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by Laura Bizarri, University of Connecticut

Only two days left. Piranha is playing the guitar on the porch. Elayna, our wild country girl, is starting the bonfire, or “bondfire” as Pati called it. I look around and see the faces that have been part of my life for the past six weeks. Pati and Sofi told us at the very beginning of the course that this would be a life changing experience not only professionally but also on personal level. Some of us don’t like to admit it, but it’s so true.

I came into this experience not really knowing what to expect. I leave a changed person with a heart full of emotions, full of memories. While I have definitely learned many valuable things that will help me throughout my career, for me the change was more personal. I have experienced, seen, felt, so many things that never in a million years I thought I would see, experience, feel. I have tested so many of my personal limits with some failures but many successes. I have met so many cool people that I hope will stay in my life beyond the course. I have made a new best friend. Someone that sometimes seemed to know me better than I do even though we had just met. Because this is what spending every moment of every day for six weeks together does. It lets you get to know people, whether you like it or not. It strips your soul naked. The hardships, both physical and mental, really expose people for who they truly are, and that is the beauty of this course.

Two more days. Some people can’t wait to go back to their lives, to their families. Me? Not so much. Missing my families is one of those uncomfortable feelings that I’ve gotten used to, or rather that I’ve learned to hide, mostly from myself. For me going back to my life means going back to La Selva, to my work, my research. But after all the things I’ve seen, experienced, felt, is it possible to go back? I’m scared I won’t be able to, mentally. I’m scared after all the adrenaline that I got from constantly moving around and experiencing new things almost every week, going back to the doing the same thing every day won’t be enough. And maybe that’s the point. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe I’ll love the routine like I did before. Maybe I won’t. All I know is that while it scares me, maybe for the first time in my life it doesn’t petrify me. If there’s something, anything, that this course has taught me, it’s that nothing ever goes the way you planned. But it’s OK.

So, with a full heart, full of all sorts of things, I say thank you!
Thank you to Pati and Sofi, this experience would have been so different without you both.
Thank you to my dear friend Ana, I can’t even express how much you have meant and will continue to mean to me.

Thank you to all the wonderful friends I have met on this eternal and yet too quick journey.

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