Introducing the Characters: Allison

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First friend. Like ever. Taco beans magic dies hard. Strawberry blonde sistah child. Just keeps on swimming. And would save me from drowning (literally and figuratively) in less than a heartbeat. Sleepover buds since the beginning. Cake in the face and piñatas in the park. Irish at core, Bostonian beloved all the while. Surrogate sister and second parents. She got it from her mama….and papa too. 

AL and I go way back. Beyond anything I can even remember because we were two PYTs (pretty young things) in strollers at the park. No matter how much time has passed, it’s always the same. Kitchen table talk for days. Christmas cookie compadres. Persona and pretenses are tossed out the window because we know each other inside out…and backwards. Writes Dublin tour guides that blow every travel book to Guinness tipsy smithereens. Through life’s highs, lows, and ridic in-betweens. Simply a gem who has always been and will always be.
p.s. Happy belated birthday, AL :) 

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4 Days More

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4 days more in France! Real life is fast and furious, yo.

Procrastination is a mode of life at this point. And because I’m doing just that, here’s a nugget of Tuesday wisdom. You could pretty much call it a metaphorical home run.

“It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.

You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything.

But in real life, you can’t avoid doing things. We have to earn a living, do our taxes, have difficult conversations sometimes. Human life requires confronting uncertainty and risk, so pressure mounts. Procrastination gives a person a temporary hit of relief from this pressure of “having to do” things, which is a self-rewarding behavior. So it continues and becomes the normal way to respond to these pressures.

Particularly prone to serious procrastination problems are children who grew up with unusually high expectations placed on them. Their older siblings may have been high achievers, leaving big shoes to fill, or their parents may have had neurotic and inhuman expectations of their own, or else they exhibited exceptional talents early on, and thereafter “average” performances were met with concern and suspicion from parents and teachers.”

David Cain, “Procrastination Is Not Laziness

à plus tard (’till more later).

-lex

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What Nobody Told Me About Study Abroad

(Note: Reposted from the article in Georgetown’s newspaper The Hoya, which can be found here with stylistic variations.)

Immersed in the crisp autumn air of a Parisian night, I realize that this is kind of a funny story. 

I look up at the million shards of light that dance before me and breathe deeply, taking in the speechless grandeur of the Eiffel Tower. Pausing, I think to myself: “This is it! This is what I will tell people about study abroad – the revelatory feeling of discovering what only existed in dreams…”

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And then abruptly, I stop. It’s true that this is dream-worthy, but it doesn’t tell the whole story about studying abroad. As I enter my fourth month in France, I reflect on this question often:

What will I tell people when they ask about study abroad?

I think about this because I remember asking the very same questions about study abroad myself.  As a Hoya, a student, and a dreamer, I have valued my time abroad at its fullest. However, I know that much of the remaining value exists in being able to translate this experience to life on the Hilltop—to both my life and that of others.

It is with this realization that I want to share something immensely important. Something I am quite frankly scared to share. I want to tell you what I wish I had known, but perhaps what you may not want to hear.
I want to tell you what nobody told me about study abroad.

Strap on your seat belts, and grab a chair. Let’s do real talk.

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Like many people, I had dreamed of study abroad since coming to Georgetown. I decided early-on that languages are bonkers cool; traveling is all sorts of amazing; and exploring a new culture is downright jazzy. So as junior year approached, I carefully filled out the applications and tackled the painstakingly atrocious VISA process. I chose to study in Nantes, France (the country’s 6th largest city). And six months later, I stepped off the plane. Wide-eyed, awestruck, and wondering if I was in the famed Genovia.

Fast forward to one month later, and my life as seen by most people is nothing short of a French fairytale.

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I’ve met my host family and learned that my dad is a semi-famous French chef.  I’ve made some awesome friends, many of which are among the 40 other American students with whom I’m spending the semester. Dublin, Paris, Munich, Bologna, Rome, Florence, and the French Champagne region dot my travel itinerary. I’ve immersed myself in the French language and started rapidly climbing the learning curve. The world’s best pain au chocolat is a daily staple. And I’ve discretely stepped into life as a femme française, forming a newfound identity as the Princess of Better-Than-Genovia.

This story illustrates the highlights of my time abroad, which has been undoubtedly magnifique. It reads like a flawless fairytale, a dream and a half, a casual frivolity. It depicts a tale without bad days or trips on the Struggle Bus. And it evokes an easy-breezy-beautiful-Covergirl sort of mentality.

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But what nobody told me about study abroad is that it is not just about the highlights. It is not always “easy.”

I don’t mean just physically, emotionally, socially, financially, mentally, or personally. I mean, every single bit of it. When I first remarked on these tiny ebbs of subtraction, people were quick to respond, “BUT YOU’RE IN EUROPE. YOU CRAY?” like they were shouting the final answer to Jeopardy. As if being abroad automatically means you can’t feel anything but flower-crown-adorned happiness 24/7.

But bad days and personal struggles exist abroad just like anywhere else. Perhaps even more strikingly, being that one stands beyond the sureness of a comfort zone.

There may be days when you struggle with always feeling like the outsider. When your country, your culture, your language, YOU are now the minority rather than the majority. When you feel like classes are either an unbelievable “joke” or a believable impossibility. When the loss of a community of intellectual engagement leaves you without any raison d’être as a student.

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It feels like the moment when the ground was yanked like a rug beneath you, and you promptly ended up landing on your tailbone. HARD. But even with a bruised ego, it’s as if it’s sunny and raining simultaneously: the rain smacks ya grandly with all it’s got, but the bright moments put the starry-look back in your eyes.

Maybe or maybe not you’ll feel that nobody “gets you” in the inexact precision of your personality. You may be confronted with the loss of all things familiar, including familiarity itself. In venturing to the likes of Facebook/ Instagram/ Twitter/the Interwebz, you might be greeted with FOMO (fear of missing out). For some, maybe the lessons in solitude will manifest as lessons in loneliness. For others, there is the trying emotional investment of having a loved one elsewhere—of figuring out how to live feeling like the other half of you is elsewhere. For you, perhaps being understood in full is the simplest wish and the most unattainable desire.

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In talking with others abroad this semester, every person remarked that they thought study abroad was “supposed to be easy.” Though most described the overall experience as positive, nobody described the semester as easy. And in fact, not a single person ever recalled hearing about these trying lowlights of study abroad beforehand.

Yes, I will tell you that study abroad is magnifique and for some, life-changing. That you can pursue the extraordinary and find life unlike the one you’ve lived. Yes, I will tell you that I believe it is 100% worth it and that you’ll never forget it.

But yes, I will also tell you that study abroad is not just plain easy.

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For most, it’s not an endless parade of glamour and ease—a 4-month-long vacation of stars, rainbows, ponies, and absolutely perfection. I tell you this not to complain about a “hard knock life,” to lament an epic 1st world problem, to be negative, to be discouraging, to scare you. I tell you this because it’s what nobody told me. Rather, this is what I wish I had known so as to avoid feeling caught off guard or as if these sentiments were unique to me.

For me, study abroad has been nothing like I expected but far beyond anything I ever could have dreamed. Plans rarely go directly according to plan. Sass frequently goes through the roof; hair gets tangled; and life gets messy on the daily. It’s not cute.

But you learn to make it your own. Through it all, life abroad paints the world in colors you’ve scarcely imagined. And the complete picture is one of highlights, lowlights, and everything in between.  It’s rarely perfect but always as it should be. It’s a whole lot of organized chaos, a whole lot of faith in yourself, and the reminder that, well—

It’s kind of a funny story.

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By: Lexi Cotcamp, MSB ‘15: Reposted from The Hoya‘s (Georgetown’s newspaper) article found here, with stylistic variations.

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As It Should Be

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I’m smiling. Not the kind of smile that you use for when Grandma goes ballistic with the camera on Christmas. Or the kind of smile you use as a disguise around public audience.

Really smiling. 1% of you have seen this smile. The 1% that has truly made the effort to keep in touch this semester. The 1% that can decipher the face I’ll make when faced with hilarious awkwardness. You’re probably the same 1% that has Chapstick rites of passage.

Why the smile?

Sunlight floods the room. And I sit in its presence, greeting the streams of gold as they gently wash over me. Something feels right. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the smooth click on life’s gears feels apparent. This could totally be the effect of too much coffee. Yeah? Saturday, get at me.

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Or it could be the discovery that:

  • I have 14 days more in France. That it will be an amazing 14 days but that going home will be the freakin’ tits.
  • My host sister has become like a sister to me and my best friend here. The fact that she is neither a biological sister nor my host family’s actual daughter is irrelevant. Friendship extends beyond culture and language.
  • Studying abroad is a janky crash course in showing you which friends remain friends, even when it’s not convenient. Ironically, the people that I’ve talked to most are some of the busiest people I know. It’s taught me that saying “Sorry, I was too busy, but I miss you!” or “Sorry! I just really suck at communication” is a bit misleading. “Busy” is a convenient excuse but a rather inconvenient truth. I haven’t kept in touch with people this semester who ‘have’ time but rather people who have ‘made’ time. It’s a small, but important, distinction.
  • By American standards, what I eat on a daily basis is considered horrifyingly unhealthy. Yet I’ve never felt more at peace with my body.
  • Language immersion is like playing the game CatchPhrase 24/7 — you spend most of your time describing what you want to say to people, while they try to guess the meaning or word you’re trying to convey. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.
  • I will eat Chipotle with reckless abandon upon return to the states. RECKLESS ABANDON. To the kind man/lady in charge of said inaugural homecoming burrito: please inform HQ that you will need exactly 1.74296 shit-tons of guacamole for my burrito.  Thanks!

Over and out.

Happy Saturday :)

-lex

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On “Hating” Blogs

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To those who have decried the presence of blogs: 

I have never personally encountered one of you. But after speaking with a dear friend who is writing a (study abroad) blog, your existence has come to my attention. It is with this discovery that I would like to convey my sincerest apologies for the earth-shattering inconveniences caused.

I’m terribly sorry that you were forced to click on those links we posted. Utterly heartbroken that we decided to share the experiences that have impressed upon us a lasting memory. Truly despondent that spending a hot second reading a “friend’s” account of cultural crossroads took precious time away from you watching Netflix /drinking cheap beer and blacking out (again? again.) on a Friday night.

It’s a shame, you know — deciding to do something you hate and then additionally wasting all that holy breath of yours hating the subject of the decision you made in the first place. We shouldn’t have to put up with this! To hell with reading blogs, the rent is too damn high anyway!

So you say you shouldn’t have to read these blogs?

You’re absolutely right!

Indeed, you have the right to exercise your own self-restraint when presented with a blog link. Whether you have the capability to exercise said restraint is unfortunately not a question I can answer for you.

As for us–we who do choose to recount our experiences on a blog: we’re right too.

We have the right to pen a life that is perhaps different from the one we live everyday, replete with the experiences that otherwise remain locked behind lips. We have the right to publish, as you have the right to read (or not). We have the right to be intrigued, pensive, funny, janky, corny, silly, stupid, nonsensical, morose, in d’em-down-dumps,  angry, shocked, excited, curious, and/or incandescently happy.

Because that, you see, is our write.

Cheers ;)
-lexi

p.s. Voilà – tough love, but certainly not hate in any form. chill out, and let’s keep it funky fresh.

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A Glimpse at Paris

We’re totally going to talk Paris. About how all alone in the city of love & lights, I was rarely alone.

It’s a conversation and a half, and it’s headed your way in a jiff. “Why not now?”
8 AM classes, homeskillets. Like whose gameplan was that? Don’t remind me.

Let’s do pics…it’s a total mellow Tuesday move.

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{ best friend A & I casually strolling near Le Tour Eiffel}

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{The Lumineers concert in Paris!}

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{Macarons from the master himself, Pierre Hermé}

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{Locks of Love & Cathedrale Notre Dame}

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{place de la république à paris}

Now who wants to go to an 8 AM class?

…That’s what I thought.

-lexi

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Florence, You Sexy Beast

I wish I could tell you I’ve been off honeymooning in Fiji for 10 days with Italian pop star Paolo. Or Italian sandwich star Pino.

There would be coconuts! Turquoise water tip-toeing! Exclamation points! And palm fronds gently fanning.

Reality check: no palm fronds. Unless you count the tree branches that decided to assault my face during the last 7 days of unrelenting rain in Nantes.

Not funny, Mother Nature.

Italy? Let’s talk about these dang adventures already.

Along with friends K & E, I spent 5ish days in Italy for our Fall break. The break was the longest of the semester, and we booked our tickets for Italy pronto within the first week of arriving in September. Italy was a done deal for us. We had roughly no idea we wanted to do in Italy, except just about everything. Yes, gelato was a big part of “everything.”

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So what happened? 5 days of abso-freaking-lutely, smokin’ hot mess.

Totally not kidding. With a little veritable truckload of help from our friends (new and old), we managed to make organized chaos look nothing short of awesome. After a night’s layover in Bologna, it was off to Florence!

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It would probably be an A+ idea to tell ya’ll that our fantastic time in Florence is deserving of a special shoutout. Longtime pal and Stanford grad M, who previously studied abroad in Florence, sent me the most ridiculously thorough declassified guide to Florence. Monuments, gelato, spectacular sights, tourist traps, declarations of love (and hate), gelato, local gems, and warnings (of fake gelato) were all scrupulously detailed on a Google map. And because he’s a gold-medal doofus, there was also a warning command that read, “If you go here, I’ll kill you. Go somewhere that is less like a Nightclub version of Applebees.” 

Clearly, he’s a keeper.

After around 8.56 bajillion miles of walking, we managed to see just about all of Firenze as guided. Including…

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Piazza Michelangelo, home of the best view in all of Florence. Beautiful view, meet my best friend ‘bottle of wine’ and good company too.

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Not one, but two melt-your-face-off amazing trips to Salumeria Verdi — or more fondly, “Pino’s”. This man makes the best frick frackin’ sandwich that will ever meet your lips. For 3,50 euro, you receive a mindblowing lunch AND a new best friend; Pino is the bomb.com and a Firenze legend.

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Classy sights like the museum housing the famous David sculpture and a surprise meeting with friend AC.

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Followed by a trip to Fiesole, with a sweeping view of all of Tuscany.

Excuse me while I make my way down from Cloud Nine. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to have gelato.

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Jokes on jokes. Zero gelato? Meatballs are more likely to rain from the sky (that would be cool?).

This was a trip to Vivoli Gelato, which we decided was the best gelato in central Florence. Tiramisu for this kid. Like the gods of Italy decided to throw a double dessert whammy all up in this shabang.

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Badiani Gelato. Which must be pronounced with sweeping hand gestures and a boisterous Italian accent that is rolling in the deep. You were right (again), M.

(You’re still a goober though.)

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Kickin’ it with the Medicis in Fiesole.

We’re super casual bros.

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Hey ho, ya spiffy Duomo. (center of Florence)

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Piazza Santa Croce. With colors that look like they splashed off the ground and onto the buildings + sky.

Florence was heavenly. The perfect blend of culture, Pino, history, accidental penthouse apartments, adventure, janky buses, toils of getting pooped on by a bird, beautiful views, carbscarbscarbs, students of all sorts, Tuscan sun, and gelato as a first language.

Like palm fronds and Fiji.

Only much, much better.

-lexi

p.s. Rome to come!

 

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