It’s Africell Orange Day and boy do I really wish I had an Africell t-shirt to wear. Alas, for some reason I failed to get one. I should go back and pick one of those up then, right?
It’s been one month since I left the Gambia and returned home. What have I done in that month? Well, not that much. I’ve volunteered a little at the Lexington History Museum. I’ve started research on my senior thesis topic (Drum magazine and identity in 1950s South Africa, for now anyway). Mostly, though, I’ve been reflecting on the five months I spent in West Africa, on what I miss and what I don’t miss and a million other things, and on what the whole experience means to me now and for my future. AHHH FUTURE. Don’t like thinking about that, but it’s all I seem to think about.
It’s funny: I thought that study abroad would help me narrow down what I wanted to do in after Juniata, that it would help me realize my capabilities and allow me to make out more clearly what my passions are. If anything, my semester in the Gambia has just confused me more when it comes to thinking about my future—which is frustrating, since this summer seems to be all about just sitting around and mulling over my options. There’s graduate school—I’ve even scheduled a date for the GRE (and should probably get to studying for that)—which is honestly what I always saw myself pursuing right after college. Again, I thought my experience abroad would help me figure out what I actually would want to study further in grad school, but instead it sprinkled even more ideas into my mind. Now when I browse listings of graduate schools and programs, I find my browser overrun with a million tabs ranging from history to development studies to international studies to ethnomusicology. I just can’t make up my mind anymore, which is funny because I thought I had a fairly good idea five months ago.
I’ve also started considering something like the Peace Corps. You know, when I was in Janjanbureh, shrieking over the mice in my bed and the monkeys stealing our food, I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh my god. How do the Peace Corps volunteers do it? I don’t think I could handle living in a village under these conditions for months on end!” But as much as I’ve had time to think about situations like that one, I’ve also had time to look at what I loved about West Africa, as well as the realities of life that I encountered there and that pass through my mind every day. The week before we left, we had dinner with Haddy Sowe, our Wolof instructor who also teaches Wolof to the Peace Corps volunteers in the Gambia. The discussion we had with her covered so many different topics, but of course one of the things she wanted to encourage us to do is to think about joining the Peace Corps. We expressed to her how not hardcore we were in comparison to the PCVs we’d met and heard stories from, and that we weren’t sure we were knowledgeable enough in the various fields that PCVs work in, etc. She stressed to us the extensive training that PCVs go through, that they don’t just throw us into situations blindly, and that yes, it’s hard, it’s insanely difficult and sometimes seems even downright impossible, but that she believed that each one of us would be able to handle it because of how we had handled our five months in the Gambia. And maybe it’s because I’ve had nothing better to do this summer than overthink all of these options, but the more and more “Peace Corps” runs through my mind the more and more I think that I might want to apply. And who knows if they would even take me, they could reject me… let’s be real here.
Or maybe none of the above for now—maybe I just need to discover other options, talk to other people about what they think or what they want to do or what they wish they had done or this and that and gah! I just don’t know. The future is scary and unknown but I guess that’s also its appeal: why always do the predictable? Why not do something you never thought you would? And I think it’s that latter option I’m starting to lean towards.
I guess don’t need to decide right this second, though. I have so many documents on my computer with information I’ve saved from various grad school ideas, and obviously every time I am wondering something about any other idea that springs into mind, I can just hit up Google and find an answer (and, inevitably, more questions). I know that I need to calm down, wait out the summer until the time comes to actually set things up. Instead of stressing out about my future now, I will try to think more on my reflections of my semester abroad, while trying not to burst into tears because I miss Club Toubab and La Parisienne and Alaedin’s and the beach and this and that and everything….
What can I say? I miss it all TOO MUCH!