It used to seem to me that the only difference between being a college student and a recent graduate is that you become more self-conscious of your alcohol consumption.
I think it’s a little more than that.
In less than one month, I’ll be moving to Little Rock, Ark. — a place I’ve lived before — to start my first permanent full-time position in journalism. I’ll be a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln living several hundred miles down south from her home of 22 years.
From the cornfields to the Ozarks; and I don’t get to take the Mertzes with me.
I think I’ll experience more than just being self-conscious of my alcohol consumption when I make the change. (To clarify: I don’t plan on actually being self-conscious of my alcohol consumption.)
I’ve studied abroad twice and held two summer internships outside of Nebraska, so I know what it’s like to live away from home. But I don’t know what it’s like to not know if I’m coming back.
It’s not like all of my friends are graduating along with me. Most of them are waiting until December at the earliest. So the sweet memories of the good college times won’t be collective distant memories; they’ll be distant memories mostly just for me.
Could I have just one more semester?
I’ll make this the best one; I’ll do this one right.
Except, I am ready to graduate.
The path I chose was journalism — I couldn’t see myself doing much else other than graduate school — and the game I chose to play was doing what I could to follow that path, even if it led me somewhere I would wonder if I were ready for.
Is anyone really prepared to have their lives somersault into the great unknown?
I’ll miss seminars, reading assignments, fun classes, playing HORSE at the student newspaper, meeting all kinds of people my own age, not to mention the people I love who are also my own age.
There are also things I won’t miss.
In Lincoln, I’ve fallen in love a thousand times, been lucky, been inspired, although I’ve never been sure my location had anything to do with it.
In Lincoln, I’ve had friendships crumble that I cared deeply about, been drained by the aggressive hyperactivity of college and experienced the stressful game disillusionment likes to play with post-adolescent, idealistic minds — I’ll miss the some of the opportunities of college but not the mess of trying to navigate it. And I’m happier to get out of the mess than to stay in it.
Not that starting over somewhere new was a goal.
But now it’s a reality.
And all I can think about is who and what I’ll miss.
Moving is a good thing, but it’s also painful. I suppose I knew this was coming, but I always thought I’d keep in touch with my best friends and that when I did I’d always feel at home.
But distance isn’t that simple.
For me, when I love people, they’re in my heart forever, and I don’t replace them.
It’s not in our nature to flow like water from one space to another, one life to another. We’re not as asexual as this attitude tries to make us.
And yet I get told all the time that I must be so excited to go.
The college dreams is to be that fickle, but believing people are disposable or replaceable is difficult for me.
I’m happy I have a job, but it’s not that simple.
Once I leave Lincoln and my friends leave Lincoln, scattering themselves all over the world, I’ll likely think I don’t have any option other than to replace them and move on.
I’ll wish I hated these people. I’ll wish I hated school.
But I don’t; I can’t.
I hope I fall in love a thousand more times in Little Rock.
We meet a lot of people in our lives, and we can find friends anywhere in the world.
But the ones we really love for who they are — and not for the fact that they’re pretty cool but mostly just make us less lonely — come few and far between. And so long as they matter, we fall in love over and over again, no matter the distance or hectic schedules.
I don’t have a diploma yet, but it seems to me that realizing that you can’t and shouldn’t protect yourself from being hurt by falling in love a thousand times is the difference between being a college student and a recent graduate, a child and an adult.
So … drink all you want, I guess.
I’ve been back out on the road.
It feels good.
Travel is still the most exhilarating, fantastic experience.
So I took it upon myself to do some this semester (although I did go to Iowa City, Iowa, last semester to watch the Huskers take on the Hawkeyes on the Friday after Thanksgiving
First, I headed to Columbia, Mo., with some photojournalism students for Pictures of the Year International, an odd trip now that I look back on it because all we did was watch them select photographs. But at least I got to taste the gem that is Shakespeare’s:
I’ve made this the background of so many things — my Twitter, my new iPhone. I can’t even talk about how this is the best pizza ever, because I just can’t do it justice.
Next, I headed to Louisville, Ky., for the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, one of the best decision I’ve made as a journalism student so far. Here’s the view from my hotel room:
Next was spring break, where I chose to couch surf instead of try to latch on to anyone else’s vacations. I’ve always been too independent, so I’m not surprised I ended up alone, but I’m glad I’m a lot gutsier than I used to be. Those guts brought me to the following awesome places:
St. Louis, where I ventured to the Kemper Art Museum, the revamped downtown city library:
the delicious local pizza joint Pi, a few other local coffee shops and lunch places, the Anheuser-Busch brewery:
and the City Museum, where I ventured down a 10-story slide:
Next, I went to Nashville, a great place for music and beer. It’s been my favorite stop so far this school year, although Louisville has some great memories. The city just feels so young.
It also has a Parthenon:
And some cool studio shows like this one:
I finished the trip in Little Rock to do some apartment hunting. I mostly tried to get a lot of work done on my thesis instead of hanging out with old friends, whom I’ll see enough of soon enough — I accepted a full-time position with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I’m excited, but it’s bittersweet. I headed home earlier then I planned because it just didn’t seem right to be away for so long in a city I’m moving to anyway. More on how I feel about all that later.
But I did stop by my favorite cafe and pretty much all my favorite stops while I was there. Here’s the Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock:
EmilyOn Being an Intern, Or a Kind of Independence You Don’t Learn In School
At first glance, the light brown building was old: no more than three stories and a simple façade.
It looked like the kind of office that has wooden ceiling fans and creeky steps, old bathrooms and bizarre floorplans, chipped paint on the walls and maybe a slow, small elevator.
The downtown street that ran in front of it was only one lane going either way. Classic.
It was perfect.
I walked in on my first day – paperwork in a modern, computer-filled newsroom – and picked up a temporary ID badge, knowing I’d soon get a real one once I officially became an employee.
Now, I think about how different I felt then, like a real badge somehow wasn’t as temporary as the faded yellow #11 pinned to my dress.
Intern is the worst job ever.
And college sucks.
In a little more than 11 weeks this summer, I wrote 34 articles and countless briefs about Arkansas for the Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock.
I toured the city, became a regular at several dining/tea/beer establishments, tried oodles of new things, developed a bit of a twang and made the fastest and busiest friendships of my life. And I got decent at journalism.
This all amounts to an incredible summer that I’m all kinds of thankful for, right?
Excitement abounded during my first days in Little Rock: accidentally living with my boss for five days, going out for coffee with two reporters who sat next to me and later with another intern whom I had known since freshman year of college – all telling me about their jobs and their lives that sounded so nice.
Always independent, I was ready for adventure.
I was prepared to have the best summer of my life.
And I did.
But I didn’t smile much during my last days in Little Rock.
After living life to its fullest for nearly three months, I was the only intern to decide not to have a “goodbye,” dive-bar outing with the young, regular journalist crowd.
Maybe I ended my summer on a sour note and a broken heart. Maybe that was a choice I made.
I sat in my apartment the night of my last day of work, doing nothing in particular. For the first time, deliberately avoiding making any memories.
For the first time, I was just an intern, and I would be gone before anyone remembered I was there.
As the days wound down, I laid in my bed, just thinking. Over and over again.
I wish I could just live here.
Oh, I wish I could just live here.
Now that I’m leaving, preparing to live another temporary life for the last nine months of my college career, I wonder what it would be like if I came back to Little Rock.
I keep telling people I want desperately to come back.
Good news, good paper, lots of length for more descriptive and informative writing.
And I left just as newsies like Anderson Cooper were picking up a story I had been covering before I begrudgingly turned all my notes over to another reporter.
Talk about disappointment.
But if I came back, would the life get old?
I’m a 22-year-old college student who can’t remember what it’s like to really live somewhere.
As a teenager, I counted down the days until I could move away. As a college student, I dream about the possibilities.
At 22, I’ve lived in four different cities in the past year and a half. Because it’s fun. And I can handle myself. But it’s never, “I can’t wait to leave!”
What’s it like to be somewhere and have your whole life ahead of you from that point on?
I can talk all day about wanting to come back as a year-rounder, but I don’t know what it would be like if I did.
I was just an intern, pining to stay in a place that seemed so fun and interesting.
But that’s only part of the life.
The heartbreak I have upon leaving Arkansas after three months is a miniature version of what it’s like to grow up, graduate, leave home and realize that we’ve had our last days of something, somewhere, someone. It all seems like a slow death sometimes.
As I walked down the aisle of desks to the stairs, hauling the contents of my drawers and folders and the brownies I had baked for the office, I knew I might only be a blip in the pages of the newspaper, in the lives of the many reporters, editors and readers.
They liked me or didn’t like me, and the next day, it wouldn’t have to matter to any of them.
I was just an intern, and I would be gone before anyone remembered I was there.
I guess that’s independence.
Arkansas in nine photographs. Just imagine there’s a 10th, and it’s a Pabst Blue Ribbon.Spain's 'indignants' return to the streets - Europe - Al Jazeera English
They’re still angry, new government and all.Vacation, Week 1: Madrid and Morocco
I can’t even tell what I smell like anymore. I haven’t sweat much, but I just don’t feel clean. And I can’t wait to get out of the jeans I’ve been wearing for two weeks straight.
I’ve returned from my 17-day break.
With a backpack full of sand, no clean clothes and an acne-ridden face screaming for its first good wash in two-and-a-half weeks.
I hadn’t expected much before I left; I was simply ready to discover new places and new experiences.
If I could do it all over again, I would do it differently. But I can’t redo it, and I’m not angry with myself over anything.
It started in Madrid, where I rediscovered a big, bustling, garden-filled city, definitely felt like the capital of Spain. And I got to see the real “Guernica” by Picasso. Much better the second time around.
I stumbled upon this restaurant as the one nextdoor was playing “You and I” by Lady Gaga. I had a hot dog here for dinner that didn’t resemble anything I’ve ever eaten back home. Should’ve had the Lincoln burger.
Next stop: Morocco.
I left on an overnight bus with some students from ISA Madrid and ISA Salamanca. We hit it off pretty well and made a 3 a.m. churro run when the bus stopped to pick up students from the Bilbao, Valencia and Barcelona programs. Several hours of bus and too many hours of ferry later, we were driving through Morocco’s gorgeous northern landscape to Fes.
In Fes, we went to the medina, what most of us thought would be a day free to explore the markets and town of Fes.
It was not like that at. all.
We were taken to five different stores and given sales pitches by the owners. I get that artisanship is big in developing nations, but I was not interested in being the worst kind of tourist — one who doesn’t experience the culture and merely buys things instead. Too bad for everyone on the trip, I guess, although some girls were loaded and spent more money on one or two things than I’ve spent on everything other than school, planes or bus rides since I’ve been abroad.
After Fes, we bused to the outskirts of the Sahara desert, where the Berbers roam, trying to sell us things, and where it rained.
The way there was pretty nice.
We took four-by-fours from a hotel near Erfoud to the desert. Ours got a flat tire, which only made the adventure more fun.
The desert was beautiful, and a lot of fun. We rode camels, slept in tents and danced into the early morning. That touristy stuff was OK; I was prepared for that.
Sunrise was pretty all right, too.
Look at all the sand! Many Berber children spend their days skipping school to sell things to tourists instead. Many tried to sell us water bottles full of sand. My friend bought one, because he said the little girls selling it to him were too cute. It was funny, but I was too uncomfortable with the fact that the children weren’t going to school to interact with them.
After two nights and a day in the desert, we took four-by-fours back to the bus and then drove to Meknes. I wish I could have spent more time in the city; Meknes looked fantastic. But, alas, we were there for mere hours before we bused again to the ferry.
I wish I could go back.
Next stop: Seville.
I almost studied abroad in Seville. In fact, I filled out the application online but didn’t formally submit it because I didn’t realize that it had to be done by mail. So I was pretty excited to go here.
It was Holy Week for the first two of my three days here. Tourists were everywhere on Saturday, but they were gone by Easter, presumably because they all flew out then. So I got into all the touristy places without a line.
The processions were pretty cool. One of the things Holy Week in Spain is famous for is parade marchers’ outfits resemblance to the KKK’s. But I really didn’t notice.
The floats are lifted by these guys, who switch places every 100 meters or so.
On an impulse after the Saturday parade, I decided to attend the middle-of-the-night Easter vigil at the Cathedral, the biggest cathedral in Spain. But I’m not Catholic nor a regular church-goer, so I didn’t know what to expect or when to do that cross-from-the-head-to-the-chest thing. The vigil was in Spanish, but I was still pretty lost, considering I understood what they were saying but had little idea what they were talking about. I left excited, though. I thought, “I could be a Christian!” but then later decided that the conversion really needed a bit more thought than that.
Seville was beautiful, though. The Plaza de España, the parks, the colors, the weather.
I wondered if I would go back to Bilbao thinking I should have studied in Seville.
Next stop: Lisbon.
Lisbon was an experimental trip. I thought I should go, considering the only country that borders Portugal is the one I was studying in. Basically, if I didn’t go during these four-and-a-half months, when was I going to go?
First, it rained the whole time. But it was beautiful. The art museums were fantastic, I could see Lisbon’s version of Christ the Redeemer (the wonder of the modern world I’m dying to see most) and I met a cool Russian girl at my hostel who decided to learn English after falling in the love with the Backstreet Boys.
I also learned a lot about Portugal’s role in India and in discovering the New World.
This is the Monument of Discoveries:
Portuguese wasn’t very nice to listen to, however. Not sure why.
Next stop: Granada.
It rained the whole time in Granada. The temperature was about 15 degrees below normal and what weather.com said it would be. La Alhambra was big and interesting, but not as fascinating as everyone had made me believe it would be. I did meet a guy from Tripoli while I was eating lunch there, so that was pretty cool.
My favorite was the graffiti, though. What I realized during the whole two weeks was how much I want art all around us, on our walls, on our ceilings, on the most trivial of things. Why let any space go to waste?
I also fell in love with a restaurant in Granada that sold kebabs and pizzas for cheap. In total, I spent hardly anything on food. The only thing is, they were out of baklava. Must be too good of a dessert.
Next stop: Málaga.
It rained the whole time in Málaga, Did I mention that it rains almost everyday in Bilbao? It does, and rain is only acceptable there. My spring break was supposed to be springy.
In Málaga, I went to the birthplace of Picasso and decided that he is my new favorite artist. Anyone who tries to see something differently is doing something right in my book, though.
I also strolled along the beach, which was pretty. And then ate a kebab.
Overall, Andalusia was nothing like anywhere else in Spain I’d been.
Next stop: Home to Bilbao.
This is what Bilbao looked like the day before I left, the general strike day in Spain:
It was a good day, but I was more excited for the next 17.
Yet toward the end of my trip, I began to miss Bilbao. Not because I had traveled alone for 11 days and merely missed familiar faces, but because I just love it there.
It’s nothing like the rest of Spain. I realize now why people who live in Basque Country say they’re not from Spain or France.
Basque Country is beautiful, green and artsy. (For instance, this weekend is the Bilbao International Festival of Letters; last year, Salman Rushdie attended, and this year Bill Keller and Chuck Palahniuk are in attendance.) The architecture is more modern in more places. Tourists aren’t all over the place. It’s a window to a kind of secret, special culture. And it’s the best place in Europe to learn Spanish. Bilbao is more European than it is Spanish, and I like that about it. If I had wanted dashes of color, warmth and fiestas, I would have gone to Latin America or the Caribbean, although I can get those things in Andalusia. I love Spain, but if I’m in Europe, I’m more glad to have Basque Country.
Bilbao, it’s great to see you again.
P.S.: To those of you who doubted my ability to take my backpack on Ryanair, after packing it for 17 days — my bag didn’t even cause Ryanair workers to notice.
You guys, the king says it’s never going to happen again.
The king of Spain was injured while hunting elephants in Botswana and ended up in a hospital in Madrid. If it wasn’t obvious already that the royal family does nothing but waste taxpayer money on frivolous things and activities, it’s obvious now. Kind of funny. But I don’t pay taxes in Spain.17 days. 8 cities. 1 backpack.
I´m a real traveler now. Armed with a backpack, a map and a will to discover something new.
I´m traveling around Europe and North Africa for 17 days.
Madrid, Fes, the Sahara, Meknes, Seville, Lisbon, Granada, Málaga.
At times, I wonder what I´m doing. It´s impossible to travel without wondering who you think you are, why you think you need to do this, deserve to do this.
I just knew I wanted to.
And I´m just gracious for the opportunity, for being in that half of the world who can afford to leave their home town.
Just keeping my fingers crossed that my backpack passes the Ryan Air luggage test.
Berlin, March 16-18. I spent more time talking the ear off of the friend I met up with there instead of taking pictures. But here’s what I got.