical.

She sang a little bit of pop, a little bit of original material, a whole lot of Broadway (yes. just yes) and of course, Let It Go.

She did make fun of John Travolta, overzealous audience members, and sometimes just not wanting to sing Let It Go anymore, and the sass level throughout the show made Cali and I both feel like she’s basically our soulmate.



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And good times were had by all :)


Oh hey wow guys it’s September 1st and I’ve officially been home one month. Which is weird. And I don’t really like it entirely. But classes have started so I’m seeing my friends more and have things to do with my life so that’s good.

My second to last stop in England was Birmingham. I got to meet my cousin Jessica in person for the first time and explore a brand new city which was very exciting! I will admit that I was exhausted so I didn’t get to as much as I had hoped because I slept in, but it was fun to experience a brand new place as I did in Manchester.

Norwich had dragons, Birmingham had owls. And I loved it. I spent the large majority of my time hunting them down and taking selfies I’m not sorry.

I spent a large portion of one day wandering the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham (aka jewellery shops hidden away in tall buildings requiring you to ring a doorbell to get in. I was too intimidated to do so mostly but did find one or two shops along the street to gape at).

My main goal was to find the Pen Museum. A museum of the history of pens. Yes this was on purpose.

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As always, I found the art/history museum and the old town center to explore. Graduation was going on for some university while I was there so unfortunately I never got to go inside, but it was gorgeous from the outside nonetheless.

St. Philip’s Cathedral on a rather rainy day

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Town Hall (looks like something out of Athens doesn’t it?)

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After that it was on to London! That will take several posts so stay tuned :)