Archive | February, 2014

skool

14 Feb

I don’t know how to feel.

I’ve known this was coming for a while now… Ever since I left Bogazici last January I’ve been planning my trip back. And I am so excited for the upcoming semester and all the adventures I know I will have. What I didn’t plan, however, was to cry like a baby when it was time to leave Waco, Baylor, and my friends with no idea if/when I’ll be back.

These past few months at college have been some of the best so far, and I realized that I need to write at least one post in praise of Baylor and my time here, regardless of the fact that I have traveled so far away from it so many times. I’m also feeling sentimental at the moment because I am sitting here on my couch in Shreveport, packed and as ready to go as I’ll ever be.

Here are a few reasons why this year was one of the best:

1) Friends. I basically had to start from scratch on the friend-making front after I came back from Turkey last year, since many of my friends from the year before had graduated, transferred, or just moved on. Starting over in junior year of college is a pretty daunting task, and I’m not sure where I would be without the exchange students. Last fall and this spring, I got the chance to meet and become very close with groups of incoming exchange and international students as they came to study at Baylor. These are some of the coolest people I have ever met, and leaving them a month into the semester was surprisingly difficult (I somehow turned into an emotional wreck there at the end).

exchange group pic

2) My job. Working in the study abroad office at Baylor has been one of the best experiences I could have had during college. My boss(es) and coworkers have been awesome, and I consider myself the luckiest college student ever to have been able to spend over a year there. My emotional wrecked-ness stayed with me as I said goodbye to the office and everyone in it.

3) Opportunities. Last semester, although it was so challenging with 18 hours and a part-time job, allowed me to do a few really cool things. One of these was a phone interview with Dr. Greg Anderson, one of the professors from the video in my last post… He’s kind of a big deal. One of my assignments for my interviewing class was an informational interview with someone in a field I wanted to learn more about, so I took a chance and emailed him, and to my surprise he said yes. We set up a half-hour phone interview that turned into a full hour of travel stories and life advice. That conversation with him got me really interested in grad school, and a few months later I was sitting on a plane to Hawaii to visit their program. Sometimes life is cool like that.

I could say so much more about Baylor and the great things that have come from going there, but I’m leaving for the airport in about five hours and I guess it’s probably time to sleep. So to finish up, here’s a link to my traditional pre-trip song. I chose the version of “Space Oddity” from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty because a) that was a beautiful movie, and b) I kind of feel like Major Tom right now, blasting off from home into the great unknown. Although Istanbul isn’t outer space and I already somewhat know what I’m getting into, life as I know it will never be the same.

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aloha, aloha (hello, goodbye)

1 Feb

The past few months have been busy ones, and almost all of my time has been filled with work, school, and writing my honors thesis. My days in India last summer seem faraway and dreamlike. As of late, my feet have been less itchy than usual—I’ve been happy to be in Waco these past few weeks, spending time with the delightful new crew of exchange students, working in the office, and making slow but steady progress on my thesis (forty pages down, about forty more to go). I’ve also been continuing research I started last semester on different graduate programs that offer the very specialized degree I wish to pursue, language documentation. What is language documentation, you ask? Watch this trailer for the documentary The Linguists and find out:

Basically it’s the linguistics version of wanting to be an astronaut when you grow up… I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to grow out of my desire to explore the world and see all the colors and learn the languages (although the adventures I would have are significantly less life-threatening than the ones in the documentary). I would be trying to save undocumented languages that are facing extinction by recording them (which often involves travel to remote and awesome places), conducting research on the languages, and working towards their conservation through education of the community and construction of dictionaries and databases. This field of study is still relatively small and is only offered by a few graduate programs in the country. The schools I’m looking into now are the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Oregon, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Oh yeah, and the University of Hawaii. Which is where I just spent the last few days. 

The decision to come to Hawaii was kind of a last minute one. I recently realized that I should start getting serious about my search for graduate programs, starting by visiting as many of the schools as I can. Since the University of Hawaii was the least geographically accessible of the schools I’m considering, I figured that I should take advantage of my ability to fly standby on American Airlines while I can (these benefits will end for me in the not-too-distant future, when I turn 23). The Sunday morning flight from Dallas to Honolulu was green (i.e. not close to being full), as was the Tuesday evening return flight. I emailed about twenty people on Thursday night in the university’s linguistics department and on Friday ended up with many emails addressed “Aloha, Audrey” and enough offers of activities to keep me busy for the two days I could stay there. There was no good reason to say no, so I didn’t. On Saturday, I listed myself for the flight, and on Sunday I drove to Dallas and hopped on an airplane. Nine hours later I found myself on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Although I walked by the ocean for a few minutes one morning, my Hawaiian experience (all forty-eight hours of it) wasn’t all sun and sandcastles, which I guess is probably a good thing since the beach could have clouded my judgment about the school. The weather was bad (for Hawaii) during my entire stay, with on-and-off rain showers, cloudy skies, and strong winds– the Hawaiian winter storm. The temperature was in the 70’s the whole time though, so no complaints from me. The university was beautiful and they have a whole five-story building devoted to language and linguistics—-basically, heaven. I also received two free curry shots (tiny plastic cups of curry) on campus, which was enough to sell me on the school. Just kidding. Kind of. And the people there are so nice… “Texas nice,” even. I got the chance to meet with a few of the grad students there, two of whom are from cities less than an hour away from my hometown, once again demonstrating the smallness of the world. They all call the professors by their first names and have traveled to crazy places to conduct summer research (like East Timor, I’m not even sure where exactly that is) and have the kinds of debates I want to be knowledgeable enough to have in a few years. Plus, they are living and studying in such an incredible, culturally diverse place and have access to all the delicious Asian food one’s heart could desire. And, from what I hear, nice beaches.

Cloudy day at the beach

Cloudy day at the beach


IMAG0952
Part of the UH campus

Part of the UH campus

Art on one of the construction sites on campus

Art on one of the construction sites on campus

Mini-adventure within my mini-adventure: the search for Spam. I didn’t learn this until recently, but apparently Hawaii is a huge consumer of Spam. The idea of Spam has never particularly appealed to me, so I had never tried it before, but one of the grad students I talked to told me that the one thing I had to eat in Hawaii was “Spam musubi” from a 7/11 gas station. “A college diet staple,” she called it. So one morning, I set out from my hostel in search of a 7/11. After about half an hour of walking, I finally laid eyes on my destination in all its gas station-y glory. Inside, where you usually find the random hot dogs or burritos, was the Spam. On top of a little brick of rice was a big piece of Spam, and it was all wrapped up in seaweed, like Spam sushi. I bought one and took it to a bench outside, where I hesitantly took the first bite of what I soon realized was Hawaiian Spam deliciousness. The fact that one of my best stories from my trip is about food from a gas station in Honolulu is kind of pathetic, but while it was happening I felt really cool striking out on this culinary quest. It’s the little things, right?

Breakfast of champions (Spam on the right)

Breakfast of champions (Spam on the right)

I’m now back in Waco, two weeks away from my flight to Istanbul. Many alohas are coming up for me (in the Hawaiian language, “aloha” can be used both as a greeting and farewell). Some of them will be hello alohas, and some goodbye ones. I’m not particularly looking forward to the goodbye ones.