By Michelle Jay, Multimedia Editor
As my junior year came to a close, I watched as most of my friends prepared for their summers in New York City or Boston or some other city that wasn’t the one they grew up while I packed up and moved back to the house I grew up in. To say I was dreading it might have been an understatement. The large majority of my friends, even my best friend from high school, were going to be living 1,000 miles away. It’s not that I don’t love my family, but after eight months of relative freedom, the prospect of moving back under my parents’ roof as a 21-year-old was not thrilling.
May 5 found me settled back into the same room I slept in from birth until high school graduation, sharing a car with my younger brother and relying on technology to maintain my relationships back east.
My internship started mid-May and I quickly settled into a routine. While I still whined and complained, summer seemingly flew by. Suddenly, I am preparing for my senior year of college.
Then I realized this was my last “real” summer. After years of eight months of school followed by four months of summer, once I graduate in May that concept disappears. This summer is probably the last time I could – guilt free – come home for four months to work four days a week and lay around the other three while having my dad cook a large majority of my meals, my mom clean up around me and my little brother bother me.
Looking back, I’m kind of glad I came home for my last summer. Had I not, I would have missed things that are uniquely home experiences: screaming at the television with my family while watching the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, eating Portillos, walking to the downtown area of my town at 8:30 p.m. – only to find everything closed at 8 p.m., running at dusk and having fireflies blink around me and, of course, family dinners that involve “discussions” of whether my brother or I get the car the next day.
This summer reminded me that no matter where I go I can always go home.
Watch the video below for a song that inspires one about home:
By Trisha Thadani, Staff Writer
It was on day two of my trip to Gujarat that I decided to start avoiding mirrors. Day four, I almost went home. Day five was spent wondering why I didn’t go home on day four, but then day six came and I finally realized why I was there.
On day six I found myself in a mountain village looking at the most beautiful view of nothing I had ever seen. While looking at the endless hills and uncharted terrain at the edge of the Nani Khodiyar village in Junagadh, Gujarat, my mind immediately shot back to Mumbai with its abounding skyscrapers and contradicting slums.
India has many drastically different personalities. It has a lot of poverty and corruption, but on day six, I learned of its contradicting beauty and heart.
Day six was spent visiting and interviewing villagers who Aga Khan, the non-governmental organization I was traveling with and writing for, wanted to help. Most potential beneficiaries lived in adverse conditions but contributing members to the society. However, our last visit was to an unpleasant and disheveled man who lived alone in an unventilated, destroyed, and dark hut.
This man neither had a job nor regard for others and I did not understand why he deserved such generosity by Aga Khan. I figured Aga Khan’s charity was “earned” and exclusive to those who were deemed “worthy” enough for it.
I asked an Aga Khan representative why the organization wanted to help him and she immediately shot back saying, “Because he’s a human life. That should be enough of a reason.”
Although I was ashamed at myself for asking such a question, I was so humbled by the answer. Lucky that I had stayed until day six, because had I gone home on day four, I would not have learned that “worthiness” can have such a simple definition.
Also, had I gone home on day four, I would not have ended up in a beautiful mango orchard on day seven, and I also would have missed seeing an elephant casually stroll down a busy street on day 10.
By Sarah Fisher, Staff Writer
It’s hard to pack for a trip in 30 hours. It’s even harder to prepare, emotionally and physically, for a mission trip, and it’s almost impossible to prepare to travel to a developing nation with a high school youth group as an atheist. But, with only 30 hours notice, I dropped everything and went to Honduras for a week.
As I sat at work on a Tuesday, thinking about my concert plans for the coming weekend, I saw my high school youth pastor had left me a voicemail. Greg, who I haven’t seen in a year, called because someone dropped out of the youth group’s annual trip to Honduras leaving that Thursday—and he wanted me to be the one to fill the spot.
It’s not exactly a secret that I’m not religious, and if anyone knows exactly where I stand on Christianity, it’s Greg. After six years of open-minded, intellectual conversations about religion, I’m not shy when expressing what I believe to Greg. Before I asked about malaria medicine and flight times, I had to confirm if I was even allowed to go – did he call the right person? To that, Greg just laughed, said he welcomed questions and reassured me this was a good thing. So I took a deep breath, took a week off of work and I went to Honduras.
Having never been to a developing nation, I was equally heartbroken and inspired by Honduras. I’ve always been passionate about service. I’ve read books and seen photographs of poverty. But poverty became real for the first time when I held hands with a 12-year-old drug addict who lives on the streets of Tegucigalpa. Or when I watched kids my age search through trash piles on the street for dinner. Or especially when I came back to Pennsylvania and filled my car up with tank of gas that cost as much as one of the eco-stoves our team built. I witnessed hardship at a level hard to comprehend, let alone to communicate — everything was new.
But, more importantly, I was in awe of the graciousness of the people I met in Honduras. We traveled to Honduras to build eco-stoves in Guimaca, but we also had the goal of building partnership with other youths. We spent a large part of our trip simply getting to know each other. We played a lot of games, ate meals together, danced more than I thought possible and even washed each other’s feet. Despite the language barrier, I made gracious and genuine friends.
My week in Honduras was simultaneously the longest and shortest week of my the summer. In that week, I learned how to mix cement, I got really sick and I sang in front of a group of strangers. I conquered fears, saw blood, yelled and laughed a ton. I reaffirmed my passion for truth, justice and service. And I learned when you give your whole self willingly and eagerly and with humility and without fear, beautiful things can happen.
By Sofiya Mahdi, Staff Writer
I had not anticipated how much Sydney would get under my skin. Calling London home, going to school in Boston, spending the spring in Washington, D.C. and having lived in Dubai and Geneva as well, I figured I was a professional at diving headfirst into the unknown and being unfazed by the whole ordeal. Spending a few days in Singapore before braving the fog to eventually land in Sydney, I looked forward to interning at a think tank on international policy, learning about sustainable urban design in class and throwing myself into unfamiliar surroundings.
Despite being geographically isolated on a map, the city still seemed connected to the rest of the world. The pulse that courses through any major city’s veins is still present here. There was one difference: our internet connection was terrible. It may seem a trivial detail, but this essentially cut me off from my home and school ties and forced me to really admire where I was, reflect on where I’ve been and who I’ve discovered myself to be these past few weeks.
Whether it was snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef, wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, having food thrown into my mouth at Benihana on the Gold Coast or watching the sunset behind the Sydney Opera House, I never anticipated my Australian experience to be one that impacted me this much. As I held a warm, soft koala in my arms I turned to grin like an idiot at the waiting camera. It may have only been eight weeks of my life, but the connection I made with that city and the snippets of the country is one that I will never forget.
As I landed back at London Heathrow, the past two months almost didn’t seem real. But I know my love for Sydney had only just begun.
By Abigail Lin, Staff Writer
As I’m sure many of you are experiencing this summer, getting out of bed every Monday to Friday to schelp myself to my internship is undoubtedly the hardest part of the job. In Paris, I would reward myself simply for waking up in the morning – on time or not – with a gorgeous buttery croissant from the corner boulangerie, reveling in the delicate pastry’s apparent apex of warmth and overall exquisiteness in the morning.
Memories of my stint in Paris come back to me in bursts: the lazy, lingering lunches at cafés for as long as I pleased to stay, the second-hand smoke that resulted from sitting outside at such cafés, the mandatory greetings uttered upon entering and leaving a shop. Picnics where the bread would be the first thing to run out and the remaining cheese the next, the store-bought pudding cups in impossibly fragile and petite jars of glass, the satisfaction I felt when inventing a French sounding word and then realizing it was indeed real.
At the close of our semester abroad, us BU Paris Internship students were forced to attend a mandatory end-of-semester workshop. Mostly, the professors were warning us against reverse culture shock. In typical Parisian fashion, we scoffed, dismissing the idea as ridiculous. It had only been four months, after all.
Yet, when I walked into my local mall’s food court but a couple weeks later, the reverse culture shock was all too real. Dollar hamburgers on fast food menus! A small soft-drink from Wendy’s being 16 times the size of a typical European espresso! PEOPLE IN PAJAMAS! Quel horreur.
Mostly, I miss the challenge of simply stepping outside the confines of my bedroom. To communicate my intentions, personality, sense of self, to my host mom, boss, and teachers in a different language was the ultimate test of my will and self-confidence. I miss learning des petits trucs every day about French culture, politics and strangers. I miss the humbling feeling of being a curious, wide-eyed student of Paris, France and of the world.
But above all, I miss baguettes.
By Samantha Wong, Blog Editor
This was the first time I spent my birthday at home in years. Home for me is Manila, Philippines, a populous (read: overcrowded, heavily polluted) country composed of 7,107 islands. It was my 20th birthday. No more teenager-isms, just a straight dive into adulthood. Though I could not have been prepared for the events that transpired.
My birthday started innocently enough. I reported to work at 10 a.m. and assisted with a photo shoot for my internship. This was fine, except that the shoot ran late. I was then tasked to assist carrying bags of Louis Vuitton bags back to the shop. Bags of bags. On top of the leather bags being heavy, the bags of bags were also bulky. I had to be sure not to scratch, scuff or drop the merchandise. The first and last of my weightlifting this summer.
After dropping off the bags, I was free to go home. Unfortunately, my dad informed me he took the car to attend a meeting, going in the opposite direction. The time was 5:30 p.m.
For those that don’t live in Manila, the traffic that occurs during rush hour, especially on a Friday, is particularly horrendous, to put it lightly. It’s bumper to bumper for hours. I ended up getting home three hours later after finding a ride with a friend. To illustrate the difference traffic makes, I can get home in about 25 to 30 minutes when there’s no traffic.
I had organized a birthday party a week earlier and getting home at around 9 p.m. set me back just a couple of hours. I was able to have dinner with my family, but then I had to quickly head back in the same direction that I came from.
Though, as fast as traffic appears in Manila, once 9 p.m. rolls around, it disappears. However, the same trend cannot be said for inside parking lots. This particular lot was chaotic and it took me around 30 minutes to find a parking space. No exaggeration.
While I arrived late, the party could not have gone better. That was, at least, until I had to go home. I left with a couple of friends when we decided that we were hungry. Upon leaving to go back to my car, I realized my bag had been stolen.
I thought I knew what the protocol was for birthdays at home. I thought that, at the most basic level, you’re supposed to have a delicious cake, sing the birthday song, blow out candles and learn a lesson or two. However, on this particular day, I’m pretty sure I learned at least ten, very different lessons. One being, you can never be prepared for what adulthood might throw your way. That being said, despite all that’s happened, there’s no place like home.
Watch the clip below to see even more of the wonderful Philippines:
By Sydney Shea, Staff Writer
After dreaming of traveling to London for most of my life, when I arrived I was so anxious and homesick that I could barely eat, save for one bowl of Special K each day — not the optimal way of slimming down for summer. A terrorist attack in which a UK solider was stabbed in broad daylight was not welcoming either, especially when I thought I had left the Boston Marathon bombing behind. Thoughts of Rhett the Terrier, the Citgo sign or the Charles River made me cry and want to board the next plane to Logan Airport immediately. I was so angry at myself for having such a horrible attitude after wanting to come to this amazing city for so long.
I found the best way to get over missing home was to take in new experiences as much as possible, even if I was just going through the motions of being a tourist. While I enjoyed seeing Big Ben, Harrods, Greenwich and Kensington Palace, one of the best feelings someone can experience abroad is allowing yourself to get lost and then navigate back home.
I began to let myself relax after that. I then understood why every friend who had studied abroad in London would miss it so terribly. London has so much to offer, whether it’s visit to any of the world-class museums, a drunken pub-crawl or just being able to get lost in a new city.
In just over a month, I have been on the list of the most exclusive clubs and have had once-in-a-lifetime experiences; an after-hours reception at the British Museum, where I sipped white wine in one of the world’s most famous art galleries.
My adventure has made me a more open-minded person, but I will say that I will not return thinking that Boston isn’t my favorite city on the planet. It’s always good to be back home.
While alone in the middle of India, the questions that rang though my head were, “Where am I? Who are these people?” and “What am I doing here?”
I spent a month traveling and writing for a non-governmental organization called Aga Khan, an organization that implements housing and sanitation projects throughout hundreds of villages in India. I traveled to about 30 remote villages and wrote about the condition of the NGO’s projects.
I was quick to learn that even as an 18-year-old sophomore in college, I am still capable of crying. I missed my mom and dad and was unable to sleep without a teddy bear. I learned that “bathroom” typically means a hole and a bucket of water. I also learned that poking a cow with your foot is an unforgivable sin, even if just for a Snapchat.
I found myself in a lot of questionable situations, but these situations also gave me a lot of perspective.
It’s hard to explain the feeling of walking through a destitute slum or the taste of a fresh mango picked right from the tree without actually experiencing it. It’s difficult to grasp the trouble of seeing an 18-year-old girl getting married off to a 30-year-old man against her will. It’s even harder to watch a desperate, frail old woman get denied a home.
Although I will say that there is nothing more humbling than seeing the contentment and gratitude of the people I met in the slums and villages. Before coming to India, I expected to encounter people who were victims of bad luck and oppression. Contrary to what I thought, I managed to meet some of the happiest people.
At times my trip to India was confusing and uncomfortable, but I could not have asked for a more remarkable experience. While staying alone in sketchy hotels and traveling on endless dirt roads to villages and slums, I learned that there is a lot one can learn about the world and themselves in the far corners of world – it just takes a closer look.
By Christiana Mecca, Staff Photographer and Writer
It was fitting the day was grey. Going into “The Killing Fields,” I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to see.
You travel the same roads out of Phom Penh the thousands of victims traveled from S-21 Prison, except you’re riding in an open-air tuk-tuk in broad daylight and not blindfolded in the back of a crowded truck during the night. You get out of the vehicle and listen on your headset to the story of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge and events at this remote and eerie location only three and a half decades ago.
The Cambodian genocide occurred from the years of 1975 to 1979. It started as an attempt by the Khmer Rouge army leader, Pol Pot, to form a Communist peasant farming society. It resulted in a great number of deaths from starvation, overwork and executions. Over the course of three years, it is estimated that the Khmer Rouge killed 3.3 million people.
There really is no way to give the full effect of an event to an outsider, but the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center does a good job of bringing you close to the stories and memories. When you arrive, you receive headphones and an audio device to walk you through the site. You begin where the prisoners began, at the truck stop, then move through the detainment space and the check-in area (the Khmer Rouge made sure to double check the whereabouts of each victim – there would be no escaping) and into the huge area of mass graves. Roped off are a few that still churn up bone fragments, teeth and cloth.
For some reason, hearing the words with Cambodian accents directly in your ears makes it more real and personal. The marked-off mass graves are lined with bamboo fencing and thousands of bracelets hang on the posts as little symbols of respect and remembrance of the dead.
You then walk around the lake listening to stories of survivors, not of the killing fields, but of the S-21 prison. There were no survivors of the killing fields. If whatever tool the Khmer Rouge guards used for slaughtering (usually farming tools or hammers) didn’t accomplish its goal, DDT would finish the job. Individuals would kneel in front of the hole, blindfolded, and be forced to sing songs of the regime before being hacked, beaten or stabbed to death and falling into their grave.
Children are another story. Pol Pot believed that in order to be successful in offing a “traitor,” the accused person’s whole family must also be killed, or else there would be someone left to seek revenge. That’s where the “Killing Tree” comes in. After the infants, toddlers and small children were beaten at this tree, they were thrown into the mass grave with their mothers.
It wasn’t easy to see but it was well worth the experience. Not only did I gain knowledge of Cambodia’s history, but also endless respect for the people who lived through it.
By Taylor Hartz, Staff Photographer and Writer
At the start of the spring semester I had never traveled outside the country. Today, I find myself quite literally on the other side of the world, spending my summer in Australia.
Our first two weeks have consisted of soaking up the city: finding Nemo at the Sydney Aquarium, cruising through the Sydney Harbour to catch our first glimpse of the magnificent Opera House and the “Vivid Sydney Festival” – a two-week light show across the city at night. All the biggest buildings are covered with lights and moving projections, while the fountains in the Harbour glow with color as they dance to everything from Queen to the Carmina Burana.
After that, I’ve got a full schedule of wine tasting at Hunter Valley and a weekend spent shark feeding, sting ray petting, whale watching, mountain climbing, camel riding and dune surfing in Port Stephen’s! Our last stop is a flight down to Melbourne for a stroll down Great Ocean Road for a view of the 12 Apostles.
Needless to say, life down undah is exciting, adventurous and beautiful.