Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012: God is GREAT


So remember my visa approval predicament? Yeah. That’s no longer an issue.

This morning, I sent an email to the Swiss consulate in Los Angeles, asking about the status of my long stay student visa. Then waited for a reply. In the meantime, I called the director of international programs at Pepperdine, and got her voicemail. My anxiety was growing. I had a whole slew of questions: How many visas does the consulate have to approve from our group? If I do leave at a different time, how will the IP office know when to schedule my flight? Do I call and let you know when my visa has been approved? How will I get to the house? Will someone meet me somewhere or will I have to depend on instructions? It’s always good to have these basic questions answered.

Then I got a call from a Long Beach, California number. I admittedly don’t answer my phone unless I know who it is, but for some reason I figured I’d answer. Julie, the director of IP, was out of office, so she was calling me on her cell phone. After explaining that I’d already sent an email to the consulate and was really starting to worry, she said that she had just gotten an email from Pepperdine’s contact at the consulate in Switzerland, saying that there were only six visas left to be granted. Guess what? MY NAME WASN’T ON THE LIST! I just about cried, I was so extremely ecstatic! Julie explained that the Swiss consulate has been unusually unresponsive about the confirmation of our visas this year, and even though I still haven’t received an email regarding the status of my visa, I should go ahead and send in my passport. THANK GOD. And thank goodness for overnight express mail…looks like this will actually be my last Monday in America until April!

Next stop, post office!


P.S. Thank you to everyone who prayed for me during this stressful process, especially my amazingly supportive family who has put up with my stress and procrastination more than anyone else. All the support and encouragement I’ve gotten over the past eight weeks means so, so much to me! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 26, 2012: Eight Days, What?! WARNING: Contents May Get Emotional


EIGHT DAYS. Wait. Has it already been six days since my last post? Time is flying! Which is both great and unfortunate. It’s pretty obvious why it’s great…I am about to embark on the most exciting and self-realizing trip of my life to date. I am so, so excited to learn about myself, even though I’ve heard that these breakthroughs typically come after tough times and doubt. But I’m ready. My excitement beats out the fear. So, why unfortunate? Well…let’s just say my procrastination with the submission of my visa application has me a little (and by a little, I mean REALLY) anxious. I still haven’t received confirmation of its approval. And when I get that, I still have to send my passport into the Swiss consulate in LA. If I don’t get the confirmation by Wednesday before 4:30 (or shall I say 16:30), this girl is traveling from LA to Lausanne all by herself! Which I’m prepared for. But I’m still praying. And nothing is impossible for God. So whether I get my visa in time or not, I will have learned a great lesson, and maybe, just maybe my procrastination will be cured! If it doesn’t get approved in time, I’ll get the added bonus of complete independence, making me much more confident to take on the continent of Europe by myself!

With that said, it’s time for me to be extremely proud of myself! My phone (and now computer) clock is set to 24-hour time, and I’m getting used to saying 15:45 instead of 3:45 (I still have to do addition – fifteen minus twelve is…3! Also, this 24-hour time is making me go to bed much earlier in the evening); my clothes are all set aside, albeit not all folded and packed, and Mom still has laundry to do (hehe thank you Mommy!); my two suitcases are at 74 pounds combined (can I get a whoop whoop?!), even though I still have a few more things to pack; my French is…on its way, but still needs some serious practicing; and my books are ordered – except for one, which I need to get to work on, whoops!

So, really, all I need are washed clothes, one more textbook, 24-hour time on my alarm clock (and, ideally, all of the clocks in the house), some new music for the plane ride over, my visa (important!!!!), and twenty seconds of courage.

I watched “We Bought a Zoo” with my family this weekend, and my mom keeps reminding me about the importance of those twenty seconds of courage – I’ll need it when traveling alone; when talking to the Swiss and French; and in many, many other situations. Like talking to strangers on the plane if I don’t get to go on the group flight. If I want this experience to be as groundbreaking as I’m hoping it will be, I can’t be afraid of making mistakes or getting lost – those are the moments that become the most memorable. So, Leigh, forget your reservations and break out of that box!

While I am so extremely psyched for this upcoming trip, my mind keeps wandering to several pitfalls: homesickness, familysickness, and friendsickness (yes, I know the latter two aren’t words, but they really ought to be! Why say, “I will miss my family” when you can fit it into one word?! Isn’t that what the Germans do? Only I’m not even completely sure, so…don’t quote me on that. Like I said, German is not very…how do I put this gently? Agreeable…for me, at least). Everyone keeps telling me that going abroad will be no different than going to California. With Facebook, I’ll still be able to keep in contact with my family and friends. My family is coming to Europe for three weeks over Christmas break. I only came home once last year for Christmas, so it’s almost exactly the same. Ahem. (This is where I prove them wrong! Even if it’s just a weak attempt…) I will be anywhere from 7-9 hours ahead of the people I love, depending on their time zone; my parents can’t just buy a ticket to see me if I’m super duper sick (of course my sister had to question the validity of my argument, since I most likely won’t be in much danger of getting sick in Lausanne, but I could break a leg on the slippery streets!!); though I will be surrounded by 67 other students, I am going to feel so alone and far away from everyone I am the closest with – I can’t text my girls from home or family, asking for advice or help or prayers or a phone call to help me feel better on a bad day; and let’s be honest, I am going to miss Pepperdine and Malibu with all of my heart – it’s already broken because I can’t visit my friends and freshman roommate, and everyone on campus is posting gorgeous pictures of the beach and the Malibu sunsets and campus. These all have me concerned, and already sad, admittedly.

Hold on a minute. There’s gotta be a bright side, though…right? Well, of course! Like I said earlier: I. Will. Be. Independent. Which I desperately need. This trip will break me out of my let’s-call-mommy-and-daddy-because-I-have-no-idea-what-the-heck-I-am-doing and I’m-just-too-darn-scared-to-try-by-myself comfortable boxes. I will get to know 67 amazing Pepperdine students insanely well and probably become lifelong friends with some of them. I will have adventures I’ve never even dreamed of having, because they were way too amazing to even get my hopes up. I will be able to take so many gorgeous pictures that I’ll have to print 500 of them and switch them out of my frames for the rest of my life!!!!! (Extremely excited for that!) I will be fluent in French by the time I arrive back in the U.S. Most importantly, my relationship with God is going to grow so much, and I know He will shape me to be a stronger Christian and person.

Whoa. That’s a lot of emotion. Another item on the checklist: prepare for mental breakdowns this week. The last Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in good ol’ Albuquerque coming up next! In the next 3 hours, to be exact. Let us close here, before any tears erupt, any ice cream is consumed, any sad chick flicks are watched, marking the beginning of breakdown no. 1.

Until next time,


P.S. Cross your fingers that my visa is approved soon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 21, 2012: Recollection & Preparation


Two weeks from today, I will begin the journey I have been anticipating for the past 10 months. Part of me is raring to go, ready to explore Europe and the lush green valleys and snowy mountains of Switzerland; the other part of me is terrified. I will be spending eight whole months in Lausanne without returning home to see my family (albeit they will be spending the Christmas holidays in Europe with me) and friends. I’m even going to miss boring old Malibu – obviously, this is some serious terror (I mean, who in her right mind misses Malibu?).

The process all started last September. The first week of my freshman year, the entire population of freshies was pulled onto Alumni Park to look at the colorful booths of Pepperdine’s 7 different study abroad programs: Buenos Aires, Florence, Heidelberg, Lausanne, London, and Shanghai. I’d already gone through Spanish for seven years back home in New Mexico, so that was a no. Heidelberg? German? What? Harsh consonants for days? Nein! London? I’m not much of a fish and chips fan. Shanghai? No way, José. That left Lausanne and Florence. It was a tough decision. I wanted to eat pasta and delicious carbs every single day till my pants busted, but I was also in love with the language of love and had wanted to learn it since I visited Paris during my senior year. Plus, its location was perfect for traveling, which is just what I wanted to do. Lausanne it was! So I applied. Interviewed for the program. Waited anxiously for October 28. Opened my mailbox. Euphoria in a big envelope.

The next process was obtaining a long stay student visa. I’ll spare you the details. But basically, the entire packet consisted of a cover letter, a letter of future plans, a flight itinerary, recent passport photos, visa application, copy of passport, proof of US residency, my confirmation letter from Pepperdine University Campus in Lausanne, my resume, any previous diplomas, an income statement, a bank statement, confirmation of payment of school tuition fees, and confirmation of departure. Not to mention about four copies of several of the contents. We were given a month window to complete the application and send it into the Swiss Consulate. And of course, being the responsible young lady I am, I sent it in on the last possible day. Not such a great idea. I’ll put that little pearl of wisdom in my pocket for next time!

The next process is packing. I’ve kind of thought about it. I’ve been limited to one big bag and half of a medium one, plus my backpack and an empty duffel bag for my return. So maximum of 75-80 pounds. For 8 months. I can do this! Especially considering that last year I over packed like crazy…this will be easy peasy lemon squeezy! And this process is reserved for this coming weekend, so wish me luck! I will most certainly need it.

The only problem? I hate the cold. You’d think that’s pretty normal for a New Mexican. Ha. It gets cold here in the wintertime. Winter has always been the most dreadful season of the year – that’s why I chose Pepperdine: the beach, warm weather year-round, sunshine and palm trees, studying on the beach in December while everybody back home is freezing their butts off. Well. Lausanne is about the same temperature as New Mexico in the winter. Only there’s snow. And lots of it. So this voyage should truly be one for the books. We’ll see if I get used to this flaky form of water and the low temperature. At least the views will be gorgeous.

So while I am studying abroad on the snowy slopes of Switzerland, I will be journaling in my little teal book, a present from three of my best friends back home (shout out: I love you Hannah, Susan, and Sarah <3)! The results of my travels and experiences will then be filtered and posted in this blog, so all of you can keep up with my adventures!

Until next time,