I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to finally get this post up. It’s been on my mind for a long time, but with the intensity of TASP (which was as incredible as I had hoped) and now beginning a new year at MUWCI, I have been unable to find the time, so I’ve decided to upload a post that I wrote during the summer and managed never to actually get up on the blog. That means that a lot has happened since I wrote this, but I think in this case it makes sense to post something a little outdated.
I really hope I’m not disappointing people with the news that I’m planning on discontinuing this blog. I’m really happy with the reception it has gotten (we’re at 1,200 views now!), and I’ve actually talked to a few newly-arrived first years who apparently contributed to the view count of this blog, but I no longer feel I have the requisite time or mental space to keep this up. When things cool down later in the year, I may give it another shot, but for the time being I’m very happy with leaving the blog as it is. Anyway, if this blog causes even one person to find out about the United World Colleges and apply, or provides one applicant with some anticipatory excitement, or reassures one worrying parent that their child is making the right decision in applying, I’ll feel like the effort I’ve put in was well worth it. Anyway, here’s my final post for who knows how long. Enjoy!
Well, here I am, back in Seattle after nine months. Having gained five pounds, lost twenty, then gained twenty five, I am ten pounds heavier than I was when my plane took off last August. I’d like to imagine I’ve grown in more ways than one in the past year, but then again I’ve definitely spent a lot of time since I got back insisting to people that I’m basically the same Will that I was when I left.
Another thing I’ve told people a lot since I got back is that India was “good”. What people expect in response to the question “How was India?” I have no idea. It’s a ridiculously big question to answer, and I’ve decided that it merits a ridiculously simplistic answer.
But in some ways “good” does manage to encapsulate, as well as any one word can, the last year I’ve had at MUWCI. In fact, I feel as though I’ve had an unreasonably smooth, happy ride through what was supposed to be a thrilling but challenging year. For me, probably the biggest challenge came on the last morning, when I had to say goodbye to my second-years, some of whom I may never see again. More than having to say goodbye to any one person (though there are some particular individuals who really had me sobbing that morning), I think I was upset by the realization that my first, truly good year is over, and that though I’ll be back at MUWCI in August, I can never reclaim the past nine months. I’ll never regain the honeymoon period of profound happiness mixed with disbelief that India was turning out to be everything I’d hoped for; the disillusionment I felt when I began to realize it wasn’t, accompanied by my first feelings of homesickness; and finally my own reconciliation with any of MUWCI’s perceived failings, and the conviction that came with it that, whatever else MUWCI may be, it’s a pretty incredible place to start the transition into adulthood.
I didn’t sleep on Grad Night, spent most of the night in our courtyard, talking with whoever came by, or just sitting and listening to the music that fluctuated between loud and funky and soft and nostalgia-inducing. Late into the night I left the fire and found myself in Wada 1, singing along with Conner, my second year, as he played “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. So many of the songs we’ve played this year, some of my favorites, will be forever tied up with my memories of MUWCI. They’ll transport me immediately back to nights spent with Emil, Rounak, Tudor, Christoph, Jason, Dhruv, Parikshit, Remmelt, Corne, and all the rest, listening to Rounak play his guitar and sing, staring into the fire, thinking, This is about as good as it gets.
After singing a few more songs with Conner, Lucia (Mexican second year) asked me if I wanted to climb the internet tower, something she’d never done and had always wanted to do before she left. I had promised her that I would take her up if we got the chance. It was 5:00 AM and the sky was beginning to turn from black to a deep blue, and I’d never seen sunrise from the tower before.
Within a few minutes we had climbed internet hill and started up the ladder that once took workers up the side of the now-inactive internet tower that rises hundreds of feet above our campus. As we climbed, the birds began to sing, and the sky continued to quickly brighten, an orange patch beginning to emerge over the mountains to our left. After a few minutes of climbing, we came to the very top of the tower. We perched ourselves on the thin metal girders supporting our tiny bodies high above our world, the Mulshi Valley, and, holding on tightly, looked out over it all as the birds sang happily below us and the rest of the campus finally went to sleep.
I’d only been up the tower twice before, both times during the night. This clear early morning, Lucia and I could see for miles and miles in all directions. It was one of those moments when there is truly no other place on earth that you’d rather be.
After we climbed down from the tower and ate our breakfast, we went to the parking lot to say goodbye to the first departing students. There was a constant stream of jeeps for the next few hours, and I had a few sad goodbyes, but I didn’t manage to cry until 11:00 in the morning, when two buses arrived to take away about sixty students in total, and we had the most painful mass goodbye I’ve ever been a part of.
I had worried that I wouldn’t cry that day, that I wouldn’t give my second years the mourning they deserved. It turns out that shouldn’t have been a concern for me. I spent the next hour and a half bawling, seeking out particular second years obscured by the bodies of other embracing students and by the unreasonable amount of tears streaming from my eyes, and, upon finding them in the crowd, making eye contact and pushing my way through to them to hug them and unsuccessfully try to control myself enough to tell them how much I was going to miss them. I think they got the message, and when most of the campus was at last deserted, I found myself emotionally exhausted but at peace.
Goodbyes largely finished, we decided it was time to leave ourselves, and Dhruv’s driver drove a few of us to Mumbai, where I caught a plane to Seattle by myself that evening. Less than twenty four hours later, I met my family at the baggage claim of Sea-Tac Airport, whereupon we all freaked out. It was a long nine months – thank goodness I’m coming home for Christmas next year.
I’m writing this on the basement floor on a Thursday evening. Pretty sure the rest of the house is asleep. I’ve been doing my best to spend as much time with my parents and sister as possible before I leave again, this time for a shorter and less exotic adventure to Michigan. I’m excited about the coming year, but it’s hard right now to think about going back. MUWCI feels very far away, and when I do get back things are going to be very different. The valley will be a deep green once again, the world will be moldy and damp, my courtyard will no longer be my courtyard, and I’ll have a hundred new names and faces to learn. I don’t view next year as a continuation of the last at all, and that is helping me to find a measure of closure. That chapter of my life is over, and I think I’m ready to begin the next.