November 17, 2010

Playing to the Judge is the best way to win Apples to Apples

You'll never forget Kearney, or so the slogan goes.

My spot at the old WC
 My college town--Kearney, Nebraska--is the place where I started to become an adult. Since I've been back home, I've forgotten many of the wonders of college life: no supervision, minimal accountability, and the freedom/curse of setting your own boundaries (and bedtime!).

I went back to Kearney yesterday to speak on behalf of UNK alumni who have traveled abroad. A fitting role for me, the former Cambodian/Austrian/Thai Adventure Lady. I chatted with nervous freshmen, eager sophomores and excited juniors about studying abroad. Did I encourage them to take the plunge? Of course. Did I quell any travel anxieties? With my jittery enthusiasm, probably not.  Do your research, I said, Don't worry too much about the language barrier and pack light.

The guest speaking engagement was my excuse to come back, but I hung around the rest of the day to catch up with old friends. I'll never forget my Writing Center friends, nor our beloved Game Nights. Now that we are a year older, our conversations focus on life after UNK--the cursed GRE, the graduate school applications, and the success of long-term relationships. Add a little wine and coffee to the conversation and we were a mess of games, gossip and  giggles.

Most of my closest friends have left Kearney to be employed in other cities and states. A few remain, and I was happy to reconnect over chai tea, or better yet, cold beers and San Pedro. The best part of college is the companionship of friends with common interests; friends who know your insecurities and your mistakes, but enjoy hanging out with you regardless.

Although the trip made me long for the life I left behind, the encouragement from my old friends excited me for the new friends to come.Today, my face is sore from all the smiles and laughs--something to be thankful for.

I'll never forget Kearney because of the close friendships that continue to evolve as time demands.

...and because of Barista's--definitely won't forget that, either!