An update after a long time

I realise it has been quite a while since my last post, but in my endeavours to procrastinate a little bit more I decided that a little recap of the past years in terms of the impact of an ASSIST year over a longer time-span might be enlightening.

I have long lost count of the days since I left Fort Wayne. It must have been about 2 years ago, give or take. I came back to Austria, overwhelmed with feelings. I yearned to go back, incredibly grateful for the moments I was allowed to share with my fantastic host family and Canterbury High School, yet I was happy to be back on familiar grounds, speaking a language that had stopped feeling native, seeing my animals I hadn’t seen in ten months and above all seeing my parents.

The transition was bizarre. What had just happened a day, a week, a month ago felt intangible, the only proof of my experience were memories and plenty of photos. I may as well have been dreaming. And I was dreaming of it, a lot. Reliving the graduation parties, social meets, theatre productions, the many things I tried, yes even the presentation of my independent project stole itself into the vivid images I saw in my sleep.

Over the summer fun had won over revision and I was entirely unprepared for the start school, as I essentially had substituted year eleven in Austria for my year abroad, where I had not taken several classes I would have needed. After having spent the summer traveling the US, riding through the Tyrolean mountains, reading as many books as I could get my hands on, exploring the works of Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock and other filmmakers working prior to roughly 1950 and trying (failing) to bind a book, school was a distant, yet very real thought. In the blink of an eye, summer was over and I stood in front of the school building, wondering what had changed, wondering how I would cope with seeing the people I knew, yet had not seen in a long time.

My last year of school was fantastic. I made closer friends than I had had before the adventure and even I could determine that in fact, I had changed. I had become more open, I would approach people and laugh without wondering what it would entail. In many ways, I see my experiences in Fort Wayne as one of the most formative phases in my life. When I left, I criticised the need to return to the country of origin, essentially making the program a two-year, rather than one-year, experience. Looking back, I would even go as far as to say that the second year, back at “home”, is essential to the understanding of both cultures, to the realisation of the year’s impact, to the idea of ASSIST!

I graduated from the Bundesrealgymnasium Schwaz in June 2014, incredibly grateful for an overwhelming final year of school.


Like many other ASSIST students, I applied to some US colleges, but decided to try applying in the UK as well, mainly because one of the many things I took from the year abroad was that simply trying may lead to amazing things. I thus applied to the University of Cambridge, which I used to jokingly name as my future university (when I was three). Not in my wildest dreams would I have believed that my application to St. John’s College to read architecture would be successful. I am now sitting in my room in John’s writing this post while looking through the thousands of pictures I kept from that year that seems like it was forever ago. At this point, this past October may as well have been a decade ago.

Life is and remains exciting, lessons are learned daily and I could not be happier to say that Cambridge has taught me many great things in the comparatively short time I have been here. I started rowing, am going to as many talks as I can possibly fit in and have not yet given up trying to do everything.

Cambridge has entered its exam term, things are getting quieter, clubs are closing for the intense period that lays a calming cover on the town. It is a surreal experience, entirely separate from that in the US, entirely separate from any other places I was fortunate enough to grow up in, but just as surreal as I seem to, at this point, perceive most of my experiences.

If any future applicants to the ASSIST program happen to read this, I have, in essence (still a short essay in itself), only one thing to say to you (though I could of course say much more, anyone who knows me will vouch for that): DO IT. No matter how scared you are of what it may bring, do not worry about language barriers, problems with adjusting to the culture or anything else. I was incredibly scared when I came to the orientation camp (which I absolutely loved in the end). I almost turned around and ran back to my parents who were standing at the end of the path. I was convinced that I didn’t want this, that in fact I should have declined the scholarship, that being at a day school in a state I had heard of only as the corn state would be horrible, that I would be on a flight back before November. In that moment I decided that yes, I would go home, but that I would simply have to jump into the cold water. I knew that I would not forgive myself if I hadn’t at least tried. I didn’t turn around, didn’t look back.

Of course, I didn’t leave before November, I enjoyed that corn state more than I every would have believed and the school could not have been better chosen. And when it came to the day I had to leave, I cried because I had to leave, not because I wanted to. Don’t let any doubts overshadow an opportunity to see the world in a completely different perspective. Go in, forget about “home”, and above all enjoy! It won’t get any better. Well, it will, but I only say that because I’m too optimistic to admit that the peak of happiness does not exceed the scale every single time it hits the maximum.

Going to Fort Wayne was a decision in the distant past, it was hard and I didn’t think much of it, but it was one of the best I have made in my life.

– STOP –

The End

About a year ago, my family and I left for the States, unknowing what could possibly happen. My life was full of questions – a simple, very big IF. If someone had told me how amazing it would be, I probably would have hoped for the best, but not expected the kind of life I lived for a year. Sometimes I do ask myself if I didn’t dream everything. But the memories are there and never ending, even after pinching myself over and over again.

Big jump in time: The End. It all ended with Graduation. All the seniors wore their beautiful white dresses. The underclassmen had to say goodbye to their beloved seniors, and I had to face the fact that I probably wouldn’t ever see the majority of these people again. I still am speechless about the last conversations I had with my teachers – I had never experienced an interaction with a teacher on this level of friendship. Now I had several teachers telling me how much they would miss me and how much I had contributed to the school. Canterbury gives out the “Faculty Prize” to students that impressed the faculty with their major involvement. I was one out of the 8 students awarded with this prize, the first ever international student. I can’t really put into words how much that prize meant to me, especially after everything else Canterbury had done for me!

While the official end was in June, I participated in an England trip in July – with 14 amazing students from Canterbury. And then – I couldn’t have wished for anything better – one of my best friends from the States came with me to Germany and Austria. I had always used this trip as an excuse. “It is not over yet!” That is also one of the reasons I postponed this blog entry (the others are my severe case of procrastination and the beginning symptoms of senioritis).

That dream wasn’t over, the England trip was the perfect end to a perfect year. Now I have to heavy-heartedly admit that it is over. Once and for all. But is it truly over? Physically, the ASSIST year might be over, but emotionally I am still as involved as I was in the beginning. I am now thinking about college. Should it be in the States? England? France? Scandinavia? Brown University would be a dream come true. Yet another dream.

Now it is time to hand over this blog to the next generation. (Do I feel old? Yes I do.) I wish you the best of luck guys – and never forget to make the best of what you get.

Thank you to Canterbury, my two absolutely breathtakingly amazing families (“real” and host) and the best friends I could wish for. I am so incredibly blessed, but I have a feeling that it was only the start.

Is this really the end? I can’t seem to find a good finish to this. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe this isn’t the end. And there it is again: The big IF.

The fruits of work

As I reported last week, I am extremely busy. But now that the year gets closer to the end, the result of my hard work starts to show. I was featured as artist in the “Fort Wayne’s Almost Famous Artists” (Piece titled “Sharing Breath”, Upper right corner). It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other young artists! I also received a letter telling me that I would be inaugurated into the “Cum Laude Society” at my school. The “Cum Laude Scoiety” recognizes academic achievement in secondary schools for the purpose of promoting excellence (Areté), justice (Diké) and honor (Timé) (http://cumlaudesociety.org/). I cannot express how grateful and happy I am to receive such an honor from my school!

Yesterday, we had our last concert with the choir. The seniors traditionally receive a little dagger that signifies their contribution to the Fine Arts program at the school. My art teacher then, after naming all the seniors, called Toni and me up to the front and gave each of us one of these little daggers. It might not sound important, but it meant a lot to me. I had a hard time not crying.

I try not to think about the “end”, but it feels inevitable. What once was far away, so far from any grasp, is now coming closer at a terrifying speed. I try to keep my head clear and live each day to the fullest.

Alice, Canterbury School, IN

Spring is finally here

While time is passing by faster and faster, things get busier and busier. The activities I loaded on myself at the beginning of the year now become overwhelming – in a good way. Although I’m very busy and barely have time to sleep, I have the feeling I’m using my time to the fullest. I always tell myself that I can sleep when I get back to Austria.

And that is exactly something I am not completely looking forward to. Canterbury has become a home and a family for me. My host family has become a true second family for me and I can’t imagine not being here in Fort Wayne.

The only thing I haven’t been very lucky with lately was the weather. The one spring I’m here is the rainiest and coldest spring in years. The fields in our neighborhood were flooded last Friday when we left for school. Although the sun (finally) came out today, it is still freezing cold. My blanket we made on Sarah’s birthday is one of my best friends right now.

So much has happened since I wrote last time (which really was quite a while ago). I hope I will get this in the right chronological order and not forget anything important (which is very likely to happen).

76081_335545486564581_2095611850_n385809_335545099897953_709682172_nWe had another play starting after Christmas Break. It was the “Good Doctor” by Neil Simon. Very Russian, very funny and definitely very unique. It is built up from different little scenes joint by “author scenes”. The cast was a very talented group and 21773_335545213231275_347381251_nalthough no one felt ready the opening night of the play, we took the crowd in. This play was unforgettable and supported my love for theater once more.

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Now that I’m in my Junior year, well almost done with it (saying this with a tear in my eye), I need to make out the colleges I’m interested in, rule out majors I don’t care about and center my attention to a specific field of study so I can find the best college for me. I always struggle with decisions so this is in no way easy. My current idea is a double major, which would immediately rule out any colleges out of the US. Since I am very interested in theater and television, I am thinking about majoring in that field in order to become a producer. But I doubt that I can make it far in that business and I don’t really know if I would really like the whole atmosphere. Which is why I need a second major that can give me a safer career. And that is where I am as undecided as ever. It fluctuates from Journalism, to Law, Neuroscience or even Architecture.

But before I bore you with my Pros and Cons of those majors, I’ll better carry on with the description of the past months. I sent in a few of my art, photography and writing pieces into the Scholastics of Art and Writing competition and won an Honorable Mention, 2 Silver Keys (all in Photography), and a Gold Key in Poetry Writing. This poem got the chance to compete on National Level, but wasn’t recognized there. The region of Fort Wayne, on of the smallest in the US, is among the top 3 regions in the US, ranking before cities like Chicago and complete states like Texas.

The last weeks before Spring Break were a struggle – a combination between the need for a break, the general discontent about the weather and the overload of work. But when Spring Break was finally here, it was still meant to be working time (which I foolishly wasted). We went to DC, which was absolutely incredible (but cold!). We saw three of the Smithsonians, the Spy museum (which had an AWESOME 50 years of James Bond villain exhibition!!), all the monuments and Hello Dolly at the Ford Theater, where Lincoln was shot.  After that, we drove down to North Carolina (Davidson) to visit Ben and Hannah (the two older siblings that are in college). The weather was a lot better, even though Spring was delayed even there, at least compared to Furman, Hannah’s college.

One big part of Spring Break was March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. It was full of surprises, tragedy and cheer. Our favorite team, Michigan (go blue!), surprisingly made it to the Final, were it was defeated by Louisville in an amazing game. The biggest shock was Kevin Ware’s accident. Jumping to defend a three-pointer, he landed on his leg and broke it. I will spare you from the details since it is nothing you would want to picture.

IMG_7735But the best part of Spring Break was when my parents came to visit. Seeing them was surreal. Somehow they didn’t fit into the whole image. But after a day we were back to normal. Almost talking non-stop and of course some friendly arguing. When my parents were in Chicago, my parents discovered that Max Raabe (a German performer) would be giving a concert in Chicago two days later. I have been following his works for a while and had never had the chance to see him live, although he often performs in Berlin. My parents, awesome as they are, asked me if I wanted to go to that concert in the Symphony Center. They drove all the way from Chicago to Fort Wayne, had dinner with my second family, spent the night in my room while I was in Hannah’s room and then left for Chicago with me. We drove through Shipshewana, an Amish community approximately an hour from Fort Wayne, which was, as a lot of things seem to be around here, very impressive. The carriages on the side of the road were awesome to watch. When we finally came into Chicago, we stayed at a beautiful hotel (and went to Starbucks, like a lot). The concert itself was so good I can’t even put it into words. The best parts were probably when he sang in German and barely anyone understood. The time with my parents ended too fast, although everything just went back to normal when they left.

Now I am stuck with a lot of homework and cold weather. Prom is slowly approaching (May 18) and the drama around it seems to be as much a part of American culture as the prom itself is. But even then: I’m excited!

I couldn’t be more blessed with such an incredible host family who gives me the possibility to live this experience to the fullest.

I’m pretty sure that I forgot something, but I can always add that later.

Greetings from Fort Wayne, IN

The flight of time

So many things have happened! I had my first real Thanksgiving, we had a Model UN conference, a speech meet, our musical showed, our soccer guys got 1A State champions, Christmas and so many more things I can’t possibly summarize in one sentence.

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IMG_0213It all started with a big game in Indianapolis on the IU soccer-field. Our guys ruled the field and easily won with a 5-0 score. GO CAVS! I really love the team spirit! And I might be changing the order of events, but such a big number of things happen so shortly after each other!IMG_0694 IMG_0689 IMG_0650

The Canterbury HS musical “How to succeed in business without really trying” was truly a success. We didn’t only have entertained spectators, but the cast also grew very close and it was a very depressing feeling when we were done with the rehearsals. Luckily, the winter play would start soon!

The musical was followed by the Junior college trip, probably one of the best class trips of my life. I got to see Furman and Davidson (my host siblIMG_1316ings happen to attend those two colleges, which made the visits even better!!), Emory, University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt  and Wittenberg. I have been considering to apply to American colleges. Vanderbilt is one of those for sure, Furman, Davidson and Emory will be taken under consideration. (top image: Vandy, bottom image: Furman, then: Ohio River, Cincinnati)

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But the trip was not only a highlight because of the colleges, but also due to the friends I made and got closer to during the trip and the activities after the college visits. We had a lot of fun at the CNN center in Atlanta, a bowling center and a river dance cruise at night on the beautiful Ohio river in Cincinnati. With a huge lack of sleep, but all in all very satisfied, we arrived at home after one week of  pure adventure and a lot of driving – we drove down to South Carolina, it took us 14 hours.

Then we had a Model UN conference at IUS, our team representing Morocco. After two days of constant discussion and arguments, everyone was tired but satisfied and agreed to have some fun during the last half hour. The world ended up declaring war against Morocco and we were “banned” from the Security Council. We then renamed our country “Rocco” and were allowed to come back. It was a lot of fun and some pretty serious discussion. My partner was amazing – he basically run the whole discussion!

Then came Thanksgiving! It was pretty memorable – I never saw that many people eating that much food at a time before. We had some family over and as much fun as we had food, which equals to a blast! The best thing was probably going to see Skyfall afterwards, filled up with the tons of food and ready to sit for a long time.

IMG_4887The next day was Cookie day, which is a family tradition. We drove up to Michigan to see the other part of the family to decorate cookies. I met so many nice people in those two days!

Then we went back to school and everything went by so fast. Finals came closer, the homework load increased a lot and my schedule was filled. Juggling between swim team, after-play practice and homework was not easy and will not be easy in the coming weeks, but then it is my decision to do so and I don’t regret making the decision to participate in both a theater production and a sport.

IMG_5372After finals, Christmas was finally there and the house was full again. Everyone was at home and every evening was fun in a special way!

I have too much to be thankful for in this situation. I wished for a chance to experience a different world. I got the chance to do so much more ❤

Alice

This is better than I could have dreamed it would be!

Believe me!

If this is America, i don’t want to leave it ever again. I might be starting to miss home at some point (maybe once a month 😉 ), but I could not possibly imagine to go back now.

Canterbury School has a house system, almost like Harry Potter, just better! The houses are named after founding families: Smith, Parrot, Cast, Paflas, Spindler and Randall. This week is very special: The first important house points can be collected. Everyone has to bring in cans, that will be distributed to the starving people in Fort Wayne. Participation as well as weight counts!

Another important thing: the so-called Cav games, derived from our mascot, the Canterbury cavalier. We had numerous different games: name that tune, obstacle course, trashcan game, roping, dodge-ball, a dance off, soccer competition and jeopardy. It was crazy (good!). Everyone had face paint and was dressed in the most creative ways imaginable. I mean it!

Apart from that amazing experience, the school stuff only gets more. We are in our last week of rehearsals before the official opening night of “How to succeed in business without really trying”. Things get serious! A Model UN conference in Indianapolis is approaching and we got our quarter grades. I am almost satisfied (I still need to get rid of that A- in AP Calculus AB, otherwise I’m happy!)

Time is short and flies by. Unfortunately. But concentrating gets really hard with 6 hours of sleep per night. And that is not even due to homework! It is merely the excitement of the day, that keeps me from sleeping. I’m going to try to sleep at 10 tonight anyway.

More news hopefully soon: our soccer guys made it to State! The game is at 10:30 am on Saturday – GO CAVS! Win that game!

Alice

A little update on my American life…

I remember writing that time flew by. It did and it unfortunately still does. It is incredible how fast everything goes, but also how intense every single day is.

I reached the end of my fifth week at Canterbury and everything is different again! We started rehearsing for the absolutely hilarious musical „How to succeed in business without really trying“ and let me tell you: the cast knows how to succeed in a musical. It is amazing to see them block the scenes and work on the songs – and to be among them for a few scenes!

But as we started the rehearsals, Golf season ended as fast as it had begun. I had been learning golf for four weeks and played in two matches. My best score is a 66 with a par on the hardest hole 😀 . You can’t imagine how happy I am about that!

The first Art Club meeting is scheduled today, followed by an international students meeting. I had tryouts for Model UN – no results yet. I am officially in the Canterbury Speech Team. We had our first French Club meeting a few weeks ago – with absolutely fantastic food! And I would absolutely love to join the debate team too (I didn’t ask yet). And I decided that I would write an independent project about Marc Chagall’s „White Crucifixion“, which can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Where we were with the sophomore class. It was impressive! We took a boat tour through Chicago and had lunch on that boat. Afterwards we visited the Art Institute of Chicago and had lectures from faculty members of Canterbury. It was incredible. I loved that day! Afterwards we went to this Greek restaurant. They just kept bringing more food.

Bad thing about the trip: half of the sophomore class was sick after that. E coli. But almost everyone is better now. Still: Get better soon!

New friends, new experiences, new opinions, new ideas, new techniques, new projects, new inspiration. I couldn’t be happier. My life feels like a piece of art!

Alice