Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Last Chapter

Stella donning her Christmas gift - a bandana with the Scottish flag.

No one warned me that coming home would be way more difficult than leaving. Leaving was the easy part. There was nothing exciting about coming home. The adventure that I had planned for, over the course of a year, was over so fast. I felt empty. I didn't have anything to get excited about (except acting class - I was really looking forward to that). I felt angry that I still had work to do and that I would likely not have a break between the end of my work with Strathclyde and the beginning of the semester at UNCG. 

We had our Christmas gift exchange a day or so after my cousin and her husband left. It made me happy to share my gifts from Scotland with my family. 

Here is Yodel with his tartan bandana. It looks good on him!
He even struck a pose for me.

I was now working on my Organisational Analysis and Strategy "Portfolio" assignment. My room was a disaster (to me, this is a disaster...). I couldn't stand to look at this work anymore! For this project, we had to choose a company that was in the London Times top 100 and write about the organizational structure of the company. I never had a clear idea of what, exactly, we were supposed to be writing 2,500 words about, nor did my classmates. My professor had set up two different meeting times to have "surgery" appointments (what that means, I still have no idea), to discuss any questions we had about the assignment. I had so many other things going on, and I so dreaded this project, that I never met with her. This project was so frustrating to me. I wrote about the Intercontinental Hotels Group, and I was interested to learn about the company, especially what they are doing to be environmentally friendly, but it was very difficult to write an essay and compile a "portfolio" on the company when I really wasn't sure what was expected of me. This class seemed like a never-ending nightmare.

I was resentful that I still had work to do, but at the same time, I was grateful that I had something to keep me busy, otherwise, I may have just stayed in bed, moping, every day.

This project was incredibly boring, so I had to find ways to break the monotony. Here is Mazie with the Scottish flag bandana. She looks so dignified!

Even Stella can tell how miserable I am. "She just sits at her desk all day long. What is that silly human doing?"

By the time I finished that awful essay/portfolio, I had about 5 days left to start and complete my Human Resources essay on National Human Resource Development in India. This was by far the easiest essay to write and I was done in 4 days, which left me 4 days before my next semester began. Not much of a break. I spent most of the time getting ready for class and I went out one night with a friend I hadn't seen since before I left.

The good news that comes out of all of this hard work is that I received remarkably high scores as final grades: 75 in Human Resources, 70 in International Business, and 65 in Organisational Analysis and Strategy. Only absolute geniuses would receive a 100 in the UK grading system (think Einstein). Anything above a 70 is "Top Honors" which is like getting an "A" here. I was bummed about the 65 because that is like a "B" but considering how much I disliked the class, I think I did pretty well. My credit transfer adviser at UNCG was even impressed with my grades. I admitted that I should have spent more time having fun :).

I started the spring semester at UNCG as a very angry student. I was super mad because I was not granted a parking permit to park on campus, so I had to purchase a parking permit from a nearby church and use their lot, which added 15 more minutes onto my 1 hour commute. Not cool. I was also still upset about leaving Scotland, though I was thrilled to be done with the classes I had there. My only complaint about my whole experience was that I learn much more from my classes here than I learned in my classes there. I don't feel like there is a lot of "teaching" there; it seemed much more like learning from a bunch of research projects. Anyway, I also had 6 classes, which was the most I had ever had in a semester. It was going to be my most difficult semester yet, and to have an additional half an hour taken away every day because of the parking situation just made me livid. I also felt like I left school and came back and knew no one. I did have a few friends that I already knew in a couple of my classes, but I had to start from scratch in the rest, which isn't easy when you are in Debbie Downer mode.

I attended a Welcome Back reception the first week for students who had just come back from study abroad and for international students who were just beginning their study abroad. I was still grumpy, but thought it important to attend and I'm glad I did. I knew I shouldn't keep myself isolated in my unhappy world. 

As time went on, things got better. I tried to appreciate my walk to class every day because it was the only exercise that I got. I didn't have 11+ flights of stairs to climb up anymore. I got into a good rhythm with homework and classes by the 3rd week and I was involved in the Global Leadership Program and the Stateside club, which is for students who have studied abroad. It was definitely helpful to talk to other students who have studied abroad about my experience, and it was good to know that it's pretty normal to feel down when coming back from a study abroad. I had a couple of pet sitting jobs lined up and my catering job was very happy to have me back, even though I only had time to work one shift in February during the semester. 

My acting class was the highlight of my week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My Supply Chain Management class, which was immediately after my acting class, was a nightmare. I guess bad has to balance good? I made a good friend in my environmental studies class (the first day of class he said something like, "I'm such a nerd, I always get to class early. I'm glad ya'll are nerds too." I thought, "He and I are going to be friends, but not today. I can't be happy today." I was right. We quickly became pals and I'm glad I snapped out of my funk.) The General Biology II class and the biology lab class were much less challenging than I thought they would be. My marketing class, which I took as an honors course, was ridiculously easy. 

In March, I got to perform a play in my acting class. We were all assigned scenes and scene partners in February. My scene partner (who was also in my Bio class, how convenient!) and I were given a scene in a short play, and we were allowed to perform the entire play, if we so chose. We chose, and performed Poof! by Lynn Nottage. I think the performance lasted about 10 minutes whereas everyone else had about a 5-7 minute scene. We had simple props, simple costumes from home, and performed in the classroom. It was very different than any other experience I have had. I was extremely nervous to perform in front of the class, but I had my lines all memorized and my scene partner and I had done a sufficient amount of practice. It was incredible to have my focus on my memorized lines and rehearsed actions while blocking out distractions from the audience. I decided that if I ever got the opportunity, I'd like to do something like that again. This was the best day of the semester.

Sometimes it's very necessary to treat yourself to a fabulous home-cooked meal. The cheese on the bread is a blue cheese brie and it is my most favorite cheese in the world. The sauce is home-made too.

 In April, I volunteered at the International Festival on campus. I attended last year, and thought it might be nice to help out with set up this year. It was a lovely day and I think we had a pretty good turnout.

April turned out to be a busy but rewarding month for me. I was recognized for my academic achievement with my qualification for my award, aside from my high GPA, being that I am the first person in my family to attend college. I also received an invitation from one of my professors, in the middle of one of my classes, to become a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the highest recognition that a business student can achieve. It was something else to be recognized by my professor, out of the blue, in front of 80 fellow students, and receive this invitation. I was inducted into BGS later that month. I was also nominated by my honors adviser to become a member of UNCG's Golden Chain Honor Society. Not only was I elected as a member, but I was also one of two students to receive a $1,500 scholarship from the society, based on an essay I wrote about how I demonstrate the seven golden links.

Remember how I said this was my most difficult semester yet? I accepted the challenge and finished with my highest grades yet: 3 A+'s and 2 A's, and went right into the first summer semester 4 days after the spring semester ended, and 5 weeks later, I had earned another A+. I have been awarded 3 scholarships and enough grant money to cover just about all of my expenses next year. If all goes as planned, I will graduate in ten months. Now, I am enjoying a nice, long break from school and catching up on things (like this blog!) that have clearly been put aside for quite a while!

This year has gone by so fast. I don't think I will ever experience another year quite like it, but I hope I can find a way to keep my life interesting because it sure is more fun that way. I impressed myself with all that I accomplished, and I learned that I am made of tougher stuff than I thought. 

I would like to thank you all for sharing this journey with me, and for being a part of my life.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." -Saint Augustine

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