venerdì 26 agosto 2011

A Long Journey

I mean it, when I say a long journey.Start reading at your own risk.

A long time ago, in a galaxy that now seems far, far away...
I was at home, having lunch with my mother and Teo, my best friend. It was November, and for a couple of weeks already the main topic of our talks was the italian selection for United World College. That day, we finally decided that it was worth a try.

Everything we had ever wanted from a school ( and that our schools had never ever given us) was there. But as the day of Regional selections came closer, we started discus
sing how little our chances of making it were. About 700 students apply in Italy every year, and there are only about 20 spots; half of them are "bought"by certain richer Regions that pay scholarships for their kids. Obviously, our Region didn't, so we had to rely on the few "national" scholarships.
On the 8th of April, the night before Selections, Teo and I went for a walk in town. Sitting on a bench, eating ice cream, we were at the same time excited and very depressed. After wondering what was waiting for us at Selections, we started imagining what life could have been of us, for some incredible reason, had made it... or even - "but c'mon, we're just imagining stuff right now." - if we BOTH made it, and even in the same College. That "if one of us ever passes Regionals, and that is so not going to happen. Or is it?"
Fast forward one month later.
After four weeks of nailbiting, euphory, depression, euphory, "why the hell did I do that instead of that", I was finally starting to calm down, when my mother told me to check this email.
"I'm going to Nationals! That's!FTB! I gotta tell Teo - oh wait. Shit". I was very excited, but a part of me just couldn't help but shiver at the thought of telling my best friend that I had made it, knowing that "the chances that we both made it don't want to know".
The next morning, classes were about to start, when a classmate showed me a text from Teo.
"Tell Silvia to turn her cell on. I call her."
I ran out of the classroom - almost knocking down a teacher - turned on my cellphone, and waited. One minutes, two minutes, five...I was about to text him, when finally the phone rang.
"Hey Silvia!"
"Oy! What's going on? Quick, I gotta get back to class..."
"You have any idea 'bout who's made it to Nationals?"
Oh shit. Please, please let me...let him...
"You made it?!?"
"What do you m...WHAT?"
About 30 kids had applied in our Regional selections. We were the only two kids who had made it.
We both agreed that it felt like "living a movie".
But now, there were Nationals coming.
We weren't really prepared. We started studying, studying, studying, and looking for people who had already been through Nationals. They all told us the same thing: study a bit, but mostly be yourself. That's what they want.
Finally, on the 29th of May, Teo, my parents and I squeezed into my father's car for a day-long journey that would take us to Duino, the small village near Trieste where UWCAd - the Italian college - is located.
National selections were three days long, and kids were separated in three different shifts. Teo was in the second one, I was in the last one.
It was an incredible experience. I have some really great memories of those three days - like reenacting the opening scene of Serenity in front of all the kids, examiners, the headmaster and a Harvard teachers (who all seemed to like it) - and some less great memories - like feeling sick in front of the chief examiner, or getting lost right after my academic interview.
Teo and I both agreed that we had already been lucky enough, to both pass Regionals and have such a great time at Nationals. But...we also knew how badly we wanted to be accepted at UWC, and how terrible the perspective to go back to our old school was.
Time passed. Day after day, I got back home from school half thinking "No way, too early, still nothing", half expecting my mother to greet me at the door saying "Guess who's now a UWC student!". Nothing happened, for two weeks, and then my mother told me. "Got a mail from UWC...not good news". Same was for Teo.
I thought I had gotten used to the idea of not having made it - I was wrong. School was over, but summer had never been so depressing. One day of mid June I was playing Halo, when the phone rang. My mother answered, so I didn't pay attention at first, but then she just...freezed.
I looked at her, and understood.
It was the UWC office secretary, a lovely and kind woman. My mom gave me the phone. Patrizia had only heard of me through Teo, but her voice was still shaking when she talked to me: "Hello! I am Patrizia. I am so happy to make this call..." "And I am...happy to receive it..." "You did *great* at selections, but we had to shift you down the list because of Regional scholarships, we're always so sorry when that happens, but well, this time it ends well!"
I. Had. Made it. I had a scholarship, and for the Italian college.
Ten minutes after that call, my mother was still screaming, hugging me, jumping around the house, crying - and I was standing in the living room, still in shock. "Why am I so calm? I'm not supposed to be calm...I friggin... I this happening for real?"
It took me a week or two to fully realize what was going on. And then one day, just when I had almost recovered, I was walking down a street in town...
*cellphone rings*
"Hey Silvia, I'm Teo, What'ya doing?"
"Walking down the town centre,going to see one of my friend's final"
"Me? I'm celebrating."
"I'm celebrating because...I'm going to Duino!"
This time it didn't take me more than one second to understand. He had made it, and to the same college where I was going. Careless about people staring at me, I started yelling and jumping around, punching walls. I didn't stop until I ran out of breathe and felt my hands going numb.
The rest of the summer has passed very quickly. Too quickly, in fact. Teo and I are flying to Duino next Monday. It feels weird, saying goodbye to friends and relatives, packing, looking at my bedroom and thinking I won't be here for a while. It's not like I'm never coming back - holidays are always holidays, I'm coming back for Christmas and summer and all - but to be honest, now that Day X is so close, I'm terrified. Everybody tells me I'm going to be ok, I think I'm going to be ok, but, you know, it's the fear of the unknown.
I haven't changed my mind, though. I still think it's going to be great! I've already met most of my future mates via internet, and they all seem - well, as nuts as me. Every time I feel too freaked out I just watch this.
And I have this great blessing of going with my best friend, that I'm so thankful for.
Everybody tells me, when talking about this College, "Wow! Well, basically you're going to Hogwarts!". I can't help but smile and agree. In fact, one of the first things I said after that famous phone call - several minutes after, I was lost for words for a while - was "Damn! Took that damn owl five whole years to
Studying Maths isn't exactly like studying Charms, and I know that this school, like everything in the world, isn't perfect. There will be hard moments. But I chose this adventure, and I want to live it, and make the best of it.
Bring it, life!

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