Conceptually, “study abroad” seems easy to understand. After all, what could possibly be confusing about it? It’s just like any other semester of college...except you’re doing it somewhere else. As I watched my friends travel across the world this past year, to Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, and Vienna, I began to understand the importance of traveling away from your friends and family. The independence, confidence, and expanded perspective which study abroad programs can provide are invaluable. With the knowledge that spending a semester away would be a life-changing experience, I decided to apply to study abroad myself.
But over the past eight months, the concept of studying abroad has remained just that - a concept. I cannot seem to grasp my brain around the fact that, in a matter of days, I will actually be boarding a plane to my home for the next four months - Freiburg.
When will this hypothetical cement itself as a reality? It probably won’t hit me until I’m on my way to the airport, saying goodbye to my parents just as I have for the past two years of college. Or maybe it won’t hit me until I am flying 35,000 feet over the Atlantic, bidding the United States a fond farewell. Or, quite likely, I will still be in awe even after I’ve set foot on German soil.
My inner dialogue reflects a pretty weird dichotomy; I’m immeasurably excited for the opportunity ahead, and yet I remain reluctant to accept that it’s really happening. It’s simply difficult to imagine what my life will be like in the coming months. This upcoming adventure has made me think back to my last new beginning: my freshman year at Occidental College. It was uncomfortable, it was weird, it was different, and after a month or two, it all felt completely normal - as if it were the only life I had ever known.
Yet, while those first few weeks of freshman year were some of the most uncomfortable, they were also some of the most exciting. It was a chance to meet amazing people, to try new things, and to begin to discover who I am in a new environment. So while I know that the surreality of the situation will eventually settle in, I’m actually pretty pumped that it all feels so surreal.
If there’s a lesson to be learned about new experiences, it’s that everything usually turns out fine in the end (I say this with my very limited 20 years of life). Come December, I hope to be able to wander the Freiburg’s streets with some semblance of an internal map, and to have made life-long friendships with countless shared adventures. At the end of my study abroad experience, I expect that Freiburg will feel like my home and that everything will be superb. But ‘the end’ is a long way off. For now, I’m ready to be unready - to face the world one step at a time.
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<p>Hello! My name is Zach and I am so happy you are here! I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and am currently a Junior at Occidental College, where I am double-majoring in History and International Relations. I'm fascinated by the connections between the past and the present, and the role that history plays in modern diplomacy. Be sure to keep up with my travels as I explore Freiburg and the European Union this semester!</p>