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In Search of Higher Peaks

Updated: May 22, 2021

Blog post 18. (5/21/2021) - College is done and over. What now?

Three days ago, it was 80 degrees and I was sweating my way up the backside of Mt. Helena, but today I can only see white outside my living room window. We are in the middle of a late May snowstorm where the tulips are buried 7 inches deep and there are icicles slanting off the lilac bushes. While it's too hard to find the trails in the whiteout or do much outdoors, it is perfect weather to write a new blog post.

An unusual view on a late May morning don't you think?

It is fitting that I should resume my blog exactly one year after my last post. Much has happened since I wrote that last blog, where I announced the start of my internship with the Center for a Free Cuba. Today’s blog post will be a bit different than the usual day-long travel narrative. Looking at the intervening year in chronological order, I enjoyed a productive summer and went on to graduate in December 2020. Winter was a quiet season (but for all the applications) and Spring is a similar story, more on that in a moment.

Because I was living in the same home near my university until early May, I did not feel like a proper college graduate until I walked up onto the stage a few weeks ago and accepted my diploma case. The actual diploma had been sitting in a display case back at my mother’s house for a couple months, presumably because coronavirus-related protocols required that we keep the ceremony as simple and contactless as possible. Not that I am complaining about the restrictions, the alternative would have been walking with 2020’s class and because that class did not even have an in-person ceremony, it would have been just another hourlong zoom call. While there were restrictions against guests, my mother cheered me on from outside the building anyhow.

Because our ceremony was in person I was able to enjoy that key moment with my best friends, Hans, Natalie, Ana and Alex, as well as my wonderful girlfriend Mitzi. All told, I am grateful things have turned out so well considering this past year’s circumstances- I graduated with honors, spent a summer learning a great deal with TFAS Washington and had the opportunity to work with the Center for A Free Cuba and do some research and write a few articles on their behalf.

What was a disastrous year it might have been for me and actually was for so many people! I can hardly complain when I was able to get back to working my campus job after the lockdowns (work was mostly what kept me sane), keep taking classes, stay near to my friends and girlfriend and have some classes in person. I should apologize if anything. Not only have I not been travelling since last fall, it is far worse that I have not been writing the stories you might find interesting! And Lord knows I have more adventures to share- I could talk about my Christmas escapades in Prague, Vienna, my Thanksgiving in Ingolstadt among friends or older still- my travels in Spain during my Sophomore year. If I had to number the stories that come to mind, they would probably figure in the dozens and unfortunately I have little time to write them.

Sometime last fall, I lost access to my website and had difficulty regaining it, my schedule being too busy and the process being beyond my technological ken. But what has been keeping me busy? If I turn my mind’s eye back to midwinter right after I (technically) graduated, I see a time that was as momentous as it was nondescript. The winter weather itself was mild up north, but we were moving house around Christmastime just two weeks after I penned my last college essay. I was also applying for all sorts of opportunities, fellowships, internships, teaching positions in Europe.

It was tough to leave the house I had called home for most of my life behind and the work was physically demanding too. My mother had been preparing the house for the move since early fall, but there was still great work to be done and plenty of heavy lifting for me. We only had a day and a half to actually move all the boxes and it would not have been possible without the help of my good friends Elijah and Kaare, so many thanks to them and their families for coming out to help!

As much as I would like to give a full account of the moving process, the new home and everything related it must suffice to say that the moving was still hard work. We labored from 9 in the morning on the first day until the very moment when the new family showed up the noon of the next day. There were so many trips with the moving van and I had to do much of the heavy lifting so that I was sore beyond belief when I finally took a long, long nap the next day. Even after all that effort there were still weeks of box-moving before I headed back to Minnesota, the newer house was far smaller and older- so we quickly filled up the house with boxes and weeks of unboxing only served to thin the herd.

A few weeks after the move, I returned to Minnesota where I worked my on-campus job as a dining service manager to near full-time, audited a few courses (alumni can take certain courses for free). Those curious to know about my travels should know that I also applied for many fellowships in Europe, everything from masters programs at the London School of Economics to internship programs in Germany. Unfortunately, I yet to have success with any of my many applications but I hold out hope that I will receive a year-long position as a teaching assistant in Austria or Spain- I should hear about that soon and will post an update if I am able. So what this coming year might hold is as uncertain as ever, but wherever I am, I will surely be blogging about my experiences here and looking for higher peaks to climb. There’s too much to say and too much to do for anything else to be the case after a year of being cooped up.

As to the immediate future, I will be a camp counselor and German tutor at the Concordia Language Villages for the summer. I am equal parts excited and uncertain, I have taught there before but my pandemic malaise has not been kind to my German-speaking ability. While I will doubtlessly have stories to tell when my time there is over, the job is bound to take up every day and I am not to access the internet while I am on the job. I also plan to take the Foreign Service Exam before I head over there, so while I cannot make any definite promises I can say that I will write at least one more "Old World Days" entry before I start working at the language villages on June 6th and that I will start writing as soon as I finish with the language villages. If I do end up anywhere interesting, I will surely write about it and you will surely write about it. Bis dann!

Herzlichen Grueße aus Helena!

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It is always a joy to read how your studies, aspirations and dreams progress, WIlliam. Can you believe - almost one year later -that you are ready to begin a Fulbright experience? Congratulations! And keep writing! Best of success to you from Cher

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