From the (very cluttered) guest bedroom in Meemaw’s house:

Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother’s home is generally free of clutter. Every square foot of the house is just about as tidy as can be—except her person clothing closet. (But don’t tell her I said that.) However, I’ve managed to make a mess of her guest room this week. Dozens of skirts and dresses, a twelve-week supply of toiletries, and almost every over-the-counter medication you can think of are scattered across the bed, floor, and both dressers.

Packing for this adventure has been quite an adventure in and of itself: How often will I have the chance to do laundry? Will I really read the three novels that I’m packing? Do they sell Dramamine in the Philippines? I’ve spent the week creating and referencing several unorganized packing lists, and I’ve been to Walmart more times than I’m comfortable sharing.

Today I will embark on a journey that I’ve been planning for over six months. While I’m beyond grateful for the special opportunity to travel all over the world, labelling the planning process “stressful” would be an absolute understatement. The pressure has taken a toll on my health, academics, and relationships. I’ve lost sleep, skipped some meals, and even missed an assignment (or four…). Although the work that I have put into planning this trip has at times felt endless, the day of departure has finally arrived. I’m eagerly awaiting the moment when I finally board the plane from Atlanta to London. I hope that these months of preparation, worry, and exhaustion will culminate into excitement, curiosity, and adventure.

My first stop: England. On the ground, I will be interviewing leaders of Sistema England in London as they continue to prepare for the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra (SEYO) residency this coming August. At this event, hundreds of students and teachers from all over Europe will gather at the Birmingham Conservatoire for ten days of music making and networking. Also, while in England, I will be travelling to Liverpool for four days to visit In Harmony Liverpool—an El Sistema program frequently identified as one of the most important of its kind. There, I will observe programming, conduct interviews, and help out in any way that I can during my short visit.

As promised in my last post, here three more people/places/things that I’m thankful for:

  • 1. Sarah Bartolome and Eric Booth—two incredible mentors that have guided me through this entire process. Without them, I would not have even been awarded this opportunity, yet alone gotten through the last six months of planning it.
  • 2. Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) and the Bienen School of Music—through their additional generosity on top of my original grant, I was able to make this trip a reality.
  • 3. The unnamed big-box store in Millington, just a short ten-minute drive from my home—many trips and a couple of hundred dollars later, I’m completely packed and ready for the next three-ish months.