Anyone who knows me knows that traveling is one of my biggest passions in life. For those who do not know me, allow me to explain. If it were socially acceptable to sell all of my material possessions and buy a hippie van that could magically transform into a boat or helicopter on command, I would do it, and then I would go everywhere. I would go to deserted islands where I would just drink chai tea and read good books. I would take in the history that Europe offers, rambling through each city like it was my job. I would hike to all of the majestic wonders South America has to offer, and then I would go on a safari throughout the most remote areas of Africa. My feet would spread the soil of each continent all around the world. I think you get the picture!
One of my strongest convictions is that travel changes you, and usually for the better. I know that my experiences have. From the salty Mediterranean air in Valencia to view of Boston’s city skyline from Fenway Park’s “Green Monster,” I have made such great memories that I will be talking about many of them in great detail in later blog posts. Today, I want to devote this blog to the people who change us… the people we meet on our own journeys, or the people we come across in the midst of theirs.
My favorite thing about my time as an undergraduate student at Western Carolina University, although hard to narrow down, would be the relationships I have established with people. I’m lucky that I have had the opportunity to interact with people from an array of different cultures, with different worldviews and ambitions they are chasing. Some of these people are from other cities, states, and even countries. I have to say, I have formed the most powerful bonds with some of the international students who study at Western. Two in particular stick out in my mind as transformative pieces of my puzzle that is life.
Soojin is from Seoul, South Korea. During her semester studying criminal justice at WCU, I was lucky enough to be her RA and live right next door to her. Jin always had a smile on her face, and her work ethic was astounding. On some weekends, I would get off of duty and pass the study room on our hall, only to find her preparing for a test weeks away. Her determination inspired me to persevere throughout the tougher times of that semester. Even though her ambition is completely conspicuous, it is nothing compared to her heart. Jin has to be the nicest person I have ever met. Some nights, she would sit with me while I was on desk duty, and we would peruse the internet, discussing out dreams of seeing and draining the world for all it is worth. She told me the best places to visit in Boston and even brought be a Christmas gift from there. Her goodbye letter (pictured below on a postcard from Boston) before she returned to Korea is perhaps the most touching note I have ever received. Colby and I are adamantly saving money to visit Jin in Seoul next summer. I have to say, I am more excited to see her than I am to visit an Asian country for the first time (which is obviously a lot).
Jin and I with my friend Monica painting pottery at Claymates. This was two days before Jin had to go back to Korea. In case you were wondering, I cried buckets when she left. 😥
Another incredible person to cross my path on her travels to the U.S. is Jessi, a friend of mine from Germany. Jessi and I met at WCU in our English classes, and I was always awed by her aptitude for English and her knowledge of the world. She brought so much to our classes, and words cannot express how much I learned from her. A few times, we got coffee at the campus Starbucks with other classmates, and we never ran out of things to talk about. Jessi’s descriptions of Germany made it impossible not to add the country to my ever-growing bucket list. I was able to see Jessi this weekend. She is visiting the States again and I happened to catch her in Cullowhee. We had dinner at McAlisters (where else would we eat on campus?!), and it felt like she had never left even though our sparse communication on Facebook is all that we’ve spoken over the past two years. It was wonderful to be able to share the exciting changes in our lives, both of which WCU has impacted immensely. Hopefully, Colby and I will be able to visit her in Germany in 2016 after she graduates. It looks like our international travels are set for the next two years. Woo hoo!
Jessi and I having a Starbucks coffee to celebrate our reunion. 🙂
Having friends all over the world is fantastic. It seems so surreal to hear about things you read from a firsthand source and learn that, even though we may all be different, we are still very much the same. Broadening one’s horizon and moving past one’s safety net of relationships is one of the most essential ways in which people can help themselves grow. I’ve left my heart in so many places, partially because of the beautiful places I have seen, but more so because of the people I met along the way. Soojin and Jessi, thank you for all of the memories! You have transformed me in so many ways.
Like the gypsy soul, friendship knows no boarders. How’s that for a #TransformationTuesday?!