Mission Prepare to Leave the Country
My latest letter from IFSA-Butler Mexico study aboad program included a pink piece of paper scrawled with the loopy cursive of my host mother. From what I can decipher, between my limited Spanish vocabulary and the difficulty of reading her handwriting, she likes to embroider, but most of all to sing. I have two host brothers who are 15 and 21. They like boxing and, depending on how you read the cursive, either baseball (beisbol) or basketball (basquetbol) or drumsticks (basquetas). I am to either hug my family here or maybe to send a hug from them to my family here (whichever it is, I think the sentiments were well-wishing).
This information at first unleashed the excitement that had been building up since I applied to study abroad. I imagined myself embroidering with my host mother, setting the table for my family, and tossing a baseball–basketball?… drumstick?–with my brothers.
Then, wait–oh my god! I’m actually leaving the country in a couple of weeks! I don’t know how to embroider, should I learn? I can’t believe I haven’t started packing yet! What happened to those Spanish textbooks I was going to read over the summer? All my classes…in Spanish. Uh-oh. And is it too late to make a dentist appointment before I leave?
Although getting the letter was exciting, it also made my future study abroad adventure a reality and sent me into frenzy of preparation.
A couple of weeks later, I’m happy to report that I’ve recovered from the initial shock and reduced my rate of preparation from frenzy to rational. Having decided that actually beginning to pack more than a week before I leave for the program isn’t productive, I’ve started mentally sorting my belongings into “going to Mexico” and “staying here” piles. I’ve decided on T-shirts from my home university as gifts for my host brothers, but I’m still stuck on what to bring the woman who will be my Mexican mother (any ideas are welcome, by the way). And I look ridiculous during my train commute every morning as I scrunch my eyebrows in concentration over a lime-green, third-grade-level book that has dragons flying all over the cover. It’s in Spanish. But that’s hard for the people giving me funny looks to notice.
What I’ve found most helpful in preparing to leave is to e-mail people who have participated in the Mexico study abroad program previously when I have questions. My university’s study abroad office provides a list of such people, and their help has been invaluable.
Maybe I’m preparing too much, but it’s just what I do when I’m looking forward to something. And I’m learning a lot by it. For instance, without my preparation strategy, I would have no idea that the land of dragons can only be entered through a bonfire. See, totally worth the weird looks on the train.