Pull almost an allnighter packing. Climb into a taxi at 4:30am in a fog of sleeplessness. Ride for 2.5 hours to the Sarajevo airport, nap almost the whole way. Wait at the airport a little while, make small talk with the friends I’ll miss for a month. Depart by plane at 9am. Arrive in Istanbul, wait a while longer. Catch the connecting flight to Geneva. Arrive in Geneva at 5:30pm. Go through customs, collect my things from baggage claim.
Then; exhaustion and happiness and relief and comfort and more, mixed together in a potent cocktail that threaten to make my eyes spill over with tears. Hugs and big smiles and more hugs as we leave the airport; I stand straighter and breath deeper as an invisible weight is lifted off my shoulders.
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For Winter Break this year, I decided not to go back to the US. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I took into account that this was my last year in Mostar, and I really wanted to make the most of it. I feel so fortunate that I have this chance to live in Europe, a place that many people only dream of visiting, and I feel crazy lucky to have the chance at such a young age. So since I’m already here, I decided to stay in Europe and travel a bit.
What also made the choice easier was that I knew my extended family would be visiting a town in France, just across the border from where my aunt and uncle live outside Geneva, where my second cousin’s mother-in-law lives. If you didn’t follow that, don’t worry – it’s a little complicated and not important. The point is that I knew I would see some family for Christmas. Then, my mom decided to come over to Geneva as well, arriving on my birthday, which was probably the best present I could ask for. Oh yeah, I turned 19! I know, I can’t believe it either. We ate a delicious dinner at a nice restaurant. And what birthday dessert would be complete without oversized candle numbers?
It was really lovely getting to spend time with my mom, aunt, uncle, and cousins, not to mention go to a couple huge gatherings with the extended family – around 30 people all together. Here’s a picture of just ‘one side’ of the family to give you an idea:
Being in Switzerland reminded me how much I truly love Christmastime – there’s not much holiday spirit in Mostar. I love baking cookies, watching my cousins open presents with such pure happiness, and seeing Christmas lights everywhere; I love being with my family. I love the vague words of the season that mean so much or so little, depending on each person’s interpretation: joy, peace, love, hope, wish, rejoice…
Of course, those two weeks weren’t all sunshine and roses. One of the only bad parts about this break was the amount of school work I had to do. While in Switzerland, most of my energy went into university applications for 5 schools plus two big parts of the school curriculum that aren’t from a specific subject: my Theory of Knowledge essay (1600 words) and my Extended Essay (4000 words). It was really frustrating to have to share time that I wanted to spend with my family with school work; I wish that a break was actually a break from school. But alas, the deadlines were waiting, and somehow I managed to get all of that completed. Note that I said “all that” in reference to the assignments I previously listed, which is not to be confused with all the things I have to do during break, which I certainly have not finished. IB problems…
There was good news though, proof that hard work can pay off – I got accepted to Stonehill College! It’s a liberal arts college south of Boston that I really liked when I visited this past summer. Now to find out where else I get in over the next few months before making ‘The Big Decision.’
All in all, the two weeks flew by, and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to my mom until June 4th… It definitely wasn’t easy.
The following day, I left for Amsterdam, where I met up with other UWCers to celebrate New Years. But that’s a story for a future post~