Unpacking Before You Pack

Emma Ropski
August 23, 2015

It’s taken a long time and a lot of effort to get here. I searched through hundreds of programs, filled out a pile of applications, sent dozens of emails, wrote a handful of scholarship essays, visited the registrar’s office a couple of times, and bought a round-trip airplane ticket while quite literally sweating as I clicked to confirm the order.

But that is only the mandatory tip of the iceberg! To try and gage what I’m really getting myself into, I’ve had to do some extra research. I’ve read blogs, bookmarked advice articles, and flipped through guidebooks. I’ve talked to friends who have traveled and studied abroad. I’ve brushed up on some grammar and learned some Castilian slang (¿Ahora si soy tan <<guay>>?). I’ve even mapped out my daily transportation options and looked at my homestay on Google Earth.

I feel a lot of emphasis is placed on this physical preparation: the shopping lists, the to-dos, the familiarization, and the forms. But from what I’ve experienced, the huge necessity of mental preparation isn’t usually talked about except in the terms of the tired response, “I’m excited and nervous!” Those two words are so PACKED. They are the attractive and repulsive rumbly feelings in your gut that you get from facing the unknown. I want to unpack them a little more with some of the thoughts I’ve had throughout the summer as the day I leave home draws nearer and nearer. I like to lump these under the title, Coming to Terms with “Excitement and Nervousness”

  • Independence and Responsibility- I won’t know a single soul in Barcelona. I will have to make friends, be social, and make an effort. In this case, the dramatic cliché holds true: I will largely control my destiny.

  • Desire to Feel Connected- I will want to feel completely present in multiple places in the world at once but I know that it will be impossible to do so. It’ll basically be a multi-layered fear of missing out (FOMO) with my family at home, my friends at college, and my current life in Barcelona.  

  • Inevitability of Change- I will be different when I get back and so will my friends, family, and school. I can’t expect that while I’m gone my world at home will be perfectly frozen as it was before.

  • Lack of Control- Lastly, no matter how much I prepare, I cannot predict or control everything. I must surrender to the fact that not all will go according to plans and I frequently won’t know what to do or what to expect.

This might all sound a bit negative, but I swear I’m not trying to be! Preparing both physically and mentally for any large endeavor is an exhausting and tedious process, but it’s all for the delayed gratification that I will start to reap in a few short days. I’m excited to both be outside of the U.S. and see mountains for the first time. I’m excited to speak Spanish everyday and live in the city (I honestly love public transportation!). I’m excited to be uncomfortably culturally aware and take awesome classes (Banditry and Mafias in the Mediterranean, anyone?). And, as all students studying abroad will say, I’m excited to shop, eat, travel, and explore.

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Emma Ropski

<p>Hi all! My name is Emma Ropski and I&#39;m a senior sociology and psychology major at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I am a middle distance runner on the track and field team there and love it to bits. My interests include the sociological imagination, thrifting, lifting, daytime judge shows, and gorditas. I am so excited to share my study abroad experience in Barcelona with you!</p>

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