Now that I am back home from a 36-hour stint in Austin, TX, I can share a few fun stories, and I can focus on the larger picture: graduation and post-undergrad happenings.
Disclaimer: Some of these pictures are with my iPhone, and they are not exactly quality pictures.
I spent a meager 36 hours in Austin to attend a political science conference. There, I nervously presented my senior honors thesis before a small crowd of mostly men, save one woman who came ten minutes before the entire segment ended. My panel included male graduate students. I thought one of my professors was joking when she said that it would likely be just men in attendance, that I would likely be the only female in the room. It was not a joke. I was the only female. I was the only undergraduate. The audience and panel had degrees from, studied at, or worked at some of the top political science programs in the nation. Needless to say, it was a little intimidating, but I managed. It is over. Finally. Thankfully. I have bigger fish to fry.
There were a few milestones made in this trip. I will take them point by point.
First, this was my first plane ride. EVER. Twenty-one years on earth, revolutions around the sun and I had yet to take to the skies. Mission accomplished. Would I hop back on a plane tomorrow? No, probably not. A few months from now. Yes, probably so. Flying is a different experience. Everything the plane feels, you feel, and it is not always a comfortable feeling.
I had a forty-minute layover in Atlanta for the first leg of my journey to Austin, and it was like traveling into a mini-city blind, without any navigational tools. I found my gate with fifteen minutes to spare before boarding began. And of those fifteen minutes, I spent ten minutes in the bathroom applying makeup…the fastest I have ever moved. By the time my plane landed in Atlanta for my return home, I had conquered the layout of the airport and moved with precision from gate to gate and floor to floor, grabbed food, and waited patiently without an ounce of worry.
Second, first solo trip. I was alone on my trip to Austin. Solo flight. Solo commute. Solo eating. Solo experiencing. I was grounded in downtown Austin for the entirety of my stay, and I would argue that it is fairly walkable (new year, new words?). For a solo trip, I felt safe, but I was harassed by a homeless man on my way to the Capitol Building. However, the downtown area has a nice amount of people walking around at night. I never felt unsafe, but I did stick to the main artery in downtown, Congress Avenue. So, perhaps it is better to say that Congress Avenue, at night, is safe. The JW Marriott, which is where I stayed, seemed to be the perfect location to maneuver the downtown area. It was close to food and within walking distance to a few activities.
Third, first major conference. I attended the Georgia Political Science Association in November, where attendees were from Georgia colleges. Therefore, this conference in Austin, TX, the Southern Political Science Association, was a huge deal. Professors from every institution across each state were in attendance. With them comes new perspectives and new mannerisms. Not everyone is representative of the South, and I was nervous about what characters I would meet.
Fourth, first time eating sushi. This was by accident. I thought I was ordering a spring roll of salmon, avocado, and cream cheese, buttttt I got sushi. That will not happen again, haha!
Fifth, first time eating alone. I was a little nervous about this one. I ate at the famed 1886 Cafe and Bakery at the Driskill Hotel the first day I arrived in Austin. My plane touched down around twelve, but I did not make it to my room until about 12:45-ish. I knew that the cafe closed at 2, so I expected a small crowd. Typically, I am not one to do things alone, but I am glad I had the nerve to do it. Two other customers in the cafe had the guts to do it too, and the food was worth the guts. If you are in Austin, stop by this cafe and order the cheese soup. YOU. WILL. NOT. REGRET. IT. I also had breakfast alone at the Le Cafe Crepe on the corner, I knew it was small, and I knew it was early. There was a small crowd too, as expected, and some were eating alone. I suppose the moral of the story is that you are never truly alone. Whether you are the first to be alone or the fifth. You are not alone. Sometimes, you just need guts to be first, to be the leader, and that is okay.
Sixth, first time out west (I saw one cowboy hat!). This milestone speaks for itself. The farthest I have ever traveled from home is Cozumel, Mexico…AGES ago.
If Savannah, Atlanta, and Macon had a baby, Austin would be it. Atlanta for the skyscrapers. Savannah for the historic/downtown feel in some sections. Macon for the entire layout and its construction. Austin is a nice place, but it was not my favorite. I found myself missing Georgia, home, which was shocking to me. I realized that Austin offers the same thing as Georgia and that I had not missed much. 36 hours, in another city, like NYC, would not be enough, but 36 hours in Austin was all that I needed. It concerns me that, if I manage to obtain a letter of acceptance from one of the DC grad schools that I applied to, I will hold the same opinion of DC…eventually. I worry that the city will wash off me, and I will become bored with it. I have not been to DC in seven years, and seven years ago, that place felt like home, it felt especially made for me. I have starry eyes for it now and for longest I have wanted only to return, but will I appreciate it in the years to come?
This solo trip gave me the courage to pursue further solo trips. I am dying to go to Scotland one day. Maybe someday soon. It also gave me a will to do things alone and to be okay with doing that. My presentation reminded me not to psych myself out about this. Yes, it is worrisome to present research in front of an unknown number of people, to expect criticism but be unsure of how harsh or nice it will be, and to fear mistakes in execution or interpretation of research, but I hate myself a bit more for hyping the whole affair. It is not a big deal, and I need to remind myself of this. Hopefully, it will become a bit easier each time. It must.
So, for my first week of class, considering I missed TWO DAYS, it went well. I will be busting my tush for the next few days in an attempt to play catch up. I have a lot more fish to fry, and I ton more goals to meet. The next step is in waiting for responses to grad schools, and I pray for good news. Happy long weekend to you!