Saturday, August 3, 2013

Only the End of the Beginning

Last summer I thought I had experienced the best summer of my life serving as a counselor for HSHSP and working on chemical education research.

I was wrong.

Summer 2013 has proven to be an even more phenomenal summer.

On Friday I said goodbye to my boss/mentor/friend for at least a year while I am in Korea.  Never would I have thought as a freshman in college that I would eventually have such a great relationship with one of my professors.  He has had a profound effect on my growth as a intellectual and as an individual.  While I had thought that the experiences gained and relationship built last summer was the best, I never realized I was so far from the peak - and I'm sure that perspective will change again as we continue to work together.  I can't even begin to put into words how the many hours of work, the snarky banter, and the long conversations about society and my future have meant to me.  After an emotional walk home from work (and then around campus and then again to my car the next day and once more while leaving campus), it is amazing to realize how blessed I really am.

And if my simultaneous sadness and joy could not get any worse, on Saturday (today) I said goodbye to a group of bright and talented individuals that I had the absolute honor of getting to know these past seven weeks.  The 2013 HSHSP kids were beyond phenomenal.  I had an unbelievable number of amazing experiences.  I heard these students speak about their passions, from elegant calculus to the supreme court to komodo dragons to how to play Go.  I was given the materials, and even guidance, to begin learning calculus (again... and properly) on my own, just showing that it is not age that leads to learning, but passion and experience.  I learned how to merengue, bachata, and salsa dance (each type from a different student from a different location and a different background).  I worried like a mother over the kids that came back late from lab and all the little injuries sustained from ultimate Frisbee.  I listened to some of these kids play violas, violins, and pianos with astounding talent.  I watched talented strategists fight to the death in two Brawl tournaments.  I stood amazed as I saw an artist translate real life into water color, imagination into Henna tattoos, avatars into t-shirts, and seven weeks worth of memories into graffiti on a Rock on a certain special campus.  I laughed and wrestled in tickle fights and spent nights gathered around a piano, singing whatever songs struck our collective fancy.

It was a joy to see these individuals grow and while some may say, "Don't ever change," I can only beg them to keep on learning, keep on growing, and keep on investing in passions - old and new.  If their current personalities are any indication of what they'll be like in five years, then this world is blessed to have such talented, intelligent, and caring future scientists.  Not a single one was left behind in this group.  As was said a few times today, this is only the end of the beginning.  I can only pray that I will be lucky enough to cross paths with all of you again some day.

I think what this summer has revealed to me is that life is all about building relationships.  It is experiences together that shape us, shape others, and shape society.

Heading into the final two weeks before touchdown in South Korea, I think this lesson is an important one to keep in mind for the upcoming year.  Just how much more will I be shaped and help shape others in this year abroad?

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