Well, it is 2016 and I haven’t blogged since graduation in May. To be fair, a lot has happened in my life since then and I have been extremely busy. I traveled to 11 countries, got a job, moved to the West Coast, and was the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding. But now that I am sitting in the San Francisco airport waiting for my delayed flight back to Oregon, I think I finally have the time to finish this post I started writing for you in September.
The idea of graduating from William & Mary did not scare me. But thinking about joining the “real world” freaked me out a bit. At that point I had been in school my whole life, could I function outside of this academic bubble? During my senior year I took a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted my life to be after school. I realized that I needed to get out of Virginia and the DC metro area where I have lived my entire life. I needed to explore different lifestyles and places. I wanted to forge my own path and find my own adventures.
Government Graduation at the Wren Building
My International Summer
In the December before graduation I bought a one-way ticket to Paris. The day after graduation, my friend, Michael–another William & Mary grad–, and I left for Europe. Together we worked on a farm in Normandy through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization (WWOOF) for two weeks. The farm was a venison ranch, organic hay producer, homestead, and “glamping” resort. It had cows, dogs, goats, cats, chickens, horses, pigs, rabbits, and one very annoying turkey. Michael and I took care of the animals, tended the gardens, cooked three course meals twice a day, and helped with the six beautiful tents that were rented to Parisian families looking for a weekend getaway in the countryside. We worked very hard during those two and a half weeks and we slept like rocks every night while we were there.
At times living with a traditional French family was a bit of a challenge. Occasionally, the language barrier (neither Michael nor I had taken French since high school) would cause us to spend days doing our jobs the wrong way. The matriarch of the farm, Michel, had a very particular way of doing everything which was sometimes hard to understand in a foreign language. Every meal was delicious and decadent but there were so many rules at every mealtime. Cold dishes must come before hot dishes but one can never put hot and cold food on the same plate. Vegetables must be served separately. Dinner must always include a dessert and cheese course. It was hard to keep up consecutively for weeks.
But, the farm was a magical place and our hosts were wonderful people. I loved waking up early to say good morning to the farm’s animals. We learned so much about working with animals, French agriculture, cooking, and culture. I learned what lupin flour was, which I now use in almost all of my gluten free baking experiments. Our hosts took us to a family member’s confirmation at a beautiful Catholic church in their town. Michael even taught our host-family shortcuts on Microsoft Excel that will help them run their businesses more efficiently. Experiencing life in the French countryside was so rewarding and the perfect contrast to my hectic life at William & Mary.
Just a few of the friends I made in France.
After France, Michael and I went on to explore Amsterdam, Barcelona, and a small coastal town in Italy called Viareggio. In Barcelona, we met up with my cousin, Tim (the girl), who showed us the best places to eat in the city and invited us to her friend’s villa in Italy. In Italy Michael and I finally split ways. I went off to Budapest and he went to back to Israel where he previously studied abroad. He was a great travel partner and we are already planning our next international adventure together. On my own, I visited Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Munich, Frankfurt, Oxford, and Liverpool. I was so fortunate to get to stay with friends in four of those seven stops. Traveling on my own was a fantastic experience and I believe I grew tremendously in that period.
I stumbled upon the William & Mary cipher at the John Lennon Wall in Prague!
In early July, I flew back to D.C. with plans to leave almost immediately. After a week with my friends and family at home I took a bus up to New York to partake in a Birthright Trip to Israel. I spent 10 non-stop days in Israel exploring the fascinating country and attempting to wrap my head around the conflict there. Unfortunately, I could not extend my trip in the Middle East like many of my friends because I had to return to Virginia to perform my Maid of Honor duties at my sister’s bridal shower. I had been absent for most of the wedding planning, so I’m just lucky she didn’t demote me!
Spices in Jerusalem’s shuk.
New Job and a Cross-Country Move
While I was in Europe I received an email about a job opportunity working for a Farm to School Non-Profit in Oregon. Since I had been applying to similar jobs during my senior year, I could easily send in an application from my hostel in Prague (actually my mom, sister, and very successful best friend helped me out a ton from the states). Between my trips in Europe and Israel I interviewed for the position and by mid-August I was offered the job. I spent less than two weeks at home before I started packing my car for Ashland, Oregon.
Just a few days after I accepted the job I left with my friend, Janani, for a breakneck cross-country roadtrip. Our route included nights in Nashville, the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, and San Mateo where we either camped, stayed in hostels, or crashed on friend’s couches.
Wild bison roam the plains at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.
Eventually, I made it to my new home in Ashland, Oregon. The day I arrived there were so many forest fires in the surrounding area that my new town was covered in smoke. I picked up my Mom from the airport and spent the week with her looking for a place to live and exploring Southern Oregon. Ashland is the kind of place where you can find people publicly practicing acro-yoga at anytime of day, there are two record stores in just one block, and soaking in the wellsprings is the best way to spend any evening.
After five months, I am still not sure if I am cool enough to live here. I really love this community and it is undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever lived. Oh and my job here is awesome! I coordinate a program that brings local organic produce into schools in the Rogue Valley. Basically, I help kids learn to love their fruits and veggies!
So my “post-grad” life has been a little crazy. A year ago I would have never guessed that I would be here in San Francisco waiting for my delayed flight to Medford, Oregon worried that I won’t have enough winter squash for the kids at work tomorrow, but I am so happy to be here.
Table Rock is just a few minutes away from my new home in Ashland.