Peace and Conflict Studies

West Chester University

Dr. Dean Johnson, Coordinator
Anderson Hall, Room 108E
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383

Nerves of Steel - Glenn Chon - April 2013

Glenn Chon (2012) majored in Psychology with a minor in Peace & Conflict Studies and Political Science. He is currently interning in Israel at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, an intentional cooperative village founded jointly by Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

3:36 A.M. Watching The Hunger Games and listening to Daft Punk radio on Pandora, an oddly calming prescription for my preflight jitters. Three years ago when I signed up for a peace & conflict minor, I never would have thought I'd be going to Israel. Who knows where I'll end up in the next three years. As I sit here, I can't help but be reminded of a reply I submitted to a reddit post on /r/travel about getting nervous before trips.

I always get that feeling before going on trips. I've come to love it. It's the feeling of insecurity that I've grown to love so much about traveling. It's only scary if you focus on the fear, think about the awesomeness, the interesting friends you'll make, the new cultures you'll experience, the new foods you'll try, the lessons you'll learn and my personal favorite, the different perspectives you'll pick up. That feeling you have? It's the feeling I miss the most when I'm not traveling. It's the feeling of a new challenge.

The past few days seem like blur. I guess time does that to you when you try to fit everything you should have been doing in the past two weeks into the last three days before your flight. I am pretty happy with my decision to place "see friends that are around the area" at the top of my list of things to do. One noteworthy meet up was with Caleb. We sat with our drinks as we casually discussed the concept of freewill, and our thoughts on organizing systems of minimum wage. The discussion briefly distracted me from my trip and brought a sense of normalcy that I readily welcomed. I definitely don't feel normal now.

Just yesterday, I was deciding which shorts to pack. What do you pack for a six month trip abroad? Some ear plugs, shoe powder to prevent smelly boat shoes, a french press? Definitely my watch. I have to be on time. It's not like that wonderful vacation to Costa Rica I was lucky enough to go on two winters ago. It's all about Pura Vida down there, a lifestyle of taking your time and enjoying the pure life. I can't imagine doing business there though, everything seemed to lack the sense of urgency I've become accustomed to growing up in the north east. I can't imagine that's what it'll be like in Israel. So, watch... check.

I have to admit, life feels pretty surreal right now, that could however, be a result of my lack of sleep. However, unlike my previous bouts of sleeplessness, staying up this time is intentional. Since I have a hard enough time sleeping as it is, I've decided to stay up all night before my flight as a preventative measure for being unable to sleep on the plane. Let me tell you, the alternative isn't much fun. Imagine arriving in a new country, completely sleep deprived, and being bombarded by signs pointing you in all directions written in a language foreign to what your brain is used to. Yes, I know, there are probably English translations right under them, but it's pretty hard to focus on anything at this point. The only clear thought you can really get out is, "I want a bed." The airport floors begin to look pretty comfortable with each dragging step, and trust me they're not...cold with a side order of dirty and sprinkled with a touch of back pain. Sure, going through airport security and trying to find my terminal at JFK will be a miserable experience but at least I'm familiar with it. I'll gladly be a zombie for a day, hell, it's the closest I'll be to The Walking Dead till the new season comes out.

At this point, all I can think about are my concerns for this internship at Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam. My greatest fear is that they won't really have any use for me as an intern. Sticking me with a bunch of grunt work for six months would be a nightmare. Having been a psychology lab assistant, I already know what it's like. I like to think I'm a creative guy but trust me when I tell you, there's no way you can make data entry fun. Hats off to you if you can figure that one out. I'd even go as far as to find you and shake your hand because I'm sure you'd indirectly influence scores of scientific breakthroughs. At the very least, I can just be that annoying intern who is constantly asking questions. It'll probably get old for them pretty fast but if I'm just getting busy work, I'll stick it to them with a never ending list of questions so I can come out of this experience with more knowledge on the inner-workings of a non-profit organization.

Ideally, I aim to gain some practical hands on experience before going back for a graduate degree (one I hope will be generously funded by whatever organization I choose to align myself with in the future...ha...ha, I'll keep hoping). An old high school friend recently got accepted to Georgetown University, something I aspire to. I think she's in Turkey right now, which makes me wish I could have a much longer layover in Istanbul so I can meet up and have her show me around...random, I probably need coffee. Anyway, making contacts and learning new training techniques and exchanging ideas with other mediation trainers would also be pretty nice. I'm sure this will look great on the resume. There's also this historically rich culture I plan on diving into and experiencing while I'm there. Most importantly, and with a little luck, I'll get better at chess. I'll make Polsky proud.

Camera... Check.
HIPP manual... Check.
Open mind... Check.

I think I've misplaced my nerves of steel.