The rush of heading abroad, leaping into the Old World, a new world for me, is beginning to take hold. These days, my mind is running through flashes of images, one rotating into the next – a dish of pasta, some faraway European excursion, sights of Tuscan hills, a glass of vino on the piazza, a rocking train bound for a nearby Italian wonder. The dish of pasta takes many forms in these mental slideshows, I’ll admit, with clams or prawns or in a classic red sauce.
This past summer, when I circled the Siena program in a brochure and began to imagine Italy as a study-abroad destination, these images were a mirage. They were unplaceable, impossible. I assumed I’d be able to place them over time, to become ready for them. Yet now I am here, behind my childhood desk, suspended in the intermission between the fall term and a European voyage, faced with the administration of the upcoming act – a visa pickup, an empty suitcase, and some teary farewells – and, still, the images have a foreignness, an incredibility. While every strikethrough of a predeparture to-do brings this adventure closer down to earth, feeling realer as the countdown splinters off days and digits, there are emotions and excitements I can’t encircle and underline the way I did a boldface “Study in Tuscany” listing on a university flyer back in June.
It makes a predeparture essay quite a foggy thing. As a college student, I’ve found breaks between semesters to be not unlike an instrumental refrain in the life of a song, spelling the chorus for a pause. The quietness is not unwelcome; it’s a relaxation of the chaotic winds of college, a chance to regroup and recalibrate. To reconnect with friends. This time around, though, a looming semester overseas brings some friction: the calm of time off, made to dorm with the prospect of relocation and, with it, an uncertain anticipation.
As of this writing – the stroke of midnight meaning the 11 days until departure date are now 10 – I have tabs, innumerable tabs, open on my laptop. It’s unlikely that any are important enough to have been open for as long as they have. But internship postings, email drafts, and articles of interest – but daunting length – cloud my digital state, an environment increasingly difficult to delineate from state of mind. Then there’s unsettled housing business: a senior-year lease with a need for signing.
These housekeeping matters don’t ordinarily give me headaches, but given the imminence of my departure, I’m equally anxious to fly away from them as I am to snuff them out before taking flight. I’m often caught imagining an Italy immunized from these day-to-day stresses.
In the moments I find my mind lurching toward Siena, making grand predictions for how my semester will look and feel abroad, I try to remind myself of a lesson I learned nearly a year ago to the date of this writing. Travelling to Rutledge, Tennessee on a service project, I was gifted from the group’s leaders with some sensibility on predeparture emotions: don’t anticipate, participate. Growth requires presence: leaning into the day, as these wise folks put it, and resisting the pull to relive past and conjure future, is the best formula for fulfillment. In participation, I’m thinking of il caffè, an Italian centerpiece, and la conversazione, a universal centerpiece.
Thus, my predeparture statement is that I have no statement, no grand declaration, no momentous expectation. On post-departure, at risk of contradicting my prediction policy, I’m sure I’ll have more in the way of statements and declarations.
In the meantime, my Spotify is calling my name, working magic on the trappings of an unsigned lease and an uncertain summer, telling me what any imminent traveler must hear: slow down. In these last days before the leap, I’m saying goodbyes, building some playlists, and picking up a few books.
I’m ready for that first coffee in the Old World.
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<p>I am a junior studying business at Fordham University, where I’ve found a home at WFUV Radio calling college football and baseball. Sports enthusiast, politics observer, and reader, I have a passion for boiling my experiences into the written word. Based in New York, New York, a city with such a unique identity, I’m ecstatic to fall under the European spell this semester.</p>