Amsterdam: Anxiety and Thoughts before studying abroad

Sumini Siyambalapitiya
January 14, 2020

It doesn’t feel real. 

That is now my go-to response when people ask me if I’m excited to study abroad. And it’s true, it doesn’t feel real. It still feels like a someday; a distant dream that is yet to be realized far off in the future. But someday is now less than two weeks away(!) I’m going to Amsterdam. It’s really happening!!

I have always struggled in situations like this. Anytime a momentous event is looming on the horizon my brain refuses to acknowledge it and instead of the usual more appropriate responses of excitement, nervousness and fear, I feel cool and calm and very matter of fact about the whole affair.  That is, of course, until one fine day when I will be in-line at a coffee shop or gazing lazily at a sunset when it hits me like a ton of bricks. And then the panic will ensue. 

Two and a half years ago I flew across the world to start my freshman year at a college I had never toured, in a country I had never been to and where I didn’t know a single soul. The weeks and days leading up to my big move I was very nonchalant, quite like the way I feel now. And then, the moment my plane touched down at JFK my first reaction was what have I done??? In the months and years since, I have come to call the US and my college, a home, my friends here are now family. And while the transition and road to get here was filled with anxiety and many many tears, it was worth it. It has been the best two years of my life. 

And so, at least partially, I must come clean and admit that my refusal to believe that Amsterdam is real is because I am terrified at the thought of having to start over from scratch again. New country, new friends, new life. The comfort of the familiar is tempting. But while I love Lafayette and the life I have built for myself in this country, my desire to experience the world and meet myself in different countries is much greater. When I left Sri Lanka, I could have never predicted the experiences I would come to have in the US and the person I would grow to be. For the next few months the possibilites are endless for me. 

I debated making a bucket list of things I wanted to do/see/experience in Europe but decided instead that it would be more meaningful to write down the things that I want to be reminded of every morning when I wake up. Here it is:

1. Take it one day at a time

If there is one thing I have learned from moving across the world, it is that you will feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to get caught up in a whilrwind of missing home, figuring out your next meal and also trying to remember the names of the 100 people you just met. So breathe. Take it one day at a time. And if that’s too much, focus on getting through the next hour. The next minute. The next moment. 

2. Comparison is the thief of joy

Everyone and their mother is constantly talking about how life-changing study abroad is and as a result we have created a culture where there is such an intense pressure placed on having the time of your life. And not just having the time of your life but also sharing it on every available digital space you possibly could. And while yes! I am all for study abroad being the time of your life, please (and I mean PLEASE) remember that ‘the time of your life’ is not a cookie-cutter mold. Not just that, but also, social media only consists of the best and happiest versions of ourselves. So if you ever find yourself scrolling on Instagram, looking at how much fun someone else is having, remind yourself that it is just 1 second out of 86400 in a day.

3. Say yes

Don’t let anxiety, or fear of failure and rejection hold you back. Say yes to getting lost in unfamiliar cities, to coffee with new friends, and taking a leap of faith off the deep end when you don’t know how to swim (just so you know, I mean this VERY MUCH SO metaphorically, but you get the idea :p). Dare to adventure and be curious in the search of the unfamiliar and daunting. It is all too easy to forget that our lives and stories are made up of the individual hours and how we choose to spend them.

And thats a wrap! My ~wise words of wisdom~ to myself and anybody else that needs to hear it. If you have read this far of my ramble, I am suprised, (but also thankful!!) and just so you know,

it's finally starting to feel real. 

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Sumini Siyambalapitiya

My name is Sumini Siyambalapitiya and I'm a junior at Lafayette College PA, studying Math/Econ and Women, Gender and Sexuality studies. I call the incredibly beautiful island of Sri Lanka my home. Some things I love in no particular order are: bubble tea, reading, working out, and This Is Us!

Home University:
Lafayette College
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Women's Studies
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