Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Université de Californie, Santa Barbara

A quick note about the next blogposts.  Because I didn't want to publish out of chronological order, I kept my blog going in Word.  So this blogpost is actually from January 30, 2011.

Just a warning for anyone who is reading this blog post.  I apologize for any confusion in my writing style.  I’ve never really been a big fan of stream of consciousness (mainly because it was shoved down our throats in high school) but I feel like for the purposes of this blog it serves me well.  So any lack of order is my bad, but I don’t think I am going to change it.

I haven’t missed the United States.  I have missed Santa Barbara.  I absolutely love seeing my family and I always have a great time when I am with them, but I see them regularly via skype and I talk to them all the time because gchat lets me call home for free.  But I haven’t seen my friends in a long long time.  I miss them all so much.  I am so happy that I was given this chance to come to UCSB and actually visit the people who have been such an important part of my life for the last two years.

I am writing my blog post from the Pacific Surfliner on my way to Los Angeles Union Station after having spent the last three nights in Santa Barbara.  These last few days have reminded me exactly why I chose to come to UCSB in the first place.  I am going to start with the most impressive thing to be about UCSB.  It is the end of January and the weather is like summer in Paris.  It was in the seventies while I was here.  I walked around wishing I had a pair of shorts that fit me.  I haven’t gone outside in Paris without a sweater since September. 

I was fortunate enough to come back to the US over winter break to see my family and I am really thankful for that, but it was also really hard.  I was so close to all of the people who I saw regularly for the last two years but I wasn’t able to see any of them while I was on the same continent.  It was almost like I didn’t come back to the States at all.  I mean physically being with my family was not that different from Skyping with them.  Plus I know my family is going to see me in Europe.  Nick already came over for Thanksgiving.  Like I said in my last blog post, I went to Germany, Austria and Hungary with my Dad.  Dad, JoAnn and JoAnn’s mother Miriam are going to Morocco with me at the end of February.  Mom and Nana are coming to Paris at the end of April and then we’re heading off on the Greek Isle cruise.  The only member of my family I haven’t gotten to see is Jennifer but I am going to try to make it to Austin to visit her when I get back to Texas. 

So I loved being here with my family, but I really wanted to see my friends at UCSB.  Now I don’t want anyone in Paris to think that I don’t love them and am not incredibly happy that I have met them and that my friends back home are better in any way because they aren’t.  But some of my friends at UCSB I’ve known since third grade.  We all started university together and have grown so much that it was heartbreaking not seeing them.  And I also know that all of my friends who have ever studied abroad know exactly what I am talking about. 

So that is why I wanted to come to UCSB.  The reason I was able to actually is not too complicated.  As I have mentioned my jaw is totally screwed.  I have severe TMJ to the point where every morning when I wake up I am in pain.  Over winter break I saw a specialist in Texas who said that he could come up with a regimen that would eventually cure my jaw problems.   It starts off with me taking a bunch of X-Rays so he could actually see my joint.  From there he was going to have me come in and get some molds made of my teeth so they could fit me with a device that I wear when I sleep that allows my jaw muscles to think they are closed when they aren’t.  I had to fly back to the US to make those models. 

This doctor is in Houston.  As much as I like going to Houston (and I actually really do enjoy spending time there with Dad and JoAnn, which if you had told me I would be saying that when I was in high school I would have called you a liar) I didn’t want to spend a week there alone.  Dad and JoAnn were off to Los Angeles to make sure that selling the house went smoothly and then they were off to Seattle.  I was going to be there by myself.  So I decided to go out to Santa Barbara. 

I hadn’t been back to Santa Barbara since I left on August 29, 2010.  I originally didn’t plan on coming back either until after I was done with my study abroad.  When I left in August I had no idea what I was in for.  I even talked about staying in Europe for winter break.  I am a lot wiser now and not nearly as naïve about how hard life in a foreign country is (for me).  But when I left the VC I didn’t think I would be back.

But low and behold I came back.  Being abroad has made me realize that I sincerely love not only California but also UCSB itself.  I have thought a lot about why I like it and I think it is more than just the fact that it is familiar.  I mean, I have spent the last four months in Paris at SciencesPo.  After last semester I think I am familiar with it.  I know where the buildings are, I know how to get around, I know who I can e-mail if there is a problem.  They aren’t helpful but I at least know to whom I can talk.  No, UCSB has something more.  It is neither the fact that it is on the beach nor the fact it has a lagoon in the center of campus.  It isn’t really because I will be living with the ocean as my backyard next year.  I don’t think it is because I have done pretty well there.

UCSB just breeds positivity.  I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t love it.  Walking around campus these last few days I just thought to myself “I cannot I get to go to school here.”  That repeated over and over in my mind.  What did I do to deserve this paradise for my undergraduate years? 

But all of that fawning over UCSB has made me realize something.  I am going to school in Paris, France.  Everyone I ran into always told me how jealous he or she was of me, that I get to spend my year abroad in the city of lights.  And yes, I am truly lucky to get that chance and I know it.  I may not show it but I know it.  However, and this is what makes me feel really terrible, I would still trade spots with them.  I hope and am fairly confident that I am going to look back on my time in Paris and say that I wouldn’t have traded that for the world.  But at the moment, I would love to be able to see the beach from my room and take classes in my own language and maintain and build upon the friendships that I have started in the last two years.

But I remind myself that I am given an opportunity that literally millions of people would die to have.  I am living in one of the most amazing cities in the world.  I owe it to everything that my parents have sacrificed and worked towards to make the best of my time abroad.  This blog is for future A.J. to remember everything about his time in France, the good and the bad.  I don’t want future me to think that I absolutely hated my time abroad because I really haven’t.  Has it been stressful?  Yes.  Have I wanted to come back home to the US? Yes.  Have I met amazing people?  Yes.  Have I had once in a lifetime experiences?  Yes. 

Would I change anything if I had to do it over? No. 

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