I didn’t have time to go abroad at college. I ran a student organization my sophomore year that took over my life and invested myself in the sorority with the hopes that it would pay out. It didn’t and I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t just a little bit sorry about where I placed my time and energy.
But only a little.
Because I’m weeks away from entering my senior year at Drake University and I can pretty safely say I will graduate with an amazing experience, even if it didn’t involve, say, Paris or London or Florence. I’ve developed great relationships, romantic and otherwise, I’ve taken some very cool classes with teachers who I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life, I’ve networked with amazing people around Des Moines, and I will leave with a clip file and resume that both look pretty impressive. (And yes, I do say so myself.)
All of that led me to an internship at a publishing company in Arlington Heights, Ill., this summer. After all the particulars were argued out and nailed down, out I drove to Chicago to spend a few months — to live, work, eat, drink, spend in a foreign city.
“Foreign,” an adjective meaning strange and unfamiliar.
A lot of this summer will be remembered as snapshots in my mind. (I haven’t actually taken any pictures, my camera victimized by Drake Relays 2010.) Here are the things I’ll remember: the way commuters look like little lines of ants walking down Ravenswood after getting off the Metra. The bench and old-fashioned tire swing hanging off the tracks of the brown line on Wolcott and the way that blend of city and neighborhood has been everything I love about the area I live in and, really, Chicago in general. Sitting on the train one of my first weeks here as we began to pull into Ogilvie and watching downtown soar into view; my heart soared with it as the instrumental bridge to Sufjan Stevens’ “Casimir Pulaski Day” crescendoed. (That one I will never forget as long as I live.) I’ll remember leaving Winston’s after telling Tyler I wouldn’t see him anymore and not allowing myself to cry until the door shut behind me. And I’ll remember last night: walking home from Lincoln Square, barefoot in the rain, umbrella-less, after two bottles of wine with two of my best friends.
I didn’t snap a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower or peruse Camden Market or sip wine in a ristorante. But when I leave here I will have had an amazing summer in foreign city, even in its untraditional definition, and when I graduate, it will be all I can do to find a way back to this — back to live my life. Not for a semester, not for a summer, not for a vacation. And while they undoubtedly had incredible experiences of their own, I don’t think many people who gallivanted around Europe can say the same thing. So I’ll take this instead. Paris will wait.