The Inbetween

Charlie (Charles) McDowell
March 10, 2017


Your class registration date is on April 7th , 2017 at 10:30 am

It’s the first email I opened that morning. While I had known this was something I would have to do while abroad and I had made a tentative plan for what my next semester would look like, I was not prepared for the panic of trying to figure out my schedule that ensued after that email was read.

The future classes schedule was not finalized by the time I was applying to this semester, trying to map out the rest of my undergraduate career. I had worked out how many of what credits I would need, and how they would fit into my schedule to make the least stressful senior year possible-as if that’s possible when I still have my minor to finish and thesis to come up with for both of my majors. Basing all of my knowledge on how previous semesters have modeled their fall and spring schedules, I was hoping I could fill my Tuesdays and Thursdays with classes, leaving most of my week to a hopeful internship I need or more hours at work. Trying to plan the classes I’d need for my fall semester proved that it would be impossible. The only science class that I could take either takes place during a time slot that I need for a mandatory class or would require me to be on campus for four days of the week.

Would an internship still be possible if I couldn’t have a two day schedule? Should I push back one of my requirements and have a full schedule for my last semester? Is 9:45 too late to be coming home from class when I have an 8:00 am the next day? Is it worth it if it’s my only class of the day? How could I make my work schedule work for this? Will I be able to still do the research I wanted to do?

Normally these questions are easy. Building a schedule had never been this difficult before, but I realize just how different my life here is as I’m trying to build something for my future back home. Classes here are one, maybe two days a week. There is a lot of time in my schedule to fit in other things, I like having time to do things. Thinking of what my new schedule might look like, I’m plagued with fear that I’m not going to have enough time. How did it all fit into concise blocks of time before? How had I managed it?

My school schedule is not the only time I’ve felt the disconnect from my life here and my life home. Every time I want to call a friend, I have to do the math to see if they’ll be up, let alone free. I left the country before my grandmother was released from the hospital, and as someone who lives with her, the decisions about how to further her recovery are things I often wish I could be present for.

Before I left, someone told me not to worry about my friends back home; I’d make new friends when I got there, the ones back home would still be waiting for me. I took this advice as something that would apply to all aspects of my life back home, but none of it is true. I have to be present in my life back home just as much as I do my life here. While ignoring it might be easier sometimes, it might make for a slew of more interesting experiences and stories to tell my family when I get back home, it’s not possible to do. Life goes on, and right now my life is going on in two different locations simultaneously.

I feel almost like a double agent living one life while managing another, intimately connected with both, unsure of which person to be in any moment. Am I an international student, or am I a person from the suburbs, temporarily displaced in a different country on assignment to learn something. Can I be both? And can either of those people manage a life in the suburbs while also managing life in this old European city?

Well, I still don’t have the answer for that. Class registration is soon, my friends still message me when they’re up, and my mom calls me a few times a week to tell me how her and my grandmother and life back in the suburbs is. So far I’m doing well being in two places at once, but it’s not without dissonance. The man carrying a full upright bass onto the metro reminded me of my father, the old lady who smiled at me my grandmother. I find characteristics of some of my oldest friends in my new ones here and feed on the similarities. I fantasize about owning a bike when I get back home.

Has this split been created indefinitely? Will I one day be able to remember the time that I lived two places at once and think of myself as one whole person, and will the two people ever meet and become one as well? I feel like my time here is a hazy between, finding similarities in the differences, and laughing at how the differences can still be so similar. I’m growing to appreciate the things that remind me of home in a way that they never could be. I used to laugh as people who’ve studied abroad say that they left part of their heart in that place, but as I realize my role as two people at once, I think I might start to understand what they mean.

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Charlie (Charles) McDowell

<p>I am a 20 year old Psychology and Intercultural Studies major escaping the suburbs of Chicago in search of an adventure. I can be found reading or writing most of the time, and love to talk to people. I&#39;ve been daydreaming of traveling the world since I was a child, and am so excited that the time for that is finally here! Thank you for stopping by, I hope my stories are as helpful to you as these moments were for me.</p>

2017 Spring
Home University:
Elmhurst University
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