Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | April 25, 2015

It’s a wonderful life

JMC dinner with faculty and student media leaders, spring 2015.

JMC dinner with faculty and student media leaders, spring 2015.

… it’s been two months since my last confessi … um … blog post. It’s easier to chronicle what I haven’t been doing these past two months than to note what I have done — that list is long and getting longer.

First, what I have NOT been doing:
1. Exercising.
2. Drinking in moderation
3. Blogging.

A few obstacles have kept me from these important tasks.
1. Traveling.
2. The abundance of cheap and drinkable beer.
3. Work.

I’ll talk about the last item first. I started working for the university’s communications office right around the time I stopped even thinking of blogging. I took a position that’s called “Consulting Editor and Communications Adviser.” The job is two-fold, really. I edit pretty much everything that comes through the office — and then some (I’ve edited three or four grant proposals). I’ve edited every story in our bi-weekly newsletter. But we’ve also been publishing stories to our website daily. So it’s a constant churn of copy from, mostly, student reporters.

I’m working with several great people — two recent AUBG graduates and a colleague who took over the entire events, communications and marketing department. My small role is to help shape communications, brainstorm new ideas, and create a “media services/newsroom” mindset. We cover events, speakers, news. We write features. We encourage students to dig for stories that will help communicate to the larger world what AUBG is all about. Nice work is being done. And the efforts of student writers and interns is great. It’s been a blast.

In addition to that, I’ve been teaching two classes, which has previously kept me plenty busy (for a semi-retired guy). So, yeah, no blogging (or biking, for that matter).

Joris, Sidonja and Mark in Amsterdam.

Joris, Sidonja and Mark in Amsterdam.

Me with Len and Arta in Pristina.

Me with Len and Arta in Pristina.

But we’ve also traveled quite a bit this semester. We were in Sofia a few times — enjoying good food and the more lively social scene that the capital city has to offer. We traveled to Amsterdam over spring break to visit friends and a couple of former students. And when Melody made a couple of solo trips for film work, I took a drive to Kosovo to visit my friend Len Berisha and his lovely wife, Arta.

A couple of weeks ago, Melody and I, one of our friends, Tracy, from the admissions office, and a student, Dumi, drove to Romania and Moldova for a long weekend. It was an ambitious schedule. We drove probably 36 hours in five days, saw amazing sites, sampled some of Moldova’s famous wine outside of Chisinau (and bought a bunch of it), visited Dumi’s grandmother’s house a couple of hours north of Chisinau, enjoyed an Orthodox Easter feast, and then motored back to Bulgaria. It was exhausting — and so worth it. It was our last road trip — at least for a while.

My traveling companions, and Dumi's grandmother, in Moldova.

My traveling companions, and Dumi’s grandmother, in Moldova.

When we got back, we sold our car, my bike, our dryer, our couch and began the process of packing up. We’re moving back to the States for a one-year leave of absence from AUBG. We’ll settle in Chicago — and we’ll still be “on the move,” I’m sure, as we sort out the next year.

If you’ve been following this blog the past four years, I thank you. But as I said at the outset (I think), this is mostly for me. I’m writing stuff down so that I remember it some day in the distant future. It’ll serve as a reminder about how amazing life can be if you let it be. … I haven’t written down EVERYTHING we’ve done and I certainly can’t chronicle every emotion we’ve felt. There has been plenty of what a once-famous basketball coach called “seashells and balloons.” We’ve had our share of frustrations and inconveniences, too, but this has been an incredible four years. … The past couple of days have really brought it all home for me and for Melody.

Me and my sweetie.

Me and my sweetie.

On Thursday night, our journalism students threw their annual “JMC Rocks” party. It’s a celebration for graduating seniors and it’s usually attended by current students and some alumni. Each year — in addition to celebrating student media organizations and seniors — the students single out a professor for special recognition. … Melody was honored in 2012 and I was surprised and so touched to be honored in 2014 (coincidentally while my parents were visiting). On Thursday night, knowing that we are taking a leave, these lovely students saw fit to acknowledge both of us. We were touched (and Melody cried, as she does). In a short speech, I tried to convey how much these students have touched our hearts and changed our lives. We have tried hard to make what we do here matter. We are proud and humbled by the affection that has been showered upon us. We can’t wait to see where these special young men and women will be five, 10, 15 years from now. It’s been an incredible privilege to share this part of the journey with them.

And if we make it back here in the fall of 2016 (which is the plan), we’ll start all over again with (many) new students, new ideas and new enthusiasm. We won’t say goodbye. … Instead, we’ll say “until we meet again.”



  1. I’ve missed your blog posts, but am glad to see how happily you’ve otherwise been occupied. I hope that your students’ recognition at the JMC Rocks party provided some validation that all the risks you and Melody took — and the sacrifices you made in moving to Bulgaria — were worth it. I suspect your influence will continue to enrich and shape your students for the rest of their lives. As for saying goodbye (at least for now …) well, that’s the price we pay for embarking on a new adventure, isn’t it? May the next chapter be just as wonderful.

    • Heather, you say the sweetest things. And it’s been worth it in so many ways. Here’s hoping we can hoist a beer in Chicago or Minnesota sometime this summer or beyond. Hope flowers are blooming in your world.

  2. What an adventure with so much more to come.

  3. Oh my, with tears in my eyes [I’m so much like Melody, doncha know] I read this last post on your blog. Here I am in Wisconsin remembering last year’s JMCRocks party when your dad and I were there to see the respect and admiration of your students . We are so proud of you and Melody for embarking on this adventure to Bulgaria and for doing such a worthwhile change in your life work – teaching young people.

  4. Wonderful post, Mark! Thanks for the update–and congratulations on your amazing work. It’s been great (and thought provoking/inspiring) to see what has happened as a result of your willingness to open yourselves up to the uncertainties and wonders of the world.. I’m sure there are more adventures ahead (even in the states). As always, I wish you the best.

  5. Thank you so much for updating your blog Mark! Great to be able to virtually keep in touch with you and Melody. You two are absolutely amazing and inspirational and I feel incredibly lucky to know you both and be one of your students – I’m sure most of AUBGers can share the exact same feelings. I hope you have an amazing year in Chicago, please keep updating your blog at least once in a while and do come to London on the way if you get a chance! Can’t promise cheap beer but def a place to stay and the warmest welcome. I miss you both xx

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