So much of senior year seems to be a waiting game. The first three months (and the preceding summer) were a frantic blur of filling out applications, writing essays, interviewing, then re-writing essays to apply to vet schools (or for others med or grad schools or even jobs) and Fulbright. Then the next several months are just… waiting. Waiting for any hint, any word of how those applications were received. I sent out five vet school apps around the same time as my Fulbright application, and every time I got a newsletter email from one of those schools I at first thought it was news on my application. So few plans can be made until most of the information is in, so waiting is all we can do. I’m particularly anxious, because national decision day for vet schools is in April, and some Fulbright countries don’t even notify their chosen grantees until May. So I’m left hoping that Spain decides to notify earlier. I actually got so nervous about this I found a spreadsheet someone made online with notification dates for every Fulbright country dating back nearly fifteen years to see how Spain usually does – the last few years they’ve notified in March, which is good news for me, as long as they stick to that pattern… But until then the waiting game continues. They dangle a carrot in January by telling you whether you passed initial application screenings (both Fulbright and most vet/med schools), then it’s two more months of the waiting game before we know anything about our (immediate) options for our futures.
As graduation approaches, I find that I’m even less willing to believe that this chapter of my life is closing than I was in high school. The idea that the friends I’ve made will scatter across the country and that the experiences I’ve had will fade into my past is something I can’t fully process yet in the chaos of completing my senior year. I can’t even begin to make plans for the next year of my life yet either, as I am still waiting for multiple applications to come back to assess my options. This only makes it harder to process the closing of my undergraduate career, because there is so much uncertainty in where I will be this time next year I keep clinging to the certainty and familiarity of college. I know what is happening (as much as any student does anyway) and where I am and what to expect in the next few hours, days, and weeks. But beyond that, beyond convocation, I still have no idea. So instead of mentally preparing myself for the next step I find myself sinking further into the rhythm and familiarity of my life as an undergraduate, unsure of what will happen when it ends, unsure of whether it can end.
After my summer in Arezzo it’s hard for me to miss out on Italy week at OU. I know it’s largely promotional to get more students to go to OUA, but for me it’s a trip down memory lane. I swing by the oval on my way to class and pick up a piece of biscotti, and I flash back to having Vin Santo and biscotti with my classmates in Cinque Terre on our weekend off, or I’ll taste test American and Italian Nutella and recall having Nutella crepes and gelato after class in Arezzo – and yes, I can tell American and Italian Nutellas apart. The more I recall, the more I want to go back and do it all again and see even more of Italy. I fully intend to make it back to Europe someday, whether it’s on a Fulbright or otherwise, and when I do I’ll definitely be stopping back by a few of my favorite haunts in Arezzo. It was there that I caught the travel bug in the first place, I won’t miss a chance to go back now.
I have only missed this festival once since coming to OU, and it was while I was in Australia last year. It seems to improve each year too, which makes me sad that I won’t get to go to another one (at least for a few years). This year they had more rides (all of which were free) and far more food trucks around than ever before, although the increase in food trucks may say more about Norman’s changing dining options than about the festival itself. In keeping with the culture of the night, I did get homemade tamales from a food truck at the edge of the festival, and I have to say they were probably the best tamales I’ve ever had (and I have had homemade tamales several times before). The vendors were also more numerous and diverse than in previous years. My friend Liz and I passed booths selling amazing art – decorated Day of the Dead skulls, wall hangings, and jewelry, as well as a variety of less related items from crystals and stones to children’s souvenirs, even self defense equipment like tasers and mace. The festival had live performers too, including several acts in Spanish and Spanish cultural dances. Unfortunately I got there after the cultural acts were done, but I did get to hear a fantastic pop music performance in Spanish. Possibly my favorite part of the festival though was the altars that were set up in the entrance. A couple appeared to be set up for specific people, with photos of individuals – maybe relatives of members of the clubs that put on the event – and items that seemed a bit more specific than the general altar offerings of bread, marigolds, and bright decorations. Others were more general, with no photos and only the basic elements present in most altars. They all seemed well done though, carefully arranged and beautifully decorated, they were a reminder amid all the carnival-like rides and booths of the cultural significance of the holiday.
I joined Spanish Club this semester to practice my language skills in preparation for my hoped for stint as a Fulbright ETA, and I have to say I wish I’d joined years ago. I had a great time practicing my Spanish during conversation hours and bingo games with the other club members, but the events and activities were also a great way to get exposure to the culture and history of Spanish speaking countries. Unfortunately for me most of the emphasis was on Latin American culture – understandable given our relative proximity to Latin America vs. Spain – but it was still fun to learn about these other cultures. We got to talk about Dia de los Muertos and helped make decorations for altars, and we learned how to make horchata from scratch, to name just a few fun activities from this semester. While this isn’t helping with my Spanish history and culture education, I found that much of the Spanish vocabulary and grammar I lost from years of disuse has come flooding back from conversing with others in the language. I hope sticking with the club next semester (along with the studying I’m doing on my own) will leave me at least sufficiently functional in Spanish by next fall should I get lucky enough to go to Spain.