It’s currently three hours before my first plane ride boards, and I don’t think it’s hit me yet that my life is about to change—really soon. In a blink of an eye, I will be leaving my home, my family, my friends, and my way of life. Instead of spending my fall living with my best friends in sophomore housing, I’ll be enjoying spring in a different hemisphere. I’ll be by myself in a country where I know no one, am not fluent in the language, and know nothing about the culture.
I should feel more fear. I should be more nervous. I should, at least, be more prepared. I’m still doing last minute packing and unpacking—leaving that second pair of Vans at home so I can instead take a fourth cardigan, swapping a framed picture of my friends for ten postcards of Pittsburgh—still transferring summer pictures from my phone onto my laptop for more storage space, still procrastinating on reading my orientation schedule, travel documents, and welcome emails.
I should definitely feel more worried. Last minute, hurried preparations aren’t me. I like to plan. I like to create lists: items to pack, things to do, people to say goodbye to before I go.
But only hours before I begin boarding the most important plane rides of my life, I feel good. I feel calm. I’m not overcome by the need to schedule the next four months of my life into excruciating detail. I haven’t practiced my Spanish in almost two months. I forgot which courses I signed up for. I haven’t even set a return date for my trip yet.
To say that I have no plans for my semester abroad would be a lie, but my desires are too vague to be called plans. I want to visit Iguazu Falls. I want to hike through Patagonia. I want to touch the Perrito Moreno glacier. I want to catch a glimpse of Antarctica from Ushuaia. Drink wine in Mendoza. Party in Montevideo. Backpack through Chile. Learn to tango. Speak like a local. Enjoy some amazing barbecue.
And yet, I don’t have any trips booked, itineraries scheduled, or budgets allocated. I don’t know when those trips will happen or how I’ll be able to go everywhere. But I’m not scared of the challenges, I’m excited about the possibilities. Maybe general ideas are close enough to a bulleted list to appease my subconscious need for organization.
It's crazy that just two months ago, I was boxing up all of the clothes, pictures, and decorations that made up my freshman year of college. It took me two cardboard boxes, three garbage bags, and a trunk full of things too inconvenient to pack. It took an entire van full of stuff to make my dorm room feel like a home for nine months. Even during my last hours in the US, I’m still trying to find a way to condense all of my belongings into an amount I can bring on a plane—a purse, a suitcase, and a 44L hiking backpack—without losing that feeling of hominess.
It’s a work in progress, but I’ve traveled abroad before. I’ve backpacked in South America once already. Even if I haven’t been to Buenos Aires, I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into. I have a general picture of what I need, what I can live without, and what I’ll want desperately but know better than to bring. If I’m wrong, my family is only a Skype call away. My friends, a Facebook message. And apparently, Starbucks is only two blocks away from my host family’s apartment.
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<p>I am Maria Oldenburg, and I'm a sophomore Economics and International Studies double major at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. On campus, you can find me pretending to be a professional photographer, exploring the local coffee scene, or hopelessly planning my dream backpacking trip across Southeast Asia. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I can't wait to eat my weight in empanadas, learn quality puns in Spanish, and tango with the best of them during my semester in Buenos Aires!</p>