Studying abroad is a concept I have become all too familiar with over the past three years. After all, going to a university with one of the best study abroad programs in the nation will do that to you. I’ve heard the term thrown around many times since I first fell in love with Arcadia in January 2010 of my high school senior year. Ironically, I didn’t even care about studying abroad at the time; in fact, at first, I thought I’d never study abroad. The concept of traveling thousands of miles away from home terrified me—I was still trying to wrap my head around living in Glenside.
As you can probably guess, that didn’t last long. After my friends hit the road to London or Scotland the second semester of our first year, I Skyped and Facebooked them, so excited to see their beaming faces and listen to all of their fascinating, vivid stories about their experiences. This continued throughout my sophomore year as well, as my friends traveled to Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, and countless other exotic locations. I had friends that had trekked all around the globe. Though they had been in completely different locations, I noticed they all had one thing in common: the look of pure enthusiasm, exhilaration, and love of life whenever they’d speak of the foods they had tried, the people they had met, and the late nights they had spent experiencing a completely different culture.
Next thing I knew, I had caught the bug. I applied to study at University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia for the spring semester of my junior year.
Somehow, time has moved at an alarming speed, and we’re now in December 2012, a mere two months before my departure. I’ve filled out most of the necessary forms and paperwork to leave, and I’ve been in contact with friends of friends who currently reside in Australia. After speaking about it at practically every family event and friendly gathering, I’ve found that now the closer I get to mid-February of 2013, the more conflicted I feel about my upcoming journey. Sometimes, I feel on top of the world–I have a fantastic opportunity to experience something most others will never have the chance to. However, other times, I feel like it’s the end of my world as I know it. I get a sick dropping feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the thought of stepping on that plane and traveling over 12,000 miles away makes me want to either cry or throw up, whichever comes first.
Perhaps it’s the fear of being away from those I love. I won’t be able to see them in person for four straight months; I will be completely reliant on technology and the postal service. And since Brisbane is 15 hours ahead of Pennsylvania, it will be difficult to get in contact. My family, friends, and boyfriend–these wonderful people are practically my world. Oftentimes, when I’m free to talk over in Australia, everyone will be asleep at home—and perhaps that thought terrifies me.
Or perhaps it’s the thought of everything I’m used to completely changing. There are so many aspects of my life that are completely American that I don’t even think about. What if everything is completely different…and not in such an exhilarating way? What if I feel like an outsider? Going to Australia could be the end of–or at least, a four-month hiatus from–the life I have always known.
Maybe, it’s simply that I’m scared that when I come back, everything will have completely changed–that without me there to stabilize it, everything about my life will have done a 180, and there’s no way for me to prevent it.
It’s ironic that all of this is happening to me at the same time that the Mayan Apocalypse craze is going on, because when I am having these feelings, this impending study abroad trip truly does feel like it’s the end of my world. Even though I know it will be fantastic, the doubtful part of my mind kicks in–the part that worries about change.
Change can be a terrifying concept. But without change, how can anything progress? How can anyone truly have a life worth living? When I have these moments, I take a step back and think to myself that the exhilaration I saw on my friend’s faces could not have existed if everything had stayed the same. Change is a risk worth taking. When I am having the time of my life in Australia, my world back home will keep on turning. It’s not the end of my world as I know it. It’s the beginning of a new one.
Photo Credit: elitatt via Creative Commons license