Going Abroad: Am I unprepared (or just uncomfortable)?

Shana Pike
July 27, 2016

 Taking it one day at a time is much easier said than done. I’ve been stuck in the hamster-wheel effect up until the academic year ended. Continually running in circles, struggling to keep up with the demands of academia, with work, with keeping stress levels to a manageable level (and failing miserably). Then summer arrives! (Bringing the 50+ hour work weeks). I got this! (Or rather, I got to do this to pay my tuition bill).

All summer, I haven’t actually thought much about going abroad. I’ve yet to leave the United States and I couldn’t be more eager to pack my bags and venture away from the United States in under a month! As anxious and excited and nervous and thrilled and scared and ecstatic as I am for this experience… I feel immensely under prepared. But then again, I’m not certain what variety of “prepared” I’m looking for. My red, bolded paperwork for the program is finished. I’ve dusted off my suitcase. I’ve purchased an energy converter. Ik spreekt geen Nederlands (but I’m learning!)

So what really am I unprepared for?


I don’t know what life in Amsterdam will bring. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable with uncertainty. Prior to departure, I’m trying to spend as much time as possible with my partner, family, and friends, eat Wisconsin Cheese curds to ensure I won’t miss them, hike around and skip stones into Lake Michigan, and enjoy the Saturday Farmers Market that is literally 10 steps away from my apartment door. I want to feel as if I’m not missing anything while I’m gone, but I know that’s something I can’t compensate for by doing all of the local “musts” before I leave. These will be easy to miss – familiarity is designed to comfort, but can also serve as a crutch.


Comfort has kept my grandpa within a 20 mile diameter of our farm for nearly 50 years. Comfort influenced my decision to attend a Wisconsin university. Comfort keeps from correcting my family when they ask if I "have a boyfriend yet" (as opposed to knowing about my pansexuality). And although I’m certain I’ll find it while in Amsterdam, nothing about this venture is comfortable yet. However, the best parts of my life to date have arrived out of discomfort.


Like that time I boarded my first solo trip in an airplane to meet a friend I met on the internet – that someone is now my partner after 3 years of laughs, challenges, and plenty of Wisconsin → New York/New York → Wisconsin airline tickets later. Or that time I walked into a martial arts class held at my college freshman year. Now I train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu multiple times a week with amazing athletes and learn fascinating techniques daily. Or when I applied for a new job doing something I felt entirely unqualified for and was hired as a Behavioral Treatment Therapist with children on the Autism Spectrum (and loving every minute of it!). Or, mostly recently, when I filled out an application to study abroad as a senior double-major undergraduate student, who in theory didn’t have the available funds or time to study abroad.  Uncomfortable situations can brew the most rewarding experiences, stories, and relationships.

I don’t know what life will bring in Amsterdam. (And that’s the best part!)

See you in August, Amsterdam! Doei!

Shana Pike

<p>Hello folks! I&#39;m Shana, a small-town tree-hugger with a big appetite for experiences, culture, and knowledge. I&#39;m an undergrad student of Psychology and Gender Studies, yearning to understand my surroundings better each day. Welcome to my conglomeration of ideas and passions, all nourished by traveling, friends, spinach, and coffee.</p>

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Lawrence University
Gender Studies
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