My goals for the flights home were simple: to not fall asleep and to enjoy the last hours with Maggie, Alec, and Emily. I was successful on both counts – but neither took much effort. Sleeping while traveling is a skill that eludes me; I wasn’t one of those babies that a parent could drive around the countryside hoping for a nap, and 16 years later my body still refuses to deluded by the din of a motor, the subtle vibrations of my seatback, or a weary mind. I am not complaining – my time being awake gave me more time to relive fresh memories with my friends.
To have written reflections last night would have been to reflect like a zombie. After we arrived at RDU, I had a three-hour ride home. I was exhausted, but not enough to even relax for a moment as my aunt did her best to dodge the herds of deer on both sides of the road. Between the chatter about driving through an endless zoo with no fences, I was able to share some of the week’s details – but it was more like a stream of (semi)consciousness exercise than a trip review.
Today, with some sleep on my side, a good run, and a nice dose of sunshine, I am thinking clearly and surprisingly feel like I belong in the eastern time zone. No interrogations were necessary this morning – without prompting I talked about the flight over, how my friendships developed, how much the students from the other countries had in common with the U.S. delegation. I talked about the translators, the translations, the challenging moments and the satisfying ones, the tears in the eyes of our host as she said good-bye to us at our table. I marveled aloud about the student researchers and their work, and at the joy the Chinese public seemed to feel as they toured the poster hall. I had time to consider all of the expense and logistics that went into the US delegation’s participation in the BYSCC and felt a mix of gratitude and awe.
The opportunity to attend the BYSCC, to meet such wonderful friends, to travel with supportive leaders, and to see science and math projects from around the world, has truly been a gift to me. Dr. Nolan was right – this trip changes lives. For the better.