Preparing for the Unknowable

My final days of summer have been spent in the backyard of my parent’s house, soaking up the last bit of sun I can before I leave for my first European winter. In my previous study abroad experiences in Tijuana, Mexico, and Santiago, Chile, the weather was never an issue; Tijuana reminded me of the summers spent in southern California with my family and Santiago was enjoying its spring-summer transition when I was studying abroad during the northern hemisphere’s coldest months. Of course I’m not studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, for the weather. I have been an artist since my parents first noticed my desire to draw and the culmination of a young adult life of art-making and studying has led to where I am today.

Self portrait with cactus flowers, oil pastels on wood, made in the summer of 2017

My parents have always encouraged me to follow where my passions lead me. Since attending Seattle University, my relationship with my family has become even more complex, leading up to the serious discussions we had this summer about my studies and where I see myself fitting in the future. Our talks led to the realization that my academic and professional career will lead to more international exposure in the future and my parents reaffirmed their commitment to helping me achieve what I set out to do. My parents never had the opportunity to study abroad in college so I feel immensely grateful for their support.

As the summer before my semester in Prague comes to a close I look forward to the new experiences I am bound to have. Around this time last year I was just transitioning to my new life in Santiago and I can still remember how strange and new everything was in the beginning. I especially remember the feelings of doubt I had on the plane over and how I could never reassure myself that I was doing the right thing because I had never done something like this before. I felt like I was preparing for the unknowable because even if people reassured me that I was doing a good thing for myself, I could not accept it fully until I had had the experience for myself. It reminds me of leaving for college, too, in that I had many mentors that told me that higher education was the right thing for me, but I couldn’t accept that advice blindly, without knowing what college was really like. That discomfort in not knowing is something that I have had to get used to during the past few years of my college life. The Trump presidency, the growing state of unrest across the country, and other moments of conflict since returning to the U.S. from abroad has led me further into a state of not knowing. This limbo state of not knowing what is and what isn’t has led me to the comfort of books. I have read The Metamorphosis and Amerika: The Missing Person in order to be more well-versed in the works of Czech writer Franz Kafka, but I have also delved into more diverse books like One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap (Peggy Orenstein), Revolutionary Suicide (Huey P. Newton), The Fall (Albert Camus), and Myra Breckinridge (Gore Vidal). By delving into various difficult topics like family, solitude, gender, injustice, pride, and pleasure I feel a sense of openness to life’s quirks. Whether it be nonfiction or fiction, works of literature allow me to ponder things that may not even have concrete answers in a more creative way. Like how art-making challenges me to be innovative, reading challenges my ability to accept new phenomena and react in a logical way. I guess that this is the best preparation I have for studying abroad in Europe for the first time. By reading about literary and artistic masters of the region and the world I believe I have prepared myself as best I can for a semester in Prague, attending one of the oldest universities in Europe.