Tomorrow morning I leave for Milan to start my IES Abroad experience, an experience that I have almost no expectations for. Don't get me wrong, I've been waiting to head to Italy since the day I was admitted to the program, but I've been cautiously curbing my ideas of what might happen while abroad.
When setting expectations for something, there are three things that can happen. The first one is that your expectations are met. While this can be good, you may be left with the feeling of resentment that your expectations were not exceeded. The next thing that can happen is that your expectations are not met. Obviously, no one ever wants this to happen, as it typically results in disappointment and sadness. The last thing that could happen is that your expectations are exceeded. This may not be very common, but it sure does feel great when it does. Two out three of those options result in negative or average feelings. If I choose not to create expectations, it becomes a lot easier to avoid disappointment.
Within our digital age, it is easy to get sucked into creating unrealistic fantasies about what a destination or experience may be like. I feel like every time I go on TikTok I see some incredible Italian scenery or a cool looking day-in-the-life POV. If you don't think about it, you can forget that these are carefully curated perspectives that rarely tell the full story of something. You can try living someone else's life from the glimpses you've seen on social media. or you can go in with no expectations and write your own story.
I spent my summer working in Uganda, which was my first time ever visiting a foreign country, and it resulted in a lot of realizations about judgment and travel. One of the things that stuck out to me most was when I was talking to someone and they were asking me all these questions about America and to their surprise, I wasn't confirming what they thought to be true. They said to me "well I've seen this all over TV and in movies," and that's what their entire perspective was built upon. It can be hard to block out all the information you've seen prior to going somewhere new, but that's what I try to do.
Expectations set a precedent of distancing yourself from spontaneous behavior. That doesn't mean that I don't intend to plan out anything, I'm sure I'll take some weekend trips somewhere, but the keyword there is "somewhere." Maybe I'll meet a local who'll recommend a destination or I'll see somewhere interesting on the local media, but if neither of those happens then I'm sure I'll be fine.
I've received a wealth of knowledge in the form of pre-departure guides and other program information, which has all been very helpful. I consider all of this information to have built a set of standards. These standards are things I know will happen. I'll go to class, have a place to stay, and have good access to public transportation. Expectations, on the other hand, are all variables. What will those variables be? I don't know now, but I'll find out over the next few months.
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<p>My name is Michael Kyle from Roanoke, VA, studying Leadership Studies and Business Administration at the University of Richmond. I love all things outdoors, including hiking, visiting National Parks (both in the US and around the world), and wildlife conservation.</p>