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London Livin - First Post :)

I have been falling in love with London slowly. Yes, slowly, and yes… in love. I’m actually really surprised by this statement, for normally I fall hard and fast for big cities. However, as with most long-term relationships, maybe falling slowly is a good thing. It has given me a chance to digest all that I have observed this past week. Oh, yeah sorry. I realize I am a horrible blogger, and it indeed has been a week since I have moved to London to study abroad for the semester. Call it procrastination if you will, but I would like to call it my time off from constantly connecting with the interwebs. It’s been a time to actually slow down for once. A time to really get to know where I will be living for the next three and half months.

The other day, I was really inspired by our Academic Program Director who spoke during one of our many orientation meetings the past week. He was talking about the reasons to study abroad and the major takeaways from the experience. He was also talking to us about how connected our generation is to our smart phones and social media outlets. Of course, we have all heard the shpiel about the risks that come with being addicted to our phones, but this time I think I actually listened.

Studying abroad can teach you how to miss people. However, if you are always connected to what’s happening back home, you aren’t giving yourself the ability to live in the moment, the here and now. In fact, our director said you aren’t even in London when you are on Facebook, Twitter, browsing Reddit, etc. You are somewhere else completely, out of tune and out of touch with the environment you are in. Granted it’s important to stay in touch with loved ones, but learning to miss them can be a healthy and important skill to acquire. Our director finished his point by saying that learning to know you’re going to be okay away from loved ones now will better prepare you for the inevitable heartbreaks and pain of life later on. I wasn’t expecting him to say this at all. This was not the welcome to London orientation speech I had come ready to sit through. This was something else. It made me stop. It made me think. It made me listen.

So, yes, I have been falling in love with London slowly. To be honest, adjusting to London has been a bit more challenging than I thought. I would like to think I am good at adjusting to new experiences, but maybe knowing the length of my stay has made me a little more reflective, and a little more homesick than normal. Don’t get me wrong! I am having a beautiful time so far! I’ve already made new friends, gone to see amazing things, and learned to ride the tube all by myself (anyone who knows me well enough knows how horrible I am with directions). However, moving to London has already taught me to slow down a little. It’s not giving me what I came here for all at once. After all, falling in love can happen fast and slowly all at once. I guess as I get better at this blogging thing, the loving London thing will get even better too.

Gordon ' s Milestones, Part 1: The S.E.P.

On Where Pianos Roam

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to document my life.  I got to thinking a few days ago that I really want to make a written record of some of the proudest and most memorable moments in my existence on this earth thus far.  So, I've decided to start an ongoing series of instalments entitled "Gordon's Milestones".    These entries will document the most significant moments that have made me who I am today and who I will continue to become. I now present to you the first instalment:

You down with SEP?  Yeah, you know me!!!  You down with SEP?  Every Last homie!!! Okay, so, you must be wondering, what, for the sake of Anne of Green Gables, is the "SEP"?  Well, I'll reveal this later.  I really should backtrack a little to the point at which this adventure first started. Back in American Samoa--the tiny Pacific island I grew up on--, I went to a private Catholic Highschool for boys called Marist Brothers Highschool in a little village on the west side of the island called Malaeloa.  Most of my family and friends would agree at the time that I was very studious.  My nose was always firmly implanted in several books, and I was fully entrenched in the pursuit of academic excellence.  On the first semester of my freshman year, I had achieved a straight A+ average in all of my classes.  I had kept this a secret from all of my classmates, but luckily for me, the entire school faculty was very aware of my private relentlessness. [caption id="attachment_232" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Marist Bros. High--Home of the Crusaders!!"][/caption] One day, early on in the second semester, my science teacher asked me to stay after class to discuss something with me.  She casually handed to me what looked like some sort of application.  She said it was in fact an application tailored specifically for "minority freshmen students who showed outstanding  academic ability".  (These were her words, not mine.)  Only students who fell under this humbling description needed to apply, and those accepted would be carried away later that year in July on an all-expenses-paid trip to study all the major branches of science at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. Okay, so, drum roll please .  .  .  the name of the program was the National Cancer Institute's Science Enrichment Program, otherwise known as the SEP. (Yeah you know me!!)  This was a federally funded, nationwide program. Honestly, when she casually suggested that I apply, I thought there was no chance in hell that I'd get in.  I knew that there would be several very exceptional and talented applicants.  It was also not known how many applicants from my island would be accepted because they were taking applications from ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES!!!!  So, I put the paperwork away.  I had a month before the postmark deadline to send it off. Initially, out of fear of being disappointed and rejected, I was not going to pursue this, but over the next few days, I had one teacher after another casually asking about the application and encouraging me to go for it.  So, finally, on the week it needed to be sent  off, I went for it.  I needed to fill out the darn thing, get a couple of teacher recommendations, include transcripts from my elementary school and for my freshman year thus far, and write an essay explaining why I deserved to go.  My Mom drove me to the post office on the very day of the postmark deadline.  I remember saying a little prayer before I dropped the envelope into the mail slot.  As I turned around to get back to the truck where my mom was waiting, I vividly remember thinking that it's probably too late and that I missed my chance. Imagine my shock and surprise when the principle of my school came up to me one month later with a big fat grin on his face.  He told me that my application was accepted and that I was one of only three students who got in out of all the applicants from the island.  I could not believe it.  Something like this had NEVER happened to me before.  I didn't know that I would be on the brink of something that would change my life. A couple of months later, I was whisked away to Frederick, Maryland where I took up residence in the dorms of Hood College for an entire month of jam-packed activities.  During the week, we took classes in biology, chemistry, and physics.  The primary purpose of the program was to provide a science-oriented environment that encouraged minority students to eventually pursue a math/science field as a future career.  The entire program was incredibly well-organized.  It wasn't just about science.  I had experienced many "firsts" on this trip.  Here is a list of as many "firsts" as I can remember .  .  . 1.  It was my first trip to the east coast of the US. 2.  I had my first Subway sandwich. 3.  It was my first time staying in a dorm (with a really cool roomate from Hawaii). 4.  I rode on my first roller coaster ride. 5.  My first visit to Washington DC--we went to the Capitol building, Lincoln and Vietnam Memorial, and all of the Smithsonian museums. There was probably one HUGELY siginificant thing that happened on this trip. It was the first time I can remember ever making real friends. Back in Samoa, I think I used books and studying as a shield.  It was a safe pursuit that I was confident in.  My classmates only ever related to me in an academic sense.  I was the one to approach about homework or problem-solving, never the one to just hang out with.  It kept me from really getting to know people and kept me very sheltered. Well, at the SEP, I had somehow befriended some of the most amazing people.  We were all awkward teenagers who, strangely enough, all seemed like outcasts.  We represented every extreme body shape imaginable, along with pimples, warts, and other lovely eccentricities.  It was the first time I can remember being accepted as both a real person and a friend by my peers.  This gang included Eddie and Teri from Texas, Becky from Virginia, Lori and Tulaga from Samoa, Jose, and a few other folks who I'm having trouble remembering.  Of all the little groups of friends that formed, we were the most obnoxiously loud and carefree.  I learned the true value of friendship at the SEP, and this changed me forever.  It is a lesson I hold dear to this day. I look back on the SEP with the deepest fondness.  Not only did I discover friendship in its truest sense, but it was one of the first times that I really started to believe in myself and to not doubt my own abilities. There is evidence that this actually happened.  Click HERE to get a full official description. So, am I down with SEP? Yes.  Always. -g

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