December 31st and January 1st are two of my favorite days out of the year. I love thinking about everything that happened in the past year, and I love the fresh start of a new year even more. And in looking back, it's clear that 2011 was a seriously incredible year for me.
It started out with a ten day trip to Peru in January, where I met some amazing people, learned so many things that have affected my outlook on life, and found beauty in unexpected places.
The beginning of the semester brought new friends, new responsibilities, and new activities.
March brought a wonderfully relaxing spring break vacation in Mexico with one of my best friends and our moms.
The end of the school year was full of many fun events, and I found myself more than a little sad that college was half-way over already.
Summer began and I found myself living at a cabin on a lake with one of my dearest friends and her Grandmother. It was the beginning to a perfect summer, full of new friends, adventures in cooking, bike rides, scrapbooking, bonfires, and many breathtaking sunsets. All the while, I was also working at a job on campus I am fortunate to love (most of the time).
June brought a fun weekend in Omaha for a beautiful family wedding.
July brought birthday parties, baseball games, wonderful outdoor concerts, and an incredibly fun "Amazing Race" that my team finished second in!
In August I had my last day of work for awhile, spent many hours stressing about packing, and said goodbye to my family and friends.
The rest of the month was pretty much bliss, traveling for two and a half weeks with one of my best friends. We marveled at Prague, people-watched (and unexpectedly ran into friends) in Munich, fulfilled childhood dreams in Austria, got "lost" in a cliff-top vineyard in Cinque Terre, and wrapped up our trip in Rome.
In September I moved into a small cottage on the west coast of Ireland, quickly growing to love living in that place with my four hilarious and wonderful cottagemates.
That month and the one following were full of excursions, history lessons, dinner parties, long walks, music classes, many dance parties, and quickly becoming close friends with the 28 others on my study abroad program.
The end of October and early November brought adventure as five of us traveled to Belgium, where we fell in love with the architecture and ate way too much chocolate.
From there it was on to Switzerland, where we were in awe of the mountains, lakes, and vivid fall leaves. The day of our moped adventure stands out as one of my most favorite days of the whole year.
After this wonderful break we were happy to return to Ireland, which already felt like our home. November consisted of an ocean-side bonfire, some paper writing, more adventures in cooking, trips to coral beaches, a very muddy football game, much more dancing, and the sweetest Thanksgiving celebration.
We started off December by taking a chilly swim in Galway Bay on a beautiful afternoon. After many sad goodbyes, our program came to an end and I moved out of the cottage. My parents arrived and the three of us spent a week driving around and revisiting some of my favorite places and seeing some new spots too.
Before I knew it I was home again. I busied myself with Christmas preparations as I waited for my friends to come home from school or their own adventures abroad. I spent a very relaxing Christmas with my family, appreciating their company more than ever after my time away from home.
In reflecting on the past year, it almost seems too good to have really all happened. I'm a little sad to say farewell to 2011, but I know 2012 will be full of adventure and beauty in different and maybe just less in-my-face ways. It may take a little more awareness to appreciate them, but I trust these moments will abound in the new year ahead.