Click. Click. Click. Gravity presses my back against my seat. My entire body shakes, covered in a cold sweat. As my heart attempts to beat its way out of my chest, I question my decision making. Should I have done this??
The process of preparing for a semester abroad reminds me of the time I went on a rollercoaster with my brother. He’ll probably deny this, but we nervously tried to talk each other out of it, but finally decided to be brave and take the literal plunge.
It feels weird to sit here, having surpassed the anxiety producing, logistical obstacles along the way: selecting a program, finding transferrable courses, making frantic phone-calls to my best friend, applying for my visa, incessantly worrying about not getting my visa, getting my visa, arranging my flights, etc. Now I’m at the tipping point, suspended between two worlds and biding my time on Netflix and social media.
If you’re studying abroad sometime soon and stumbled upon my blog, thank you! You gave my story a chance by clicking on the link, and I am very grateful for that.
If not, you’re probably reading this right now with some idea of who I am. Maybe you’re a family member, friend, frenemy, ex or future employer. Regardless, welcome.
A huge part of who I am (that probably everyone who has ever come into contact with me knows) is that I’m biracial, and very proud of my heritage. My father is Italian and my mother is African American. I’m excited to experience Spain as a college student, as well as a biracial person and notice the cultural differences between Salamanca, other parts of Europe, and the United States.
I have a bit of a background in Spanish. The summer after junior year, I went on a three week trip to Madrid. When people ask me how it felt to travel to a country and be expected to speak the language, I tell them that, for the first couple of days, I felt like I had a bag over my head. Everything that I heard seemed very muffled to me. I could vaguely grasp what people were saying, but initially, I really struggled. In the beginning, I had my repertoire of “Si, claro que si, vale, por supuesto” (essentially “yes, yes, of course, for sure”) when my Spaniard friends spoke at speeds that exceeded what I could comprehend. It happened so often, they probably thought I was a terrible listener, or just a pushover. For the record, I’m neither.
Truth be told, I’m actually thrilled at the idea of being overwhelmed; t’s a part of the immersion process. That’s the sensation I expect to feel when I land in Madrid Barajas Airport in less than a week.
Unfortunately, I have the terrible habit/character defect of procrastination. It always rears its ugly head right before important life events, exacerbating an already stressful situation. Anyone who has dealt with me in a last-minute situation deserves an award of honor, because it is not something reasonable, rational people should have to witness. (My parents just smiled reading that line.) Immense procrastination has had me scrambling to the airport shuttle at 4:15am, giving some clothes back to my parents at the entrance to TSA and packing my room up right before high school graduation. I’m procrastinating right now by writing this blog post when I should be writing up a packing list.
Part of the reason that I procrastinate is because it’s easier to let the little things go when you’re rushing to get out the door. You don’t have time to agonize over whatever outfits you’re going to wear because WHATEVER FITS UNDER 40 LBS IS GOING...RIGHT NOW, THE CAR IS RUNNING MARIA, YOU’RE GOING TO MISS YOUR FLIGHT!!
In a mere number of days, I will be making an 8.5 hour journey across the Atlantic to the Madrid Barajas airport, where I will meet with IES Abroad Staff and head to Salamanca. While I am beyond excited, I have so much to do before that day comes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to go abroad since forever. I come from a family that loves traveling: the experience of uprooting yourself from your situation and integrating yourself into a brand new culture, new outlook, new way of life. And I am so mentally ready, but so, so underprepared.
I’ve been home for a little under a month...and I’m still living out of my suitcases, suitcases that are full of things I brought home from my university. I’m going to have to figure out a packing strategy, and quickly, might I add. I’ve done plenty of research (as a form of procrastination) and been told to pack light and bring clothing that can mix and match, but telling me “pack light” is like bathing a cat: you’ll be met with resistance. (Side note: I have two cats and “resistance” is probably too light a word) When someone tells me “pack for 4 days”, I somehow hear “8 days”. Yeah, I have a problem.
In light of my roller-coaster metaphor: I did horribly in AP Physics, but I know potential and kinetic energy. I’m sitting on that precipice: I haven’t gone anywhere yet, but this trip has the potential to be something amazing. I can’t even have expectations for study abroad, because I’ve never done something so far out of my comfort zone for so long. There are so many things I want to do, and so many personal goals I want to achieve. I have to write these things down, otherwise I’ll get caught up and forget.
I’m still chipping away at my to-do list and my packing list hasn’t actually been written. I should probably get off the couch, off Netflix, and get started. This is a trip I need to be a little more organized for. The countdown is currently at five days. Tick tock, tick tock...