As the year comes to an end, all I can think is wow. I cannot believe how wonderfully blessed my year has been from start to finish. In fact, I don’t recall a time when I’ve had more to be thankful for than I do right now.
My year began with a few good friends in Memphis, TN. My Cyclones had made it to the Liberty Bowl and played their hearts out in Ames South. On New Year’s Eve, I remember walking Beale Street with thousands of other Iowa State fans as we watched the guitar drop and welcomed 2013 with open arms and great beer. It was the perfect start to what would become a perfect year.
Fast forward a few months and I found myself in Panama City Beach, FL with 10 strangers that soon became great friends. We spent a week on the beach worrying only about what beer to drink that day. Although most of my memories of this week are blurry, I know that this was one week that I will never forget. (PS, Four Lokos are never the answer.)
My birthday happened to fall on the Friday of spring semester finals week, May 10. I was done with finals on Wednesday and was able to enjoy the entire day with some of the best friends that I have. My special day showed me once again why I surround myself with the people I do. My friends mean the world to me, and I knew that I meant the world to my friends on this day.
Summer 2013 was beyond words, but I’ll do my best to tell you about it. The beginning of my summer was a transition from school straight to work in my hometown. I spent my nights with old high school pals enjoying bonfires, cruising gravel roads, and playing Euchre. At the end of June, the summer that changed my life began. I was able to travel literally halfway across the globe to Seoul, Korea, where I would spend five weeks studying and immersing myself in a foreign culture. Luckily, my mom was able to enjoy this experience with me for the first week, but after that I was on my own in a city that never sleeps.
Seoul became a home for me in the five short weeks that I spent there. I came to appreciate the cute little Korean markets, the love of K-pop music, and the obsession with Kimchi. I learned about the rich history that the people of Korea base their lives on. I was able to experience their traditional dress, food, and music that mean so much to them. I was able to visit the 38th Parallel and become completely awestruck at how beautiful the landscape of North Korea truly is. I saw Seoul from its highest point, at both midday and midnight. I finally choked back a shot of Soju without hating myself immediately afterwards. I fell in love with a culture that was completely foreign to me a short five weeks before. And it truly changed my life.
The rest of my summer consisted of friends, beer, and country music concerts. Within four short weeks, my friends and I were able to see twelve different artists perform, whether we remember it or not. I was reminded that our little corner of Iowa, no matter how sheltered it is, is where we will always call our home.
My journey to Europe began in September. As cliche as it sounds, the study abroad experience has changed my life in ways that I didn’t even know were possible. I’ve created lasting friendships with people I didn’t know just three months ago. I’ve learned more about myself than I had all throughout high school. I’ve visited 9 countries and 18 cities within 83 days. As crazy as the journey has been, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
This year has been a whirlwind of fun for me. I’m so grateful for everything this year has given me. And I’m insanely grateful for the wonderful parents and brothers that have stood by my side throughout my wanderlust shenanigans. I can’t wait to see them in a few days, but I will be sure to cherish the last few days I have in Italy.