Hi, I’m Camryn.
I grew up in Lewistown, Montana, a small town in the center of the state. I’ve grown the most however, in a surrounding realm of transit: in the processes of leaving from, and returning to.
In junior high, I collected National Geographic magazines, from which torn-out pages were tacked onto my bedroom walls; even more tacks were pinned into a laminate world map above my bed. I was obsessed with leaving: to find a culture where I could fit in better than I did in rural Montana, to meet people with perspectives I had never considered, to shroud myself in mystery while I was away to return more evolved, alluring, interesting.
The first time I left the country was thanks to Rotary Youth Exchange, a program through which I spent my junior year of high school in Austria. The preparation and terrifying anticipation that came with willingly sending myself away from friends, family, and a comfortable routine never weighed down my excitement, it instead felt freeing. I was ready to fill the dozens of tiny voids created by those tacks on my bedroom wall with the experiences I’d gain by being anywhere but at home.
I was placed with three different host families in rural southern Austria. After the first few months I spent in initial elation, it sank in that I was in a place strikingly similar to where I left. The starry-eyed ideal I held of intrepid globe-trotting was replaced by the challenges of language barriers, culture shock, and realizing that where one is really doesn’t have much to do with one’s happiness.
I determinedly puzzled my way through a language I hadn’t studied prior and coped by drinking a little more wine than I should have. (Sorry, Rotarians!) Both led to getting closer with my Austrian classmates and families, but more definitively, it was all alongside other exchange students with whom so easily making connections and building friendships felt at times like salvation.
I returned to Lewistown for my final year of high school and immediately felt ready to leave again. I was no longer the novel foreigner and there was a significant lack of interest from my peers despite how evolved, alluring, and interesting I thought I had become. In hindsight, this year cultivated the most growth: realizing that there was culture in rural Montana enough, that I was okay there and always had been, that I could fit in anywhere if I just relaxed a little more.
I decided to stay in Montana for college. As a third-year student at the University of Montana I’m pursuing a double major in Political Science and Russian, as well as a double minor in German and European Studies. In Missoula, I’ve made very valuable friendships and feel far more fulfilled than I ever imagined I had the capacity to be. In between this time, I’ve been lucky to reunite with the best friends I made in Austria and even to return there with my mom.
The cycle of leaving and returning is about to renew itself. I’m headed to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, at the London School of Languages and Cultures with SRAS to study Russian. After the fall semester in Bishkek, I will be returning to Austria to study at the University of Graz for the spring/summer semester.
This time around feels more like a casual departure than an impassioned intention of leaving. I’m going to immerse myself in a language, take classes for credit, and stay in an apartment with other students. Stay tuned for far more personal revelations, allusions to wine, and thorough descriptions of my frustrations with the Russian language.
Curious about my time in Austria? Read the blog I maintained here.