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The Letter Writing Project: Unplanned (Student AGAIN!)

Ciao people! I'm blogging all the way from Bologna, Italy! Beautiful city, interesting experiences so far. This blog was written a couple of days ago and didn't get posted because I got quite self-conscious about what it was about (definitely NOT my grandest moment). But after some thought I decided to post it. I feel it's important to acknowledge both struggles and triumphs, especially if growth is the bottom line objective, and particularly since life does throw us a curve ball from time to time. Alors...I'd say enjoy...but given the subject matter, maybe "I hope this speaks to you in some way" is more appropriate? Here goes..

"It isn't what you did in the past that will affect the present. It's what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future." - Aleph (Paulo Coelho)

Le Due Torri - Symbol of Bologna
It’s been a week and a day since I arrived in Bologna land, which coincidentally, is the very reason why we have so many foods “Bologna” – think Spaghetti Bolognese. While I just sampled a gelato for the first time ever two days ago (whatever took me so long?!), my appreciation for the city soon-to-be-called-home started from day 1.

I’d written a post earlier while transiting through Brussels, Belgium about why I was a bit melancholic about leaving Ghana and what I hoped for here in Italy and at Johns Hopkins's Bologna Center, and guess what? The entire narration got deleted. Thrown out the door. Just like that. Basically, it became one of those ‘blog your way through your emotions’ posts, because as it turned out, it was just an outlet for me.

Now, fast forward to today and all that has happened already – it’s crazy what can happen in a week! – and I’m beginning to wonder whether my lil blog mishap wasn’t a harbinger of what was yet to come. I must say that I haven’t really gotten to explore Bologna inside and out (yet) since I pretty much got wrapped up in finding a place to live, getting the necessary documents, meeting classmates, choosing classes, and really, just trying to settle in. But I will. Eventually. Promise.

Anyway, anyone who knows anything about me – or reads this blog – knows how keen I am about development issues. As it were, getting into JHU was a huge deal for me especially considering the richness of their economics (development) program. I was simply enthused about getting into the international development concentration and going through the course listings, I wanted to do it all. Of course, that’s impossible. So, in order to maximize my opportunities, I carefully mapped out my plan for the next year, down to which classes I would take and what-not.

Now, there was only one thing – I had to pass a microeconomics exam in order to guarantee my spot. Econ major in college, easy peasy, right? Oh of course. Only sometimes it isn’t. Throw in the fact that you’ve been out of school for two years, and surprise, surprise, your brain has basically refashioned itself to suit your new frame of mind, and that certainty starts bordering on “maybe?” Question mark and all. In order to cut a long story short, lets just say I didn’t quite meet that requirement. I could list a whole ton of excuses (which I have been telling myself over and over) about why I didn’t simply fly through this one, but bottomline is I struggled. Literally stumbled from one question to the next.

So, whereas a week ago, I was certain about my field of study and academic plan for the year, with everything else being up in the air, this time around the script has been flipped. I have a place to live (Alhamdulilahi), an interesting internship which should begin soon, and a handful of people I’m already putting in the ‘friend’ category.  What I don’t have now though, is an academic plan. Don't get me wrong, I'm still pursuing international relations and economics as a program, I just have to reroute myself and figure out a 'new'concentration/major/specialization while tryna foresee how it fits in with my overall career aspirations. I’ve been blind-sighted before, but this particular one was a bit hard to take. Think being knocked breathless after a hard breakup. Yeah, sorta like that. Coupled with the tears and everything.

What happened next? Well, if you must know, I found (find? Still happens occasionally) myself questioning whether I should be here in the first place - in this world-renowned international studies program. Whether I really am ready to delve right back into academics, and in such an austere training program too! I caught myself ALMOST calling myself stupid – never has that happened, and thank God I snapped right out of it - because whoever ‘fails’ microeconomics? It was very humbling, trust me. Definitely reminded me that I’m here to learn, first and foremost. Above all, I felt like I had just wasted an awesome opportunity.

Maybe I did. But see, the thing is, I am still here. It’s barely even week 2 and classes are yet to start. This chapter is just being written, so why am I slamming the book shut before I’ve even begun? I don’t know, but I guess we do that to ourselves sometimes.

Alors, what’s the point of this soliloquy? I guess its about giving myself a second chance; trusting the process and God, and this time, of having some flexibility. I was actually quite astounded when I heard myself explaining the very intricate mapping of my academic foray to the program director. I certainly didn’t know I had it all planned out to the last detail, but apparently I did. And as it seems, my plan left very little room for much else. So, I’m starting afresh (not by choice, but rather by design). I’m going to try to come up with a new concentration/major that still has elements of development in there, but that also takes things like… I don’t know yet… into consideration.

Maybe this is a good thing - being propelled to keep an open mind (and I thought I was open minded  before lol). Maybe I will discover something interesting about myself I had been unaware of before. Hopefully, it won't go down as one of my biggest regrets (tofiakwa, God forbid!) Eitherway, I’m taking it a step at a time. If anything, it’s a challenge to me to prove that I’m worthy of this field and the enormous undertaking that I’ve professed in under (and loud) tones that I want to pursue. And since I’m apparently great at professing things, here’s another one: Whatever happens, I WILL excel. Mark my words.

So yeah, once I figure out – actually, once I have some idea of (flexibility, remember?) – my area of focus, you all will be the first to know. Until then, I’m keeping it zen. Open mind, open heart. And with that, it's ciao for now!

P.S.: On a historical note, Bologna is famous for its "twin towers" (Le Due Torri), both of them are leaning. I'd say that's symbolic of the need for flexibility when living (studying) in Bologna, no? To read more about the towers, click here:

Photo Source: Towers

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