The journey leading up to study abroad and the actual experience are quite different. I agree with Laura and Devin (in their very genuine and articulate writing) when they talk about the expectations they have had and feelings they have felt in the past few months. We each chose different parts of the world to land, but it seems that we had a some similar thoughts in preparation for our journeys.
Since pretty much New Year’s, I’ve been in a fog. A good fog, but a foggy fog nonetheless. I was at home for almost two months before I set off for Australia. I pride myself in finding random if not productive ways of keeping myself busy, so I was able to fill my time with things that I have never “gotten around to” doing. I baked things like granola (burning a batch), worked at an ice rink (and did not break any bones, thank you very much), traveled to Montana and Iowa, skied at Lutsen, and visited my lovely grandparents, to name a few endeavors. But not once did I actually sit down and seriously reflect on the fact that I was going to the other side of the world for five months.
As I talked to my oldest sister, Nellie, before leaving, I remember her saying to me: “It’s OK to cry when you say good-bye to the parents, I know I did when I left!” (She studied in Ireland).
Well, before I left, I gave Willie a hug as if I was just leaving for Montana again, and I think I barely said good-bye to Lucy (our dachshund) because I was still mad about her doo doo accident on my bedroom carpet. On the way to the airport, I’m pretty sure I was a stuffing a granola bar down my throat having just fit in a quick run and shower before throwing my suitcases into the car. We made it to MSP and hastily exchanged some currency near the Delta check-in, found me some sleeping pills for the plane, and met up with Dad. Once I passed through security, I blew them a kiss and turned the corner towards my gate. Done. See ya in five, months that is. Question is, was there even any time for me to get choked up, much less cry about leaving?
I can’t pinpoint exactly why I was so nonchalant. Maybe my sense of time was completely off all together, because as I ventured through the airport, it felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there for another month or so, or maybe it felt like I should’ve left months before that.
Back to Laura and Devin. I found myself nodding and saying things out loud like “yes!” and “damn straight” while reading their latest blog posts. Right now must be the point in our journeys where we are all realizing the same things: what our expectations were to how things have actually come to be, what we have and haven’t experienced yet and why, and our reactions to all of these changes thus far.
I realize that people travel thousands of miles on a daily basis to scary and exotic parts of the world. I’ve met people here who have lived all over, and who have seen so much more than I have being at the same age. Traveling is something that I have experienced my whole life mainly in the good old U.S. of A. I feel so fortunate to have road tripped with my family to the places I have, but now I have this uncontrollable itch to go everywhere else beyond that point. I know that this isn’t a competition and that we each have different plans ahead of us for whatever reason. Though hearing other people’s experiences has still gotten me amped to venture out on my own into the world.
With that said, I think it’s been really interesting to see how this whole study abroad deal works. The first month or two were stressful at times in terms of how I would budget myself, how I would get to all of the places I wanted to go, who my friends were, why am I bored at the moment, am I wasting my time right now, etc. Yeah, it was overwhelming. I just didn’t want to do anything wrong. Above all, I didn’t want to have any regrets (and still don’t). I’m realizing that it’s a lesson in figuring out what is in and out of your control. It’s also about making the most out of everything when you have the chance.
So blessed to have such a down-to-earth family, my other sister Amelia mentioned a few things to additionally put my mind at ease. Basically she told me to chill out and reassured me that the study abroad experience does indeed include a bit of laying around; it won’t be a consistent glamorous adventure of eating squid and swimming with poisonous creatures. Though both of those things were fabulous.
Maybe those nonchalant feelings at the beginning of the year were good, because I have yet to feel a strong surge of homesickness. I do miss my dogs who I didn’t properly say good-bye to, and I couldn’t be more excited for my brother’s wedding and my sister’s baby. So I will definitely have to return the U.S. at some point this year (so that my 21st birthday is actually worthwhile). Until then I can only hope that this experience keeps progressing the way it has, ups and downs included. To Laura and Devin, thank you for your posts, my dear friends, and just remember to keep running (and posting because you are both slow at staying touch otherwise)!
P.S. See you both at the alumni race.
Curry and carrots, and lots of love,
Link to Laura: http://laurainyourlife.wordpress.com/
Link to Devin: http://www.notaspyinrussia.blogspot.com.au/