Hello everyone! My name is Kelley Northam, and I am a senior majoring in Communication and History. I am also so excited to announce that I will be pursuing an M.A. in Professional Writing at Carnegie Mellon University in Fall 2020. Some of you may remember me, as I was one of the pilot writers of the blog that occurred in Salzburg, Austria in 2018. Recently, I’ve been helping behind the scenes by assisting Dr. Kennedy and our current bloggers with sharing their travel stories. It was around this time two years ago that I remember reaching out to Emma and Haley, asking if they would be interested in starting a travel blog. Two years later, with the amazing support, guidance, and expertise of Dr. Kennedy and the Mount administration, our blog lives out the mission of the Mount in extraordinary ways that I never could have envisioned.
Besides the growth of the blog, a lot has changed since 2018, and it’s no secret that COVID-19 is currently changing life as we know it. My heart aches for our bloggers who had to cut their experiences abroad short and for all those suffering from the virus around the world. But, one of the things that I love about blogging is that I can just write what I feel. As such, I want this blog to be a break from the 24-hour news cycle, and I hope that by sharing some of my reflections, it will allow you to reflect as well.
When I think about that scared 20-year-old woman who was in a foreign country for the first time and was so proud of herself for venturing out alone to coffee shops and city squares (seriously, read my older blogs), I can’t help but smile. I vividly remember the feeling of pure confidence when I got to explore Austria solo and create my own adventure. To this day, I always bring up that feeling when talking about studying abroad, and I recently made a new connection when talking to my boyfriend about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the concept of Self-Actualization. For those who are unfamiliar, Maslow was a psychologist who believed that, if people have certain human needs meet (physiological, safety, sense of belonging, self-esteem), one can achieve self-actualization or the feeling that you are your truest self. The moment in my life where I felt self-actualized was when I was in Austria. On the recommendation of some locals, a few of us decided to cool off at a public lake, Salzachsee, on the outskirts of Salzburg. While I have always been a beach girl at heart, I had always wanted to know what swimming in a lake was like. As it turned out, I could not have picked a better place to try it, as the lake was clear enough that you could see the rocks and fish at the bottom as well as a mirror image of the Swiss Alps and Salzburg fortress across the surface. What made it even better was that, in the middle of the lake, there was a raft you could swim to and lounge on. I distinctly remember being bound and determined to reach the raft despite how far away it was from the shore. It took all of my stamina, but I was able to haul myself onto the raft and enjoy the sunshine and the landscape. It was that moment, where I felt so small in comparison to the beautiful world around me, that a wave of peacefulness washed over me, and I was struck by the reality of how truly blessed I was to be alive.
In my two years post-study abroad, there have been times where I felt like I lost the confidence that walking those beautiful streets instilled with me. But in those darker moments, I found myself reflecting on Austria and drawing on the courage and self-love that I discovered there. I recalled when I was lounging on the raft, or enjoying a liter of beer at the Augustiner brewery, or being a goof-ball when we tried to catch the last train home from Bad Ischl, and I was able to remind myself of how much of a gift life truly is.
For anyone who feels in a dark place right now, I encourage you to think about those moments where you felt at peace with yourself and the world. Whether that was abroad or in the comfort of your own home, reflecting and rejoicing in those moments can unlock a strength you didn’t even know you had. To sum everything up with my favorite Sound of Music quote, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Grüß Gott. God be with you, friends