Hello world! Maybe that statement is more literal than I think – considering this is my first personal statement that makes it outside the pages of my diary and into the vastness of the Internet. I write to you, whoever you may be, from a town just ten minutes outside the city of Chicago. I leave in a little under a week (six days to be exact – but who’s counting?) to study in Salzburg, Austria, to start my journey as an exchange student for ten months. Before I start talking about what it’s like to leave and all that good stuff, let me introduce myself.
My name is Anastasia Kallish.
I live in Oak Park, Illinois. Home of Frank Lloyd Wright, Hole In The Wall, and the high school mascot – the husky. While growing up, my parents thought travel was very important. I have been to four different countries including Canada, Scotland, Mexico and Germany. My love for travel started in eighth grade after I found out about the infamous British boy band One Direction (I think it’s safe to say many of us went through that stage). May have not been the most legit reason to travel, but it started a passion for what could be if I changed my environment and lived in someone else’s shoes.
From the end of middle school on, I started researching different programs and places to find a “perfect fit.” First I thought I was going to start my journey junior year in Australia or England going to high school and roaming around the country. My sophomore year something changed. I had started practicing German. I had never felt such a love for a language. My friends thought I was crazy because there is such a nasty stigma about the Germanic-language (sounds too “hard hitting”). I saw something in it though, and continued to study ever since.
I’m glad I decided to take a gap year. I feel that I had such a different level of maturity back then, and would have been more overwhelmed and insecure during my journey. People grow a lot within two years. One of the things that helped mold the person I am today is hip-hop dance. I was lucky enough to be given the chance to partake in the Chicago dance community.
For two and a half years I had a paid apprenticeship with After School Matters, balanced two dance troupes, and ran around to perform at different shows with some of Chicago’s most passionate youth. I had the opportunity to meet many people in the arts including Chance the Rapper. I would go and perform at his “Open Mikes” (a “talent slam” for Chicago teens), and also his “Coloring Book” listening party.
I’m super excited to move on to the next part of my life. One of the reasons why I’m so excited is because it’s a path not many people take. In the United States, it’s very common to be raised to think that you have to immediately go to college – because that’s what the majority of people have been doing over the past few decades. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just feels you get no break. Going abroad is the perfect opportunity. Plenty of my friends have already left for college, leaving me to think about what’s next. I know one way or another this exchange will teach me many things about another culture and lessons of self discovery. My main goal is to be a good ambassador for the United States, and I’m excited to take the challenge.
I’ll write to you guys again – this time, from the other side of the pond.