That November, when a friend took her own life, I shut mine down in response. I went home early for Thanksgiving break and cried when my plane took off from Denver on the way back to New Orleans. I didn’t want to return to my responsibilities and reality, I was no longer the young woman I prided myself on just a year earlier, the girl who ran for school senate without hesitation and tried to excel at every task big and small. When I returned for finals, I was a mess, my friends were a mess, and Tulane was a mess. With so many losses in our student body in such quick succession, no one was spared from some level of hurt. I was back in New Orleans at Tulane and the city and school I had fallen in love with just a year earlier became filled with anxieties and fears. Within days I was back on a plane to Colorado, forgoing my final tests on the condition that I complete them when I return in the spring.
At home, I consciously avoided anything that reminded me of school and the people I knew there. My mental health had deteriorated to a point where I could no longer distinguish the positives and the negatives in my life. Friends I loved and things I loved doing became anxiety inducing. At a family dinner, I found out my sister had accepted an internship with the Department of State in Vietnam- the very same program I had missed applying for two months earlier. I sobbed. I was so distraught with my current state that I perceived my sister’s success to be a personal failure even though the two were not at all connected. A little under a week later, I called my advisor and decided to forgo the spring semester for a semester of medical health leave. I had to drop out of the program which brought me to Tulane, gave me my first family away from home, and had formed a large portion of my identity at school because keeping up with it after a semester off would have been too much to handle.
Today I cried again. But this time I cried because I’m so happy. Today was the last day of my internship at the US Embassy in Budapest, and the tears started pricking my eyes the moment I handed over my badge and said goodbye to my boss. This summer has been more than I ever could have imagined, I have been so fortunate to live in a beautiful city, make lasting friendships, and work in an office full of friends and encouragement. When I left Tulane, I didn’t even know if I would be able to go back to university, let alone receive an offer for my dream internship. After returning to Tulane last fall, I finally applied for a summer with the State Department. I still didn’t have my act together, but I had made loads of progress from where I started. When I found out I made it to the interview portion, I didn’t believe it. I wore one of my favorite dresses during my phone interview, and paced around my room like a mad woman. A month later, I found out I was not picked, I would be an alternate. I was devastated, but continued with clearances just in case something happened with the number one pick. In June, I received an email asking if I’d still like to come to Budapest. I literally ran down the stairs in a huff I was so confused and excited.
So I want to say thank you. Thank you to my sisters and my friends who helped me listen to my heart and stay positive throughout the process. Thank you to my parents and grand-parents who not only have emotionally supported me throughout everything, but who are also the reason that I have the privilege to accept an internship abroad. Thank you to my roommate in Budapest, who reminded me that the idea of finding nice girl friends with similar values is not an unreal expectation. Thank you to my coworkers, who answered my ceaseless questions and treated me with such kindness. Thank you to my bosses, who helped me restore my confidence in my work ethic and abilities, and make me feel like myself again.
My time in Budapest has unfortunately come to an end, but it will stay with me forever. I am overwhelmed thinking about the last couple of years that have easily featured most of my highest highs and lowest lows. I honestly don’t think I would be able to appreciate this experience the same way had everything not happened and taught me to stay true to myself and find my own happiness. When I board my plane this weekend, I will have happy tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. Thank you Budapest for teaching me to move forward, you will always have a special place in my heart for helping me feel like me again.