We are officially a day away from departure, two days away from arrival, and eight days away from the first day of class. After years of pondering but only a rushed couple months of planning, I’m about to board a plane to London, England, where I will spend spring semester of my junior year of college.
As far as goals go, my academic ones are pretty conventional. Sometimes I forget that I’m going abroad to study, but then I remember that I’m registered to take three film classes, a photojournalism class, and a British fantasy writing class (think: Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings). I’m not exactly dreading it. I’m a literature major with minors in film and journalism, so I’m excited to learn. I want to improve my filming skills, learn how to write a decent script, take some cool pictures, watch a few foreign movies, and read.
Everything else I want to gain from this trip is typical. Yet, I’m still struggling to identify what that means. There are so many implications, givens, that go along with studying abroad. I will, without a doubt, have the time of my life. It will be the experience of a lifetime. I’ll be homesick, but, ultimately, never want to leave. I’ll make amazing, lifelong friends. I want to experience all of this more than anything, but there’s no way to know for sure that I will.
I’ve been trying my very best to put the feelings accompanying this impending experience into words, but even writers struggle with that much emotion sometimes. The hardest part is right now: Counting down the days, relying on Pinterest to tell me how to pack and what to expect, and balancing the feelings of excitement and fear. With all of winter break to prepare, you can imagine I’ve had a pretty excruciating month. I’ve been doing what I think is expected of me, and that list goes as follows:
- Pack. And check Pinterest approximately 1,000 times to make sure I’m doing it right.
- Contact people in my program’s Facebook group. (Maybe I’ll make some friends before I get there. Unlikely, given my aversion to virtual human contact, but worth a shot.)
- Make a running list of everything I want to do while I’m abroad. (We’re already past the hundreds, people.)
- Research London’s culture. (We speak the same language, but what can I do to avoid being the “annoying American”? Again, Pinterest is my best friend here.)
- Spend as much time with my family as possible before I leave.
- Slap myself when I second-guess how amazing this opportunity will be.
This all seems fairly easy, but it doesn’t alleviate the nerves. I’ve been out of the country once before (not counting Canada, because duh), and it was for ten days and with ten other people, including my roommate. I’ve never really been out of the country alone before, so I’m still nervous about missing my family too much. I’m nervous about not making any friends. I’m nervous about missing out on amazing and potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because of miscommunication, failure to plan or lack of funds.
I’ve always been a huge introvert. I have friends, and I can be outgoing, but I’ve always been (and will probably always be) the one who drives my roommates to parties and goes home to read a good book until they’re ready to be picked up. I do take comfort in the fact that my description of myself doesn’t match the ones my friends give me, but there’s still a voice in the back of my head that brings my insecurities to the forefront. You’re too shy. You’re too dependent on your family. You won’t fit in.
I’m hoping this trip will fix all of that, if only a little bit. I want to make the most out of my time (read: be outgoing for once, travel, step out of my comfort zone, read less and go out more) and then come home and retain these new qualities in my everyday life. Above all else, I want to look back on this trip years from now and know it was the best decision I ever made, even if I question my fashion choices (which, let’s face it, is likely).
No matter what happens, though, I can always remind myself: You’re in London! Even if I don’t make any friends, I’ll learn how to have fun on my own. I’ll miss my family, but my sister is coming to see me halfway through my trip. If I run out of money, I know that I have a place to stay, food to eat until the end of my program, and family in another country to wire me cash. Even if all I can do is just walk around my neighborhood, it will still be amazing. I don’t know if I’ve said this yet, but I’LL BE IN LONDON. That’s more than enough for me.