A visit to my alma mater

Current mood:  Embers by Owl City.  Current weather:  Rainy and cloudy, but the sun’s showing in the West.

This weekend, I went on a trip back to my alma mater, Washington State University (Go Cougs!).  It was the last chance I’d have to go before a lot of my friends graduated and left.  All in all, I had a great time.  I flew to SeaTac, where I met two of my friends.  We drove the 5 hours to get to Pullman, then I stayed there until Monday.  We went to see Kimi no na wa (Your Name), which is a fantastic movie.  We played Codenames 13 times.  I got to go to my favorite restaurants there, and go to mass at the Newman Center where I met so many people and spent so many hours.  I got to talk to my advisor and boss (though not for as long as I would have liked).  And most importantly, I got to see my friends again.

Sometimes, I regret going out of state for my undergraduate education.  I wouldn’t change my decision for the world; my time at WSU was one of the best in my life.  But it is difficult having to leave all my friends in Washington behind, to return to New Mexico.  Most of them can see each other during the holidays or the summer when they go back to their families.  But I need to spend a while traveling to them, and I can never spend as long as I want.  Through the internet, I am able to talk with them, share jokes, and keep in touch, but it’s just not the same as being able to be with them, share a meal, or play board games.

As the saying goes, “the journey is more important than the destination”.  But for me, the long flights between Washington and New Mexico were always one of the worst parts of being from a different state.  It generally took a full day of travel, and during that time I was by myself.  Going on trips with friends or family is fun because you’ve got people there with you; people you can talk to and pass the time with.  Traveling back at the end of a semester (or in this case after a visit) can be an ordeal.  Waiting in airports for my flight to arrive, then sitting on a cramped plane for a few hours, then waiting to get my bags, all to arrive at my destination late at night can really take its toll on me.

When I was a freshman, I went on the SEARCH retreat with our Catholic Student Center.  At the end of the retreat, we had a moment where the leaders talked to us about how the weekend was drawing to a close.  They said that it can be jarring to return to normal life after an experience like SEARCH.  This is true for many different times in life, such as when you come back from a vacation, or just finished a long weekend.  The transition from joyfully having fun to the humdrum of day-to-day life can make people depressed and melancholic.  But it’s important to remember that the friendships and memories made will stay strong.  And, though the distance separating us may be far, there are planes and trains and automobiles.  I know that I will see my friends again, and I know that, no matter where life takes me, I will have a home in Washington.

For those of you who made it to the bottom of this post, here are some pictures of my trip, mostly of the drive from Seattle to Pullman and back.

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I do miss Washington state, and I would very much like to end up there when all’s said and done (i.e. I get a job).  I have decided that I love the culture and feel of the West Coast – laid back, friendly, and altogether pleasant.  My extremely tentative long-range plan is to finish my Master’s in astrophysics and then move up there.  I’d like to work in astronomy outreach and public education, like for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific or the Pacific Science Center.  However, this is all in years time, so we will see where life takes me.

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