Sunday, August 4, 2013

Saving the Best for Last

I still had 45 minutes, all packed, showered, and ready to go, before I'd have to drop off my bags with Ms. Neal. I decided to spend my time wisely rehearsing my presentation. We shoved our bags in the van, and most of us left to eat breakfast, but Michelle had been having trouble with her backpack, so I ran up to her room to see what was going on. Her zipper was pretty messed up, and I didn't really do all that much to help, but I stayed to lend her some space in my bag and walked with her to turn in our keys (I felt like a cop turning in her badge and gun), get breakfast, and go to class once it was fixed so she wouldn't be alone. We ate at Starbucks, then went to class. 

Dean Almandrez had us write up a list of skills and vocabulary we learned in the course. I had already forgotten that so many of those words and concepts were new. 

Sania adding a tally mark to a skill (it means she didn't have it before the course)

The vocabulary that came to mind right away as something we learned here.
I wrote "hegemony" and "xenophobia."

Then we did an activity where we sat in a circle and everyone closed their eyes except four people in the middle. Throughout the activity, everyone would get a chance to stand in the middle. The four in the middle were instructed to "touch someone who..." and the statements were things like, "...you think is wise," "...you would trust with a secret," "...you expect to become a great leader," or "...made you laugh." The people in the middle could tap anyone they felt the statement applied to on the shoulder or on the knee. I was pleasantly surprised by how many times I was tapped by my classmates. I never thought that I had such a significant effect on the people in my class, but it was really nice to learn that. I wish that more groups did that activity, because it really boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. Then we raised hands to give feedback about how the class went, and after a few answers, most of the class was in tears (I admit it, I was one of them). The one time I spoke I could barely make it through a sentence. I was amazed at how much of a profound impact this one course could make. Pretty soon, it was almost time for lunch, so we started saying our goodbyes and taking pictures. I gave hugs to people who were strangers two weeks ago, and found myself shaking to think I wouldn't see them again. 

Then we had our last meeting for the Leadership Institute and the parents, but it was mostly a "look what your kids have been doing" meeting that I didn't learn very much from. We then checked a list of names divided up by room for the place we would be giving our presentation and the group we would be giving it to. This was nothing new to me; in debate tournaments, the competitors wait eagerly for "postings," a sheet of paper with a room number and your competition for the round listed in the order you'll perform. The only difference was that for this, we didn't have to go in the written order. I made my way to my room on the third floor of Sayles Hall, and found more of the same waiting for me. We would be giving our speeches to about fourteen people (as much as a later round in a debate tournament) in a classroom (in debate, we compete in classrooms). There was no need to worry. Anything that was different from my Speech and Debate tournaments was different in a good way. Normally, I'd be nervous about memorization, but in this case, I had my whole speech written out in front of me. I would worry that my competition was too good, but we weren't trying to win anything. My nerves were virtually gone. 

As a result, my speech went wonderfully. I looked up from my note cards as much as possible to make eye contact, and memorized the lines I had written that played more on the audience's emotions. I watched my peers' eyes widen when I gave some startling statistics about depression in older adults, and I noticed that for the rest of my speech, I had the attention of the room—in a good way. 

When the time for questions came around, I only had to answer one, but it wasn't really asking anything and was more of a suggestion. I probably wouldn't be able to pull it off unless my project was a huge success, but I had to respond appropriately, and I think I did well. I was very relaxed when I watched the rest of the people in my group give their presentations, and I was so glad to be in a group of such bright people with such big plans. After presentations were more goodbyes. I gave Dean Almandrez a hug before I left, and told her that she had taught me so much, and she responded meaningfully, "you too." We spent a few minutes giving phone numbers and Facebook names to everyone (I had two friend requests from people in my class before I even got on the plane). We had to hurry to turn in the keys of the members of my cohort who hadn't done it before, then headed off to the airport. 

Could you guess that I took
this picture in Chicago?

We saw Sania, one of my classmates in Women and Leadership, at the airport. We talked for a bit, but she had to leave to catch her flight. The first flight to Chicago didn't seem so long because I got to make fun of Sonya's taste in music (in her defense, it was on shuffle), but for the second flight, I'd either fall into a quick nap or stare at the seat in front of me thinking about seeing my family again. After an exhausted eternity on the plane, we landed, and soon enough, we were moving down an escalator towards our families. I ran to give my brother a hug, tears in my eyes, then embraced my mother and my father. I'd missed them all so much. We drove home, and I couldn't wait to sleep in my own bed. Finally...I was home.
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