I assume that if you are reading this, then you are aware that I (Mary) am going to be studying abroad in Amsterdam this semester, so there is no need to introduce that fact. It feels weird to say “this semester.” It went from being, “I’m going to study abroad my junior year” to “next year” to “next semester.” Now it’s next week. I’m absolutely terrified.
I’ve been able to prepare for this trip without freaking out only because I’ve kept the process of getting everything in order completely separate in my mind from the idea of leaving. I can speak calmly about arranging for housing and classes and flights but if I think about actually getting on that flight that will take me so far away, or living in that apartment or taking those classes, a lump forms in my throat. I think I’m allergic to leaving.
Ever since the reality of leaving set in, I have spent less time thinking about how much I want to go and more time thinking about why I want to go. And I can honestly say that I am unsure of why I am studying abroad. I think a number of things probably played into my decision. I’ve had a desire to travel for as long as I can remember, being inspired at a young age by a combination of my dad’s stories of adventures on the road and his “vacation wanderlust.” We never really went on vacations when I was a kid, unless you count the time that we went to Six Flags St. Louis only because my dad had to pay a ticket in St. Charles, but we always talked about going. My dad would talk about going to see the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, and the Rocky Mountains with such awe and longing that I wanted to see those things too. It doesn’t matter that we never went. It was enough just to dream about going.
My own longing to travel has continued to the present, and I have a not-so-secret obsession with travel blogs–hence, this old thing. But I’ve never really gone anywhere in my whole life. Studying abroad is obviously a way to go somewhere, in a big way. I’ve wanted to travel for so long; I just didn’t realize it would be so intimidating to actually do it.
I’ve thought about why I truly want to go. Maybe I should have figured this out before now, but my idealism sometimes gets in the way of reality. I’m scared out of my mind to go and more than just part of me wants to stay here, with the people I love, enjoying every pleasant minute completely within my comfort zone. But that’s the thing. I’ve always been within my comfort zone. I’ve always done what I’m good at, and that’s why I can go to school on a scholarship and have the opportunity to study abroad for [basically] free. Now I think I want to go just to see if I can do it. It’s going to be the hardest thing I have ever done, and I’m almost hysterical with trepidation, but I want to see what happens. I honestly don’t know if I can do this, and every inch of me wants to stop planning, stop organizing, stop doing everything in my power to leave everything and everyone I love. But I’m going to keep going through the motions until I go through with this. Because I’m curious, that’s why.