Predeparture Blog Number One, or The Anxious Homebody’s Travel Jitters
Greetings and salutations! I’ve never really blogged for anyone other than myself before, so I shall try to make this as unawkwardly written as possible. For starters I should probably introduce myself: I’m Kelsey, 22 years young, English major, born and raised in sunny California. I’m a thoroughly dependent person in that I’ve never been away from home for more than two weeks and never outside the states. So, this experience is as new to me as it is to anyone (I know everyone says that… but seriously, I mean it). I’m also pretty terrified of change, so it’s probably a good thing I was asked to blog for IFSA-Butler. Any issues that could possibly come up (i.e. severe homesickness, general travel insecurity, magnificently dumb mistakes, etc.) will surely come up with me. In which case, perhaps someone somewhere out there can learn from what I have to say or at the very least feel comforted by the fact that they probably aren’t quite as dysfunctional a traveler as I am.
As I am entirely too paranoid for my own good, I did quite a bit of researching before applying. I had the same questions I’m sure a lot of people had, but had a bit of trouble finding answers to all of them, such as a description of what to expect in the application, financial aid process, etc. As for the application itself– it is long, and it is threefold. At least it was for me, and I’m assuming it’s similar for others. But it all depends on your home university and abroad university.
Something else I’m sure many or most people who study abroad encounter at some point is financial aid. In terms of financial aid, my particular experience has been, in all honesty, an absolute nightmare. I say this not to terrify anyone or discourage you in any way, but to help (really, I swear!). I could write a separate blog entry entirely on my financial aid experience alone, and might do so in case it could prevent anyone else from going through any stresses. But all I’ll really say right now about it is that 1) yes, it is a lengthy, trying process, but 2) if you are as prepared and diligent about it as you can be, that 3) it will work out in the end, and most importantly, 4) will absolutely be worth it. I promise.
As for me, I leave in exactly five days (assuming I get on my stand-by flight). As I said before, I have never been away from home for more than two weeks, and have never been out of the country, save for a three-day trip just south of the border into a questionable part of Mexico. Basically, I am a homebody. I love the idea of adventure, but until now have been rather petrified of big changes. I’m still surprised at how deeply this is all hitting me. A very good friend of mine, who is also studying abroad this Spring (in Wales and luckily only an hour away from me) and who is equally attached to home, agrees with me when I say that it takes a lot out of you in many ways, even before you leave. I’ve never anticipated anything more than this, ever, in my entire twenty-two years of life. That alone is saying quite a lot! Then there’s the anxiety– the sort of half-excitement/half-worry about traveling, getting acclimated to a new city and way of life, and keeping up with an entirely new school, study habits, vocabulary. And then there is downright sadness about leaving your home, family, comfort zone. But everyone reacts differently, and I think the key is to tell yourself it’ll feel very new, very strange, and at times very wrong. You just have to be okay with being a little out of control, and trust in yourself to adjust and appreciate something new.
But all of the worry aside, I am absolutely convinced this is the best thing I could possibly do for myself. As everyone says, this is your chance to run off to a foreign country for six months of your life, meet people, learn things, and adopt a new lifestyle. I know it will be challenging in many ways. I know that within two or three weeks of my stay, I will run head-on into the inevitable wall that is acute homesickness and call my mommy, pleading to come home. But I will have to deal with it, and I will. And then I’ll come to my senses and create a balance that allows me to function through the remaining five months with some semblance of sanity. After all, there is always Skype.
And when it all seems too overwhelming to be true, I just remember the fact that I will be welcomed with open arms into a city with knowledge and curiosity and adventure seeping from every cobblestone. Chances are, if you’re looking into studying abroad, school means a lot to you in some way. The point of studying abroad is, after all, the studying. So when you can’t seem to see past the scary parts, remember that school is always there for you, just as it always has been. A wonderful place of learning for you to get to know. And I cannot wait to introduce myself to my new school. So, Hertford College, how do you do? I’m Kelsey.