The Small Risks

Angela Pupino
December 31, 2016

“Are you sure?” Erin asked as she took out the shears. “Once I make the first cut you can’t change your mind.”

Fall semester finals ended a week earlier, and I was sitting in a hair salon in my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. I was doing something I’d wanted to do for a very long time.

Chopping off your hair is something you can never be 100% prepared for. But I thought to myself: If not now, when?

“I’m ready,” I said.

This past semester hit me hard. Between having a paid job and an internship, participating in clubs, and taking the maximum amount of course credits, I left no time for taking care of myself. And I paid the price physically, mentally, and emotionally. I crawled out of finals week and into Winter Break freedom kind of like Andy at the end of Shawshank Redemption. And because my fall semester ended later than usual and my semester abroad in London begins right after the New Year, I only had two weeks to get ready for my semester abroad.

In hindsight, the most hectic and draining semester of my college career was probably the worst time to apply to go abroad. On top of everything else, I was rushing around to campus offices I had never heard of to get documents, signatures, and certifications for my application. I spent hours on scholarship applications and essays to help cover the cost. I practically lived on my school’s study abroad website. Once I was accepted I thought that the hard part was over, but the craziness only multiplied. I had to fill out lots of paperwork, get a police clearance letter, and set up my first checking account and first credit card. My family and I bombarded my IES Abroad Advisor with questions about my visa and I had to take a taxi an hour away from school to get fingerprinted.

Last semester was so chaotic that I almost gave up on studying abroad. But now that the preparation process is more or less over and all that’s left to do is actually go, I’m grateful that I stuck it out. I expect studying abroad to be a lot like the study abroad application process: challenging and immensely rewarding. And while my parents are nervous about how I'll adjust to life in a new country, I'm excited for the challenge.

Between now and April, I’m going to be sharing my experiences abroad in London with you on this blog. As an IDEA blogger, I’m going to do so through the lens of my identities as both a low-income college student and the first person in my family to go to college. I also hope to chronicle the ups and downs of my daily life, cue you in to the best places to get hot chocolate in the city, and chronicle the changes in myself that living and learning abroad can bring.

Spending the spring in London really feels like a fresh start for me. Yes, I’m going to be busy with classes and my service-learning placement. But I’m going to do so while studying a subject I love, meeting new people, and exploring a place that makes my heart beat faster. London’s been calling to me all semester, but it seemed like such a distant goal. In a few days I’ll be landing in Heathrow.

My haircut? I absolutely love it. There is definitely a cheesy metaphor in the loss of its weight. Cutting my hair was a risk, albeit a small one (hair grows back!), but now I feel more confident. I feel more like myself.

I’m ready to step out of my comfort zone and take more risks like that while I’m abroad.

I’m ready for you, London. 

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Angela Pupino

<p>Hi, I&rsquo;m Angela! I&rsquo;m a junior at American University, where I&rsquo;m majoring in International Studies and minoring in Public Health. I enjoy drinking hot chocolate, reading good books, and singing along to *every* song on the Hamilton soundtrack. I grew up in the Rust Belt, live in DC, and can&rsquo;t wait to study healthcare and experience life in London. I&rsquo;m not throwing away my shot!</p>

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