“I’m going abroad next semester!”
“Where are you going?”
“Um, I have absolutely no idea.”
I had the above conversation countless times over the last six months. I knew I wanted to go abroad to force myself out of my comfort zone and to experience a new culture — I just wasn’t sure which new culture I wanted to experience. My answer about not knowing which city or even country I was going to freaked out the recipients more than it freaked me out. Since I study journalism, I consider every life experience a learning moment that will only further my writing and inform the way I see the world. The whole world was a possibility, and I just needed to decide which country I wanted.
Deciding where to study abroad felt like speed dating. I read the brochures on Italy, Morocco, Amsterdam, Chile, Germany and France. I tried to picture myself walking along the charming streets pictured in each information packet. I googled the traditional cuisine to learn what I could expect to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I looked up the local museums and imagined how I could spend a free Saturday in each country. The problem I encountered is that each country had beautiful scenery, yummy food and quality museums. How could I decide when everywhere seemed perfect?
I changed my game plan. I started asking the people in my life where they thought I should live. I asked my Grandma, who encouraged me to go to France so I could make use of the French classes I took the first two years of college. My aunts all wanted me to go to Italy, since it’s the country my great-great grandparents immigrated from — plus, “the pasta is to die for.” My mom wanted me to go to Morocco, since she visited Africa when she was 20. I learned everyone had a better idea of where I should live than I did, and it only made me more confused.
Finally, I decided on Italy. Five months of pasta and gelato sounded pretty amazing to me. But, I couldn’t bring myself to fill out the application. I didn’t know why, since the idea of walking around the historical sites in Rome and visiting the vineyards in Tuscany excited me. I then realized Italy was too easy. Everyone in my family has already been multiple times, so I’ve been hearing stories about visiting Italy my whole life. Homemade tomato sauce was already a staple of my diet. Italy wouldn’t challenge me, and I wanted to go abroad to challenge myself.
I was panicking now, since application deadlines were approaching, and I still had no idea where I wanted to live. Again, I changed my game plan. I started to think about cities I had never really considered. I reread the brochure on Germany, and I realized Berlin seemed pretty groovy. It has a rich and complicated history. It’s where The Beatles first toured, before Ringo was even in the band. The entire city is covered in graffiti. I realized Berlin combined my love of history, music and art. I filled out the application, and I excitedly told everyone who would listen that I was studying abroad next semester in Berlin.
During my complicated process of picking a city, I realized it didn’t really matter where I ended up living. I have already stepped out of my comfort zone, and I haven’t even stepped foot on an airplane yet. Just deciding to leave my campus and my country is thrilling. I hope Berlin is all that I’ve imagined, and if not, Italy is just a plane ride away.