To new beginnings

A photo of Justher smiling, waiting for the Louvre to open
Sitting in line, waiting for the Louvre to open (Spring 2013)

2013 is drawing to a close. This is usually the time when end-of-the-year “Best Of” posts and promises of New Year’s resolutions accumulate on  RSS feeds, applications, timelines, and the like.

As a reflection post, consider this a hybrid of those two things – a look back on the highs of the year and the lessons they brought. It’s a journey through the past twelve months with the promises weaved in. It’s bound to be a doozy.

2013, for me, was a year that could really be split up into three main parts: study abroad, the summer (of nothing), and Fall semester. This post will be split in the same way.

Study Abroad

Honestly, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Those four months in Europe were extremely formative for me. It’s strange to say that I found myself in a foreign country, but I really did. My very existence, the languages I speak, the way I present myself – it’s political. And I intend on using my political power to make things right and ease the identity-centered turmoil inside me the best I can.  While I was abroad, I learned that I was awarded the NBCUniversal/APIASF scholarship for the following school year. Right now I’m reading America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan and I’m finally trying to learn how to speak Tagalog. I’m hoping to do my senior thesis on the 1904 World’s Fair and the Filipinos put on display in a human zoo. I recently landed an internship at the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO).

I was forced to confront my racial/ethnic background in Europe and now I’m never going to let anyone (myself included) forget it.

Summer

What happened this past summer? I read a few books, hung out with some friends, and became re-acclimated with the portion sizes of the United States. It was a restful time. Maybe I should have lined up an internship or a job, but really, that break was just what I needed.  By the time fall semester rolled around, I was more than ready to have something to do.

Fall Semester

It was so great to have CILSA back in my life again, after my yearlong hiatus. The people change but the energy seems to remain the same. I’m always so inspired by the people I work with.

The classes I took this year were particularly influential. Women’s Biology taught me about the health issues that are unique to women and the steps we can take for prevention (Weight-bearing exercise! More vitamin D! Self-exams!). I really enjoyed it.

Wealth & Poverty in the Bible was also very illuminating; since taking the course, issues of socioeconomic class have definitely become more important to me. The class has made me realize how privileged I am for even going to college in the first place (though the mountain of debt may make it appear as though it’s the contrary). Additionally, I find that I’m constantly reminded of Gloria Anzaldúa whenever I feel the temptation to look at others in contempt because of my education or when I feel like using language that is far more complicated than the situation necessitates. I need to check myself.

But of course, a tension exists: To stay within my roots or to represent at the top branches of academia? For now, I know I want to stay at the ground-level, to make change from the ground up with just enough letters after my name to gain a modicum of respect.

Let’s hope that what lies ahead – 2014, graduation, and my gap year – allow me to do just that. 2013, it’s been real.

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