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Hiraeth - A Welsh Word

It's no surprise that I have a love for new words from other cultures that mean something in one word that takes us several English words to say. We borrow a lot of words from other languages and have a mix of Latin-based and Germanic words as the roots of almost all other words in English, but awhile ago I was listening to a meditation on the Calm app (a staple more in our house more common than sliced bread), and I was introduced to a new word - Hiraeth.

Hiraeth is a noun in Welsh. It means homesickness, but not just an "I want to go home" homesickness - a longing, a yearning, or a nostalgia for a place, time, or era that you will never be able to return to. For me that time is 18-22 years ago when I was part of Central College Upward Bound.

Twenty-two years ago my mom heard about this amazing program where you could earn free college credits. I was only a freshman in high school, but already worried about how I, not my parents, would pay for college. The thought of going to "summer school" honestly didn't thrill me, but the thought of being away from home did - and free college credits, why not?

What I found at UB (Upward Bound) was so much more than "summer school" or even a summer camp! I found a group of people that were excited to learn, enjoyed being with people from other cultures, and wanted me to have fun. I grew up in Ottuwma, Iowa. Population: white. (We had a few exceptions in our class, but over 95% of my graduating class was Caucasian).

The summer of 1997 was my first experience living in close proximity to immigrants, people of other cultures, and students from other parts of my state. I joined the swim team for the UB Olympics. I had guided freedom to be out and about around campus and the dorm during daylight hours. My TC (tutor-counselor) wrote me a sunshine gram and said that she was "so glad to see me coming out of my shell." I found a love for people and a desire to hear their stories.

This program was the change in my world. It's the greatest gift I ever received. To this day, some of my best friends have connections to that part of my life in one way or another. It also prepared me to do things that most people will not do - speak in public, publish a book, and show public gratitude for people, events, and places that are doing great things in the world.

As I am getting ready to hit publish on Kidnapped Asylum this week, I am doing a lot of reflecting on my why. Central College Upward Bound changed my world 22 years ago (I still have the shirt to prove it). It opened my eyes to being around people from other cultures and understanding their beliefs. It gave me the gift of believing in myself. It created connections - and brought me out of my introverted shell.

I loved Upward Bound. I have hiraeth for it - a longing to return to a place and time that I can't return to, but I can share my why for writing my first book with my community, which includes lifelong friends from Upward Bound. And my hope is that Kidnapped Asylum will bring a change to someone's world - like UB did to mine.

My Well-Loved First UB Shirt

Brandi Parsons is a freelance writer, book blogger, mom, educator, and authorpreneur. Her first book, "Kidnapped Asylum" will be released this spring. For a FREE advanced reader copy, complete this form. If you're interested in Brandi's freelance services, contact her here.

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