Wednesday, November 18, 2009

¡Acción de Gracias Feliz!

This year will be the fourth Thanksgiving I've spent away from home. Flying home for the holiday is too expensive and too exhausting so I usually save that for Christmas. I usually don't mind missing out on Thanksgiving since a majority of my cousins only make it home for Christmas as well and I'm not a huge fan of eating turkey. Spending the holiday away from home has given me the opportunity to experience many Thanksgivings that have been memorable for different reasons.

My first Thanksgiving in Boston was celebrated with GMCA classmates. We had a turkey cooked by a Californian and an Italian complete with spinach pie made by a Greek and Korean egg rolls. Yum!

I've helped make - for the first time - a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for foreign classmates who had never experienced Thanksgiving before.

One year I celebrated in Brooklyn with another friend and her entire family. We spent the entire day eating, playing board games and watching football. And last year I celebrated with a turkey in a bag and Ben and Jerry's Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream.

This year I again plan to return to the home of the original Thanksgiving but will be celebrating with a Mexican fiesta, which is anything but traditional. Taquitos and margaritas will be on the menu with the most traditional thing being the pumpkin brownies I intend to make.

Celebrating in Boston is almost like going home for me, but I did feel a touch of melancholy the other day when a co-worker asked me if what my plans were and then proceeded to tell me about all her family coming to celebrate with her.

I will miss fighting over the pumkpin pie and I will not get to laugh with my cousins about the year that Grandma brought the plate of Kraft Singles to dinner. I will miss my Aunt's delicious stuffing and won't get to meet my little cousins who visit the other sides of their families on Christmas.

But on the bright side, it's only twenty-three more days until I leave for Iowa and get to celebrate Christmas with them all.

Boston Bound

It was being let go from a temp job working at a computer engineering firm that motivated me to go to graduate school. Breaking into the PR field back home hadn't been easy and I was not ready to job hunt again. I realized there was so much more about the field that I was interested in learning and I decided that this was my opportunity to do something about it. I started applying to graduate programs in the Midwest and, on a long shot, randomly applied to Emerson College in Boston (the school I had only recently discovered while working in London) and Columbia University.

I never thought I would ever get into ether of the two East Coast schools and started seriously considering attending UNI or even UNL. Big surprise, I was rejected from Columbia, but I also got accepted into all the other schools I had applied to.


I hadn't counted on that. I figured my decision on where to go to school would be made easier by the fact that I probably wouldn't get accepted into many of the programs to which I had applied. This presented a whole new problem. I had too many options.

Should I play it safe and stick close to home or take a huge risk and go somewhere I had never been and knew no one?

I agonized over the decision, asking everyone I knew for an opinion. As the time to put down a deposit drew closer, I found myself still unsure of what the "right" choice was for me.

The day the payment was due, I made a split second decision and chose Boston. I had to give it a shot. I had never dreamed I would get in and I took getting accepted as a sign.

Besides, it was just a one year program. If I hated it, I could move home in a year.

I announced my decision to everyone and got many shocked reactions. First, that I was going back to school and had made the decision to do so so suddenly and secondly, that I was choosing to go so far away.

I never gave my decision a second thought until a friend of mine looked over the course Web site and asked me if I was really sure that I wanted to be a part of a program that intense. I had been so excited about going back to school that I hadn't even taken time to really digest how much of a change this was going to be.

Stay tuned for part two.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Adventure of a Lifetime

For over 40 years, BUNAC has been providing students the opportunity to live and work abroad. They offer programs to the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. BUNAC helps you obtain a work visa and provides support in job and flat hunting once you reach your destination. They also arranges social outings once you arrive in the country to help you make friends and really experience your temporary home.

The following excerpts came from my journal I kept while in the UK:

Upon learning that the work visa for the Britain programme was only eligible to University students for for those who had graduated within the past six months, I knew it was now or never. I started talking more and more about the possibility of doing the programme and before I knew it, I had talked my college roommate and two of my best friends from childhood into going as well.


Thursday, February 6, 2003:

I awake early to say goodbye to my mom and sisters before they head off to work and school. I also want time for one final repacking of my suitcase to make sure I have everything I could possibly envision needing for the next six months. I begin to cry as I tell my mom I’m not really sure about my decision anymore.

She hugs me and says,
“You’ve always been my adventurous one and I know you’ll have a great time. Go and have fun.”

It’s a bitterly cold morning. The first snow of the season had fallen the night before and I could see my breath as I step out the front door. I struggle with my suitcase and wait for Melissa to arrive. Around 8 am, she and her dad pull up. My dad and I hop in the car and we all head for Des Moines and the airport.

We get on the plane and as the flight attendants begin their speech, I realize there is no turning back. I take one last look out the airplane window at sun shining on the snowy expanse around me and then buckle up, not knowing that this would be the last time I would see the sun for about a week.

Friday, February 7, 2003:
We arrived into London on a direct flight from Chicago O’Hare. It’s 7:30 am and the plane touches down on the runway at Heathrow. It’s gray and rainy outside and, at 50 degrees, considerably warmer than the weather had been in Iowa when we left.

We collect our luggage and head for customs. The customs officer requests to see our bank statements, work visas and return tickets. He demands we explain the BUNAC scheme to him and once we have satisfactorily convinced him we are only there to work temporarily, he grants us entrance to the country.

We are now residents of the UK for the next five months.


So much happened in those five short months that I could write an entire blog just about London. But I will fill you in on the one key detail you need to know for the rest of my story to make sense.

I ended up finding a job as an Editorial Assistant for Britain's largest independent publishing company while abroad. I was so excited as I set up the interview. I had always been interested in the publishing field and was excited for an opportunity to work in a place like this. My excitement grew once I got to the interview and learned the position would be working on a supplemental directory for PR Week, one of the biggest titles in my industry.

How great it would be to work on something related to my industry. It would look very impressive upon returning home and trying to break into the PR field.

My role on the directory was researching appropriate listings and helping get them ready for publication. One of the sections of the directory was education - a listing of all communications and PR programs in the States. A few schools stood out in more than one category and this was where I first became aware of Emerson College.

We enjoyed every minute of our life in London and before we knew it five months had passed.

Leaving the UK was bittersweet. There were things from home I had missed and of course I was looking forward to seeing my friends and family, but there was so much I was leaving behind as well.

The entire ride to the airport I tried not to cry. As we drove out of the city, I watched the row houses passing by and reflected on everything that had happened since we first rode in on the Airbus. That gray, wet February morning flashed back to me in snippets. It seemed so long ago, yet I could recall is as if it were yesterday.

My thoughts turned to home and the US. I wondered how much had changed and, more importantly, how much I had changed since leaving.

Soon we were in line to board our flight. I remember the stifling heat and thinking I would be grateful for the air conditioning on the airplane. Ahead of us in line was a large group of American tourists dressed in shorts and t-shirts. They were being obnoxiously loud and kept complaining about the heat and everything else. The British couple behind us commented on their rude behavior and I remember agreeing that they should stay home if they were going to complain about the differences.

Wasn’t that exactly why people traveled? If everything were the same as what you already knew, there would be no novelty or sense of adventure in traveling.

The line began to move and Melissa and I stopped for a moment to take in one last look of England before entering the boarding ramp.

“What are you thinking?” I asked her.

“That it will probably be a long time before I see this country again,” she said.

“I know,” I said sadly and we turned and entered the aircraft.


In the days that followed, I tried to readjust to American life. I know that sounds weird, but returning home to me was a culture shock. England is very similar to the US, but it’s also very different. I wasn’t even gone for a very long period of time, but it was amazing how quickly and how much I had adjusted to life in England.

People kept asking me if I was glad to be home. Yes, I was. But also, I wasn’t. I felt as if my adventure had ended just as it was really beginning. I had taken a chance on something very few people ever even consider doing. I had done it…and done it well. I felt empowered and wasn’t ready to let go of that feeling or have to start all over again already.

“A mind that has been stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes.


It has now been almost seven years since I moved back from the UK and sadly, it has been seven years since I’ve set foot on European soil. I’m sure much has changed and I still dream of going back and sitting on “my” bench in Regent’s Park in the Spring.

I’m frustrated that life since then has kept me from one of my great passions in life – traveling. But I also smile reflecting on my impulsive decision so many years ago to move to a foreign country.

You see, if I had never gone to London, I would never have heard about Emerson College and the Global Marketing and Advertising program to which I would eventually apply.

And if I hadn’t lived in London, I would never have had the courage to accept a spot in the program and move all the way across my country to start a new life in a city where I knew no one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


She was never one to believe in love...mostly because she had always heard people make statements about things she had never experienced herself.

Now she is reconsidering everything she previously believed, yet is still trying to convince herself she doesn't believe. This time, not because she doesn't believe it exists, but because she believes that it doesn't exist for her.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Iowa State, Part II

I so clearly remember my first few days at Iowa State that I can close my eyes and feel 17 again. I wanted so badly to go to a school where I would just be one of many. I had no idea just how difficult that would be at first.

My stomach hurt every day for the first week or two of college. My friends at home kept telling me how much they loved college and I just didn't get it.

I was lonely. I had gone from having a constant large group of friends for the past 12 years to essentially knowing no one. I remember feeling so lost as I spent days walking around campus not seeing one familiar face.

The classes were fine. Honestly, compared to my high school, I thought most of my first semester classes were a walk in the park. There was a lot of work, but it wasn't hard.

I begged my parents to let me transfer to UNI second semester, to which they said no. They said I had to give Iowa State a year and if I still felt the same way, then I could transfer.

Am I ever glad they did.

Flash forward four and a half years later. It's a sunny December day and I have just put on my cap and gown and descended the staircase to meet my roommates and family before heading to Hilton Coliseum for graduation ceremonies.

I was so sad to be leaving Iowa State. I had lived in Ames longer than I had lived in the house my family currently lived in. I could not go anywhere without seeing someone I knew, which my family constantly made fun of me for.

I had gotten very involved in the Greenlee School my last two years and didn't quite feel prepared for the real world. I had made some great friends at the PC and it still remains one of my favorite jobs to this day.

I would miss Buck Burgers and celebrating birthdays at Hickory Park. I would miss tailgating and house parties. Most of all I would miss my friends and being able to call Iowa State "mine."

As I left Iowa State, I wasn't stressed out about entering the job market like most graduates. I had other plans. One of my college roommates, two high school friends and I were about to leave on an adventure of a lifetime...we were moving to London, England for six months.

We planned to get jobs, live it up in the UK and then I would return to Des Moines and get a job in PR. Well, as I've now learned, life never turns out the way I think it will and it was my move to London that made all the difference in my life.

Pardon the Interruption

The series of entries I was working on will continue right where I left off, but I need to write about something that I've spent quite a bit of my week thinking about.

I don't do well with idleness. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am constantly on the go. I was the girl who running around like crazy trying to do everything and living life as if there were never enough hours in the day. I often drove from one side of the state to the other in the same day visiting friends when I lived at home...I would attend one function only to leave and attend another.

I spent as much time as possible in the company of others.

It was the same in Boston..there was rarely a week that went by where I didn't hang out with people at least three nights during the week. I never got much sleep, but it was totally worth it. I was happy.

But here in New York that all changed. I don't have that circle of friends here, nor do I have the funds for all that and it's been a rough transition at times. I'm having a really hard time without that support network and busyness.

Don't get me wrong, I have learned to slow down a bit more, which is great and I still crave alone time every once in awhile, but lately less interaction and more alone time seems to be more of the norm than the exception and it's starting to make really wonder if this is the kind of life I want.

I was trying to voice some of my frustrations to a friend last night and she told me that I should accept the fact that no one is ever really doing what they love. She said I should realize that and just focus on other things. But I don't want to do that. I miss having things to be excited about and look forward to...I miss being happy. I don't want to live a life that lacks these qualities and that is what has made me really start questioning my decision to live in NYC lately.

I'm starting to get impatient with NYC but instead of moving on, maybe I need to remember I'm here for a reason...and if the reason isn't for me, maybe it's for someone else...and by helping others, maybe I will help myself.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Iowa State, Part I

When it came time to apply for colleges I knew only one thing - I wanted to go somewhere big where I didn't run into everyone I knew all of the time. My parents kept reminding me that anywhere I went was going to be bigger than what I what used to, but I didn't listen. I never considered community colleges or the very nearby University of Northern Iowa. I really wanted to go to a large university out of state but my parents - thankfully - talked me out of having to go to a school where I would have to pay out of state tuition.

That pretty much left me with one of two options - The University of Iowa in Iowa City or Iowa State University in Ames. I hadn't decided on a major yet so choosing a school based on the curriculum wasn't very helpful. I grew up in Eastern Iowa and in a family full of Hawkeye (University of Iowa) fans. I loved Iowa City. It was very liberal and such a great town. But I fell in love the minute I visited the Iowa State campus. It was beautiful and compact. In fact, Iowa State is one of only three colleges to have received the American Society of Landscape Architects medallion award given to outstanding landscape sites. I knew only five of my classmates planned to also attend Iowa State and it was settled.

I applied and was accepted in October and put the decision out of mind with all the bustle of finishing senior year.

Flash forward to August and the night before I planned to leave for school. I had to leave for school at 6 am to be there in time for work orientation and here I was coming home at 2 am from one last night out with my high school friends. I wasn't finished packing and my mom was furious with me.

"If you forget anything, that's going to be your fault."

"Mom, if I forget anything, I will be home again and can pick it up then."

Facing the pile of stuff I had yet to pack and the memories of the fun and laughter from earlier that night, the reality of my decision began to sink in.

Suddenly, I began to panic. What was I doing? Did I really want to go somewhere without knowing anyone really?

And this was the beginning of my impulsive, crazy moves to places where I am forever starting my life over.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just a Small Town Girl

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the future lately which leads to a lot of thinking about the past. My next few blog entries are going to be a little break from the usual. I am going to take a little trip into the past and revisit all of the things in my past that have led me to my current location.

First stop on the tour: high school.

I had the unique experience of attending school with the same group of people since first grade and living in a town small enough (with a population of only around 700) that you saw your friends at least six days a week during the school year because everyone went to the same church on Sunday.

I also had the unique experience of mingling with various "crowds" throughout it all. There were a group of "popular" kids in my school, but not in the typical sense that you see portrayed on television. Everyone hung out with their own group outside of school, but during the day at school everyone interacted and was mostly pleasant to one another.

There were times we were grateful to know each other so well and there were also times that it was frustrating that everyone seemed to know your business before you did.

Sometimes it was hard to change. People weren't always willing to let others be anything other than they were in elementary school.

High school was busy for me: playing in band; working on the yearbook staff; singing in choir; volunteering; playing softball, volleyball and golf; and being a part of National Honor Society, among many other things. But my friends and I found plenty of time for shenanigans - I know none of us will ever forget our trips to the Perry Band Olympics, the Mitch Mobile, or a certain someone posting up an article in the hallway during lunch.

I was so lucky to be one of those people who overall enjoyed the high school experience. Even though I wouldn't choose to go back, I have some great stories from my high school days.

It was this small town experience though that influenced all of the decisions I made post high school. When it came time to decide on a college, I only desperately wanted to break away and go somewhere that I could have the experience of being just one person among many, but that's another story and a new post.