“The best experience of college!”
“You’ll wish it were longer!”
“You’re going to have the time of your life!”
Every time I’ve mentioned my study abroad trip to someone in recent months, their response is some variation of one of those statements. Usually, it’s a compilation of all of them. People from all walks of life- current students, alumni, family members, coworkers- everyone has encouraged me in this endeavor. They talk purely of the positives: the excursions, the diverse people I’ll meet, the food, the sights, the adventure, and while yes, I’m stoked for all of that… can I be honest?
Granted, I’ll only be gone for a month and I’ll be with a trusted and certified study abroad program, but I can’t help but let my mind drift to a plethora of different issues that may arise throughout my time abroad. Will I make my connecting flight? What if I get lost? Will I disrespect someone of the local population? Do I know enough Spanish? Will I not get enough out of the experience?
When conferring with fellow students about our impending departure dates, I see the excitement in their eyes. They have no qualms with the traveling, and they are anxious to get out of San Diego, ready for their new destination of education. They are taking the entire time in stride, and I admire that so much. No one has expressed to me any reservations, which only makes my hesitation to speak out even deeper. I want nothing more than to take on this go-getter personality, but as much as I’ve tried, I struggled a lot with this. Then, I started to get down on myself for being worried about the program itself. It’s a downward spiral that kept coming without much notice.
I’ve known all my life that I’m a planner. My type-A personality likes to know precisely how events will occur, and to what situations I might subject myself. But there, in what is metaphorically uncharted territory to me, I haven’t the faintest idea what to expect. For a really long time, I muted my voice, quieting the anxieties, hoping they’d dissipate if I refused to acknowledge them.
Yeah, that didn’t work.
In these final days leading up to my trip – the suitcase stocked, itinerary printed, and camera storage waiting to be filled – I’m finally allowing myself to feel the worry and more importantly, to embrace it. Who knows what is to come in this month away at Spain, but I realize now that if I cower away to hide behind these worries I desperately wanted to not exist in the first place, I’ll waste my entire time. I don’t want to walk through the cobblestone streets with clenched shoulders and scanning eyes. I want to meander. I want to taste test. I want to explore. I want to let go of the anxiety and just exist there among the atmosphere of Spain.
To combat the anxiety and calm my fears, I’ve given myself a few rules to abide by while I’m in my creative writing program:
- Challenge myself – there’s a difference between comfort zone and cowardliness. This is the time to step out of my normal routine and experience the world through a different lens, which calls for me to strap on a badge of courage.
- Remember my roots – it’s normal to be homesick. I acknowledge that and have set myself to be in contact with my family if need be. Keeping in touch is not going to be a crutch, but rather a small taste of my loved ones when I’m exhausted.
- Be kind to myself – at the end of the day, I’m a human being with faults, worries and I can only take so much. I’m not going to condemn myself if I need a break from the constant excitement to take a nap. I’m only there for a month and what is most important is simply that I exist and immerse myself within the Spanish culture. That’s all I hope to accomplish, for I know that to be the true purpose of my time in Spain.
I am accepting the inevitable nerves, but choosing to moving past them. They exist, and I acknowledge that, but I refuse to let them deter from any chance that may arise halfway around the world.
Spain, I’m coming for you!
Julia Grigorian double majoring in English and religious studies with the intent on pursuing a doctorate in early Christianity and Judaism. She is blogging this summer from Valencia, Spain.