Sunday, April 14, 2013

IPSE 101

So for those of you who aren't aware, if chosen as a YES semifinalist, you get to attend the In Person Selection Event. This year, the IPSE was in D.C. for the first time! Here's my IPSE journey.

The day had finally arrived. My alarm woke me up at 3:45 AM to catch the redeye flight to Minneapolis at 6 AM. Even though I'm not typically a morning person, I was wide eyed and ready to go. The three weeks leading up to this day had gone by surprisingly fast. My dad took me to the lovely five gate airport of Bozeman and we parted ways. The flight from Bozeman to Minneapolis was uneventful. And I had but a quick layover in Minneapolis. Next thing I knew, I was on my flight to D.C. Looking back on my journal, it's strange to remember how nervous I was feeling in that moment before I touched down in D.C. "I am currently sitting on a plane in Minneapolis, awaiting takeoff to Washington, D.C. Within a few hours, my future for next year will begin to be determined. My plane is beginning to move. My heart is starting to beat fast, and my hands are shaking so much it's difficult to keep writing. Over the past few weeks, I've created online friendships with several other semis. They will all soon be more than just pictures on Facebook. They will be real. The IPSE is supposed to be like the Hunger Games. But in reality, I feel like we are all long lost siblings coming together for the first time. I have so much love for all these kids. I hope they all get their top choice country and get to go on an adventure of a lifetime. We are all in this together, and I can only hope for the best." I finally arrived in D.C. and felt so so so excited. I went and found a YES representative. I was the only one there but soon more people began showing up. The first familiar face I saw was Sarah Ketterhagen. We threw our arms around each other and people were curious as to how we already knew each other because there weren't a whole lot of us in the Facebook group. Catherine came next and gave me one of the 120 friendship bracelets she made for all the semis. After a few minutes of chatting and playing a few icebreakers our round of shuttles came and got us.

Our bus ride into D.C. was probably one of the coolest things of my life. We were all so happy to finally be together! We drove past a few monuments which was super cool for the small town girl that I am. After a short ride, we arrived at the conference center!

This picture just doesn't do this place justice. It was HUGE. And it was pretty easy to get lost in. Upon arrival, we all checked, were given our handbooks, nametags and room assignments. Let me tell ya, I was all about those name tags. I mean, just look at how professional they are!

Each room had four people (the room had bunk beds.) My roomies were Eleanor, Alanna, and Brianna. You could say they were pretty cool but, that would be an understatement. And the craziest part was, Eleanor was from Montana too! Who woulda thought? Anyways, after getting situated in my room, I found Charis!! 

You could say we were pretty stoked to see each other. After a few hours of wandering around the hotel, we had an introduction meeting. Another excerpt from my journal, "The super famous Allen Evans walked into the room along with all of the other evaluators and State Department members. It was intense. There were multiple speakers who told us how brave we were for having interest in the YES countries. These countries aren't easy, and YES isn't a big vacation. It's a job. It was an intense meeting that sparked fear, excitement, determination, and readiness all at once. It made me want YES SO MUCH MORE." After the meeting it was dinner time. Charis and I went... nuts. It was buffet style with an extensive dessert bar. We seriously had ice cream and cake and cookies at every meal. 

So yeah, the food was good. The rest of the evening consisted of more hanging out and adventuring with Charis. Curfew was at ten. By that time, I was exhausted. I was out like a lightbulb. The next day was quite busy for me. First, we had a workshop where we were put into small groups and we discussed our journey of being American.

After, we had group evaluations. I can't say much about it, but, it was really fun! Shout out to group J! We had a total of two group evals. Later that day, I also had my personal interview. You could say I was freaking out. Here's my interview outfit.

In between all of that stuff, we had a ton of down time. And I mean, a ton. But that was totally okay with me because I had no problem with hanging out with all of my new friends... AKA, Charis. Saturday night was difficult because we were all leaving the next day. But, we made the best of it. Some of us had a little dance party out on the patio. 

Sunday morning, we had our closing ceremony with everyone. Allen said, "Raise your hand if you've made a new friends this weekend." Charis and I looked at each other and shot our hands in the air, while our inside hands were clasped together. From there, we all had to grab our stuff and leave. It was rough. I had to try really hard to keep the tears in my eyes. I hated not knowing if I was ever going to see these amazing kids again. 

So that was it. I was headed home from my short lived, fantasy weekend in D.C. For those of you who are considering applying, get ready to create some of the greatest friendships. The IPSE was magical. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I'm Headed to Indonesia!

Oh hey, didn't see ya there! For those of you who don't know me, my name is Mallory. My name literally translates to "unlucky one." However, I can't say I consider myself unlucky because... I just found out I get to spend my senior year in Indonesia with the Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad program. Now that the shock has (sort of) worn off, I decided I could tell you a little about my journey here. It all started way back in October. I had found out about YES through another gal from my town who is currently on the program. Anywho, I slayed away at the application for months. I couldn't tell you the amount of times I changed my essay answers, my country preferences, and my host family letter. I wanted that application perfect. My hard work paid off when I got my semi-finalist notification. (Just a heads up for all you future YES applicants, when they say they will notify you in late february, they literally mean the last possible hour of February.) Three short weeks later, I was on a plane to D.C. for the In Person Selection Event, AKA, IPSE. I could spend a whole blog post on the IPSE, so for now, let's just say it was one of the best weekends of my life. I had honestly thought that my YES journey was over. There were so many amazing, passionate kids that wanted the scholarship just as badly as I did. So yesterday, when notifications started coming out, I was just trying to feel happy for all the kids that were getting them. Then, my phone vibrated, the vibrate pattern that indicates that I have an email. I was expecting another email from Pinterest or Spotify. "YES Abroad Program in Indonesia" was all I saw. I threw my hands to my head, screamed, jumped on the bed, screamed some more. I was babysitting my younger brother and sister. They both started questioning what I was screaming and freaking out about. I just scooped them both up into a big hug and started bawling. I couldn't talk. I started calling all of my friends, unable to really tell any of them what was going on. I paced around my house for a solid twenty minutes before finally sitting back down at the computer to see where all my other friends were going. I couldn't believe it. To be honest, I still can't believe it. I have never felt so many contradicting emotions before. On one hand, I've never been more ready for anything. On the other, I'm absolutely terrified. I'm excited, but uneasy. Ecstatic but, apprehensive. My good friend from Maryland, (Shout out to Charis who is going to Morocco), text me and said, "What the heck were we thinking when we applied to this?" My feelings exactly. All I know for sure is that I'm ready. I'm ready for this adventure and I'm ready for my life to change. And the countdown begins.