Before Departure

I’m going to allocate two posts for each of the three segments of my semester study abroad experience. Two for before/the beginning, two for the middle, and two for the end. Here is the first.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 – 5:03 P.M.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, and I hear my mom’s car pull into the garage. Her door opens and closes, and she comes inside, turning on the TV to catch up on the Olympics. I move to her bedroom and close the door because I need quiet. I need to think. On Sunday, at about 4:55 in the evening, I will board a plane to Quito, Ecuador, and it is there that I will stay until May.

I am genuinely anxious and very nervous about this, so I’ll go ahead and preface what I am about to say with this: I understand that there are so many worse things in the world. I understand that this journal will be filled with first-world problems. That’s just reality.

When I began the application process for this study abroad program, I was lying on my bedroom floor, legs bobbing up and down mindlessly as I chewed a granola bar. The idea of living on another continent was too surreal to have actually burdened my mind at the time, but I knew that I wanted to do it, so I poured my heart into those application essays, I asked my favorite professors for recommendations, and I reached out to several other students who had already spent semesters in Quito. I applied for several scholarships, met with advisors, and suffered (the waiting stressed me) for two weeks while OU’s College of International Studies decided which three students would be admitted to The University of San Francisco.

When I received the email of my acceptance, the feelings of euphoria were indescribable. I felt bliss. All of the paperwork, the essays, the fees, the deadlines, the stress – they were finished. And I was going to Ecuador. Strolling around OU’s campus, I felt confident and excited, and I was fully looking forward to August when I would be on my way to a beautiful new country, my home for a short while. Could anything feel better than this? I thought naively.

Slowly, emails rolled in from my international advisor. First it was time to get a visa, then it was time for the Spanish placement exam, then I had to enroll in classes and receive my host family assignment. Then my host family emailed me, I registered for a new cell phone, and I started packing my suitcases. And each little event tumbled forward, one after the other, until I arrived at today. Three days until departure.

I’m sitting here with a little more packing to do, and I am so nervous. I knew that I would feel this way, but it didn’t start happening until just now, and I don’t think that any of this will feel real until I see my host family holding a poster with my name on it in the airport in Quito. I’m worried about communicating mainly in Spanish. Even though I have wanted this since my first semester of college, the reality of it is daunting. I’m worried about navigating a completely foreign city and going to school at a university that I have never seen before. Again, a few months ago, I was elated at this prospect, but now, it’s causing me immense stress. Even worse, I’ll miss my close friends in Norman. I know that I can communicate with them via technology, but the lack of physical presence will wear on me.

Despite all of this, I know that it will be okay and that I will adapt quickly and that I will probably fall head over heels in love with my new, temporary life. But right now, I’m scared. This is that annoying, anxiety-filled middle ground that must be crossed to get to the promised land. Can I just be on the other side already?

 

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