I took a class for fun this summer called Memoir and Journal Writing. After spending a year going through a professional metamorphosis (also called hating my job), I realized that I wanted to pursue writing in my future career endeavors. This little side project that started as my study abroad blog has become a good creative outlet for me as well as a way to spread humor and my modeling portfolio to the world. Hence, I thought this class would be a perfect fit.
The class size started at five and dwindled to four, but I still received a lot of feedback and insider knowledge from my teacher and classmates. The final project was a 200-1000 word memoir piece that was meant to demonstrate our understanding of the skills we had developed throughout the 10-week course. I chose to write about my application and acceptance to the United World College Costa Rica because I had never written about it before and (mostly) because I didn’t feel comfortable reading my blog aloud in front of my classmates and 70-year-old teacher. After some terrible drafts and a few sleepless nights, I finally churned out something decent, at least in my opinion. Any feedback appreciated.
It was actually more of a brochure and was waiting for me when I got home one day my junior year. I was used to receiving endless flyers from small liberal arts colleges throughout the Midwest attempting to recruit me. The first one stroked my ego; the fiftieth made me realize that these were mass mailings. This one stuck out to me though.
“It’s called a United World College. If you’re accepted, you get a scholarship to go to high school abroad for two years. Doesn’t it sound cool?”I wanted my mom to share in my excitement because this program appeared to answer all of my teenage-angst-filled prayers. It was a chance to leave Nebraska and get away from my classmates who had nothing better to do than spread endless gossip and cultivate artificial friendships like they saw on TV shows.
“That’s nice.” She sounded indifferent at best. I could picture her twirling her hair in her hotel room on the other side of the phone. I had made several previous escape attempts, trying to transfer to another high school and even looking at homeschool options. My mom’s nonplussed tone gave the impression that she thought this was just another of my far-fetched plans that would never come to fruition.
“You know this is a long shot.” It was a statement, not a question. Carol Ann Jones. My mom endorsed my United World College application as instructed and promised to drop it off at the post office that day. Not one to usually leave things until the last minute, I had struggled to find the confidence to apply for such a selective program. Did I even have a chance? Although I received the initial letter to apply months earlier, I had only finished writing my personal statement the night before and was worried that I would miss the January deadline. That or that my mom would “accidentally” toss it in a trashcan and not the mailbox.
The envelope with the UWC letterhead was perfectly flat and paper thin, literally. There was a single piece of paper neatly folded inside of it. Although I had yet to apply to college, I knew the rule: fat envelopes good, skinny ones bad. This made rejection letters easy to read, even easier to rip up. However, this skinny envelope offered me an interview in Kansas City. As I read it aloud after dinner, my family’s blank faces mirrored my own. None of us knew how to react. “Guess you won’t be coming to Tampa with us that weekend.” My stepdad’s matter-of-fact reply gave me permission to skip the already booked family vacation and boosted my confidence. Maybe I had a shot at this after all.
Another standard, white one. Was it rejection for real this time? My mom flashed the envelope at me as she came in with that Saturday’s mail. I had been unimpressed with my interview performance in Kansas City a few weeks earlier. A family friend volunteered to drive me as long as we got to stop at Wendy’s for lunch. I was interviewed by two UWC alumni and a member of the national selection committee at a hotel close to the airport. As a self-obsessed teenager, I usually could not stop talking about myself. But, I struggled to speak in complete sentences during the interview and felt I had left a mediocre impression on the selection committee.
As I nervously reached out for the letter, my mom quickly jerked the letter away and began tearing the flap open, smiling. My face flushed. Carol Ann knew that I hated being put on the spot but felt it was a requirement as my mom to embarrass me as much as possible.
“Dear Mr. Peter Jones.” She began reading to my entire family in the living room.
Oh no. I wanted to open this in my room by myself. I needed to process the decision alone and not risk showing any sign of disappointment. I was 17 and still hadn’t completely grown out of crying in rough situations.
“Congratulations on being accepted as a Davis Scholar to the United World College Costa Rica.” She read the words, but I was still fixated on the fact that my mom had opened and read my mail. Rather than shouting with joy or even cracking a smile, I snatched the envelope out of my mom’s hands and retreated to the basement. As I read and reread the words, I began to realize how much this one acceptance letter would affect me. While my Nebraska classmates would be gearing up for community college and teen pregnancy, I was going to finish high school in Costa Rica. I picked up the cordless phone and dialed my best friend Angela to share the news with her.