All that AFS stuff labeled “Don’t Loose” and “Don’t Forget”

AFS has given me a fair amount of papers to keep ahold of in the last few months. This is a stack of all (I hope all, because otherwise I’m not sure where it is) those items and papers. 1) Passport. Not actually given to me by AFS, but part of the whole travel-to-forgein-countries thing. […]

My friend Kelia (OR 13 days left)

Good evening.

Guess what I’m going to do? I’m just going to write, instead of waiting for inspiration or the perfect story. Because otherwise, I’m never going to post anything to this blog. Then nobody would know what I’m up to. (Nobody would get their feelings unintentionally hurt either, but hey.)

My good friend Kelia left to study abroad in Germany about a week ago. It’s mostly similar to what I’m doing in Panama: live with host family, learn the language, learn the culture, try to survive for a year, etc etc, only with two major differences. 1). She has a full scholarship (through FLAG-CBYX), and 2). Kelia has a tumblr blog, which she keep regularly updated.

So, I’m going to try to follow her example where I can. It’s too late for a full scholarship; it was always too late. AFS doesn’t offer them to people like me in my area. They did give me a (somewhat small) scholarship for $200 because my dad went to Australia when he was my age, but other than that, my family was on it’s own in terms of tuition.

Updating my blog regularly is all on me, though, and I don’t have any excuses (that would hold up in a court of law). That’s not to say that I don’t have any excuses! I have lots!

I’m busy (not really, I’m not enrolled in school because I’d leave a month in).

There’s nothing AFS-related to write about (not really, I’ve gotten some baggage ties and more host family information. <<oh, forgot to tell the greater internet community about that.>> By the way, I got assigned a host family! Surprise!).

The internet can be a scary place where all personal information and opinions are forever inscribed and available to whoever wants to look at them so if I say something stupid in a moment of weakness or temporary brain damage I can never take it back and everybody from home and host home can look at it and make judgements that might forever hurt relations between me and my family and friends and possible career opportunities! (Not really–oh wait, yes really)

So I might be a little worried about putting stuff on the internet that I will wish I could take back. Hell, I’ll probably regret using a religious-themed swear word in this post, including this entire example, which I’m on the verge of deleting right now.

<<…it can stay. It proves my point, I think.>>

That’s one of the reasons I’m having trouble keeping my blog updated. I don’t want to offend anybody, and I don’t want to close any doors. This kind of caution…. it’s kind of annoying at times. It gets to the point where I don’t even want to repeat things from out of the guidebook on the area where I’ll be living for fear of hurting the feelings of the people who live there. I don’t think they even speak English! But all the same, what if….

What if seems to be a common theme in my blog posts (see End of May).

This has been good. I’ve got to go to bed early tonight; got a early morning ahead! I’ll save the AFS related stuff for a different post, so that I’ll be sure to have content.

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment with thoughts or advice. Or just to say hi so I know somebody’s reading it. :P Love you parents!

Okay, last comment. (except for the post script <<which I’ve actually already written and formatted>>.) You know how college is suppose to be a big priority once you turn 13 or so? Because of that, I’ve been thinking about it. I thought I wanted to do a creative writing degree, or maybe English, so that I could write creatively better. However, I think I have enough talent  to write well already, and would rather be in writing clubs and learn from experience than spend lots of time and money on a college degree on good writing. So, I’ll go to college and expand my ‘ideas pool’ by studying International Relations and other interdisciplinary majors. International Relations has interested me by name ever since we did an amazing discussion-based class debate and analysis of using the nuclear bomb to end WWII in Humanities using Brown University’s International Relations worksheets. Based on what I’ve heard about the degree,  what I like to learn about, and how I spend my free time, International relations is one of the best choices for me.

Good thing I’m spending a year abroad!




P.S. Advice to those wanting to travel abroad with an student exchange organization: try to look at all your options before deciding on a organization, program duration, and country. AFS is filled with caring people, and I’m so glad they’ve got my back, but at the same time, I wish I could have found a full scholarship program like Kelia did. They’re out there. I just didn’t look very hard. Best of luck to you all.

To my friend Aaron: FB Messages at 3:47AM about the Future

You still up?

Guess not. So I’ll just talk to you.

It’s almost 4 in the morning.

I’m still up. I was doing a crafting project at first, and so I stayed up past my self-appointed bedtime. 

(and I was watching a engaging TV show)

But then I started to think about…
                                                     the Future.

Lately (as in the past eight hours or so), the idea of college has really been bothering me.  For some reason (like my sister asking where I wanted to go to college), I started thinking about the question this evening.

Then I did something that in retrospect was a very bad idea, sure to only bring heartache and suffering: I looked at the Ivy League Admission Standereds.

(sorry about the spelling, I’m really tired)

And now, I can’t do anything but think about the future and how unprepared I am for college.

My good friends assured me that I don’t want to go to an Ivy League anyways, that I can get just as good an education for tens of thousands of dollars cheaper elsewhere, that going to an Ivy League basically just ensures an interview, that work experience is what really matters.

It was like taking a pain killer. The worry mostly went away–for a few hours.

But now it’s back, and I can’t sleep.

I was tired just thirty minutes ago! But now, all I can think of is the flaws in my education. I’ve chosen a less traditional approach to the whole high school education thing. Because of my school, I actually want to go to class. I want to make my teachers proud. I doubt I would be this happy at anywhere else, based on what my friends tell me about their schools. No, they’re nothing bad–but they’re nothing special, either.

Tonight I question my school choice.

Why? you ask. It seems like that school is the best fit for you.

You see, my school is small. 180 students, 20 staff. It’s a charter that focuses on community and personalization, and their students.

However, “academic excellence” (aka the dreaded Standardized Testing) isn’t the focus.

We don’t have AP classes.

There isn’t a separate Honors version of each class; instead there is the opportunity to go to an extra meeting or two each month and complete a few projects depending on the subject (i.e. a research paper for Humanities).

We don’t even do Finals Week, half days filled with the end of the year tests most kids stress about for a few weeks beforehand.

Not to say there aren’t our own style of alternatives. In Honors Math, there isn’t just extra homework. Participants are also expected to attend Math Circles at the University of Arizona (a sort of math gathering that solves a different advanced math problem each week and takes questions from the audience on general math).
Instead of APs, we have the first-of-their-kind, experimental classes born from a partnership between our school and the National Park Service (I’m serious, our school ran one of the first pilot classes that the National Park Service has ever developed. I know because later that year I became one of two interns working as a sort of ambassador between the NPS and my school.)

APs are meant to give experiences that can sometimes replace college credit. That’s nice, but at my school, one of the graduation requirements is a year long internship, or two semester internships, with a company or organization in our city. Those internships give valuable work experience and connections, and stand out more than lots of AP courses.

And Finals? That’s the best part. Instead of really big tests on information studies show students will loose the majority of within a year, we have Gateways, which are basically formal presentations showing that you have reflected on the past year, and are ready to move on, as well as a third topic depending on your grade (i.e. sophomores teach the audience something they’ve learned that year; seniors present their after high school plans). Gateways are open to the entire school and graded by a team of teachers. If you fail (which is pretty easy to do), you have to redo and pass your Gateway durning the summer, or repeat the year.

And yet… I’m nervous. I haven’t taken any APs, so my transcript looks a little dull. My PSAT score was lower than I would like. I’m not in academic extra-cirrulars because my school doesn’t offer them.

The Ivy Leagues say they look for evidence that you’ve challenged yourself academically. I’ve definitely busied myself with other projects outside of school, but they seem to pale in comparison to 6 APs junior year or 2nd place at the Academic Decathlon (both honors held by friends).

Ironically, I chose my school because of the lack of lots of homework and tests.

Did I make the wrong decision when I picked a high school?

Could I be doing so much more at a different school?


Would I be happy at a different school?

Probably not.

But the problem still stands: the Future looms nearer and nearer. I had held this idea in my head of attending Brown one day. Not because of any real research, I admit. I just liked some of the intercultural study sheets that had their name on it we used in my Humanities class once.

My family doesn’t have unlimited money (like pretty much everybody else). Going to an $50,000/year school wouldn’t work unless I got a pretty big scholarship. On the other hand, it’s not impossible I might get a full, four year ride to some of the smaller and less prestigious colleges in the Grand Canyon State. Assuming that’s an option, would I choose a small college scoffed at among some circles (at least for undergrad), or go for a nicer university (a $20,000 or 30,000/year minus some scholarship money) and pay the remainder?

There are some other doubts, questions, concerns, thoughts, but they’re smaller, and this post is long enough. And it’s now 4:55am, so it’s probably best if I sign out.

Thanks for reading, even after the focus shifted while I panicked, remembered why I love my school, and began to pick at other worries. Goodnight!

P.S. FYI, Aaron: halfway through I began to think about posting this to my blog, so that’s why it becomes more general and explanatory. Thanks for reading anyways!


If you’re in my boat, what are you thinking about right now?
If you’ve recently decided, how’s that working out right now?
And if you decided long ago, how did your strategy work out in the long run?



EXPLANATION OF POST: This is an actual conversation (well, it was mostly–completely–one sided, but who’s counting?) from Facebook that I wrote to my good friend Aaron because I couldn’t sleep. I italicized a few things for dramatic effect, but other than that, it is completely as it was, so no, it hasn’t been revised, so if (for some reason) you’re looking for my best work, look elsewhere (End of May, maybe?). Or just contact me. : ) ‘night!