Life After Ripon – Sophia Kaounas ’14

Chapter 1: The Next Step Forward

[Editor’s Note: Nathan Held ’14, Sophia Kaounas ’14, and Adam Myers ’14 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

Have you ever wondered how long it takes for one to write an entry for a blog? A blog provides writers with a blank slate. A slate that allows us to express our experiences, observations, opinions, excerpts of happiness (or sadness), etc. Folks, I tell you what; we’re just going to jump right into this one and see how things go.

Here we are, arriving to the end of summer as we know it. Maybe for many of you, summer vacation doesn’t mean much anymore. Perhaps you’ve been working through summers for the past 20 years of your life. Or maybe you dream of the dog days of summer whilst sitting in a summer class that you insist is going to better you in the long run. However your boat floats, the fact of the matter is simple: summer is almost over. With the conclusion of the summer, a new season begins. Change is an overall theme of this seasonal transition. Synonyms for change include: modification, transformation, adjustment, and revolution. We all experience different degrees of change, may they be pleasant or not. Any moment before a predictable or anticipated change lends your mind to a state of vulnerability. There is a lot to be said for those who manage to handle this vulnerability well.

So far the postgraduate lifestyle has remained unpredictably beautiful. The months have been bountiful with experiences that I plan to embrace for a lifetime. Allow me to delve further, through moments of reflection. My summer began with a trip to Greece. The homeland of Kavala, Greece holds tremendous amounts of family history for me. After meeting half of my extended family for the first time, I was overwhelmed with emotion. This trip had reignited my perceptions of love, family, and adventure. After my Greek escapade, I flew to Overland Park, Kansas to assist the National Speech and Debate Association with their incredible national tournament. I have been affiliated with the NSDA since I joined my debate team, the first day of high school. This eight year long relationship with the NSDA has created incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth.

One week after this tournament I found myself in a vehicle with former professor of Ripon College, Deano Pape, beginning the more than 1,000 mile road trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts to instruct at Harvard Debate Council’s China camp. This camp hosts two sessions of Chinese students over the duration of 1 month. These young adults are incredible. Imagine leaving your country for 3 weeks to attend a debate camp in your second language and ultimately competing against your peers at the end of the camp. The drive, passion, and enthusiasm that I see every day continuously remind me that debate is such an amazing activity. Fellow instructors at the camp have become close friends, and I certainly will have a difficult time bidding farewell to them.

Speaking of farewells – as one could assume from a few hundred words of this blog post, I love traveling and adventure. The biggest adventure of my life is rapidly approaching. I made the decision to take a gap year before my pursuit of a Masters or J.D. On August 31 I will be moving to Hangzhou, China to coach debate for 10 months. Hangzhou, known as China’s heaven on earth, is going to introduce me to an entirely new lifestyle. With every big adventure, there is a momentary farewell to the permanency, comfort, and contentment. I find myself anxiety-ridden some days, whereas on other days I am too excited to want to stay in the United States for one more month. Adventure is out there, folks. I’m learning that no matter the apprehensions and nervousness that change brings, the adventure is what you make of it. So, as my fellow graduates understand, everything is going to be okay.

Ideally, post-China, I would like to attend a graduate or law school to pursue studies in national security or international humanitarian law. The beauty of a gap year is that it provides me time to explore, grow, and do what I love.

So, folks, stay tuned. I hope each and every one of you is seeking adventure, happiness, and good vibes, no matter the circumstances. Farewell for now!

Sophia Kaounas ’14

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