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4 days and 300 pictures later...

Friday, July 6, 2012

And I'm back from Pre-Departure Orientation in Washington, DC!

My adventure began when I woke up at 3 AM on the 26th to get to the airport in time to check in and board my flight - which left at the ungodly hour of 5:35 AM. I can't say I've never been up at 3 AM, but I have definitely never been woken up at 3 AM. We got there before security was even open.

A sight you don't really want to see. It means you're up WAY too early.

My flights to DC were fairly uneventful, and thankfully all on time. I arrived in DC, and got to see the wonderful ladies of SHOCK once again! In case you forgot (or I haven't explained), SHOCK is a group of the five of us who were in the YES Abroad '12-13 Hopefuls FB group before pretty much everyone else. We bonded before and during the IPSE and we're all YES Abroad Finalists, so we've gotten to stick together for a pretty long time! These ladies are all hilarious and of course we're all going through the same process so it's been great to have friends to share things with. 

Here we are in order: Sara (me!), Hannah, Olivia, Carly, and Katie.
Reppin' Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Thailand and Bosnia! 

The orientation in DC was extremely informative but definitely tiring. On the first day, we didn't do much, but Day 2 was full of workshops on topics like how to deal with homesickness, the AFS chain of communication, and awkward scenarios we might encounter in our host countries, and how best to deal with them. Day 3 was the most exciting; we went to the US State Department, the Indonesian embassy and we even got to visit the Lincoln Memorial.

What made this day special however was not all the walking or driving in DC that we got to do (trust me, after sitting in the same room for hours, getting to walk around is a really awesome feeling), it was getting to go to the Indonesian embassy. Although our time there was tragically short, all 8 of us YES Abroad Indonesia students got to meet all 70 of the Yes Inbound students from Indonesia!

The Indonesian students were extremely warm and welcoming, and there were a lot of questions asked between us. We even got to hear the Indonesian ambassador/foreign minister speak, and his speech was pretty inspiring. Because we YES Abroaders had to leave early, we got called up for a 'photo opportunity' which ended up being one of the craziest moments of my life to date: what began as one person taking a picture ended up with nearly all of the Indonesians in the room whipping out their cameras for a picture. We stood up there smiling for so long my cheeks started to hurt and I probably started looking a little like a gremlin in all the pictures...

Or maybe not. I need to find a better-quality version of this sometime!

After we all visited our country-specific embassies, the YES Abroad group met to hear the Undersecretary of State Tara Sonenshine and the YES program officer, Kevin Baker, speak to us. They both had some very interesting things to say and after hearing them talk about the effects of YES Abroad I'm 10x more proud to have been selected for this amazing scholarship. We also got to ask questions to a panel of State Department officers but I gotta say, by that time in the afternoon I was exhausted and ready for a nap. I've unofficially decided that diplomacy just isn't for me; I can't sit in chairs and listen to other people talk for that long!

Inside the State Department!

YES Abroad '12-13 :) Photo by Emily Simpson.

The rest of the orientation passed by in a flurry of more workshops, guest speakers, and of course, learning all we could about Indonesian culture from our group leader, a wonderful lady from Surabaya named Ines. Among the more interesting cultural tidbits we learned were that Indonesians don't appreciate having their heads touched (meaning I'll be forced to break my hair-ruffling habit), that rice is eaten for EVERY meal, and that schools usually start at 7 AM - or earlier.

Although I could have spent much longer just hanging out with the Indonesia group or my other YES Abroad friends, the time came when we all had to pack up our bags, print off our boarding passes, and say goodbye - especially to the India, Thailand, and Malaysia kids who were headed off to another hotel, then ultimately their host countries. After lots of hugs and promises to keep in touch, SHOCK sadly broke off in separate directions to head off to hotels and airports.

Sitting in the airport with some friends from the Indonesia group, some from the IPSE, and some who I just started to get to know right then, my heart was light. Even though I had just said some hard goodbyes, knowing I might not see certain people in person again, I can say I wasn't (and am not) sad, because so much lies before me. I leave for New York City in 60 days - Indonesia in just a couple more than that. There's a completely foreign country for me to land in, a culture for me to absorb, and a year for me to fill with the experiences of a lifetime. I might not be ready juuust yet, but I know I will be, and in the meantime, I'm more excited than I could ever say.

Now, please enjoy miscellaneous pictures from the orientation. After all, I did take about 300 of them.

Indonesia 2012-13! From left to right, there's our group leader Ines, Sabine, Avery, Hamza, Morgan, David, Julianne, me, and Darlene. 

The ceiling at the Indonesian Embassy...
Look ma, I saw the White House!
Due to a super tight schedule, we missed the Indonesian meal at the embassy. So, we had to split two sandwiches and three boxes of granola bars between the eight of us. Most definitely something I'll remember. 
All of SHOCK got these bracelets, thanks to Liv. Mine's in the colors of the Malaysian flag, where Hannah is.
Best part of visiting the East Coast is Dunkin' Doughnuts, of course!


  1. SHOCK will have a reunion! Legit, I'm not even kidding this is going to happen. Maybe we can beg Allen to let us all be helpers at the IPSE for 2014-2015 :)



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I'm Sara, the freckled bule, one out of eight of the coolest people in the world. I spent a year in Indonesia as a KL/YES Abroad student but now I live in Boise, Idaho. Welcome to my bloggity blog.


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