Mom: Host family, packing enough, and safety
Me: all of the above and traveling outside the U.S., social norms, language barrier, academic environment, courses, people, and anything and everything that I forgot to mention.
Above, I have listed my parents’ and my own anxieties and fears about leaving the United States for the coming semester. I can still hardly believe that I am already a junior in college and I am about to begin this incredible yet also terrifying experience in one week. The entire process, from applying to study abroad through Susquehanna’s GO Office and through IFSA-Butler to everything I have done since to prepare myself for this semester abroad is entirely new to me and my family.
The same is true when I was applying to colleges, scholarships, and getting ready to leave for college. Since neither of my parents and my older brother went to college, I did not have any help from my family during my college application process, unlike some of my old high school friends. I never really thought about it during the process. Ever since late middle school and throughout all of high school, I was very academically independent. So when it came to applying to colleges, nothing change. I had a bit of help from my high school guidance counselor, but otherwise, I did everything on my own.
Preparing to leave for college, however, was a slightly different case. Not only did I have to pack material items, but I tried to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for an experience that I really did not know much about. I did not grow up with stories of my parents’ college experiences. Sure, I had older high school friends that went to college, but I never stayed in touch enough to hear about a full college experience. Many people say that college was the best four years of their lives, but aside from stereotypical representations of college, I did not know what I was in for.
The same is true about studying abroad. All of my peers who have done it have said it was one of the best, if not the best, experience of their lives. Sure, I have also heard stories, but for the most part, I do not know a lot about what I am in for. It’s true that Susquehanna’s Pre-departure class and IFSA-Butler have given me a lot of advice on what to do to prepare myself for this experience, but there are still so many things that I probably don’t even know I will encounter. And I realize that is one point of the experience, but it does not bring comfort to someone who likes to plan out different aspects of their life every few months.
All of the information-packed documents and packets that I’ve received from IFSA-Butler have been extremely helpful in quelling many of my anxieties, but I still have many more. And again, I know the point is that I will have to figure things out for myself, at this moment in time, it is still unnerving. On the contrary, six months from now, I bet I will feel just the opposite.
Oh, have I forgotten to mention the questions? Oh the questions. Like me, my parents want to know what I am in for to comfort their own nerves, but like preparing for college, I simply cannot answer most of them or I can only answer them just after I find an answer to my own question that I posed.
So a week from leaving, I’ve started packing (keep IFSA-Butler’s packing list handy), and have most of my official documents in order. I get more anxious every day, but I know that what I am about to embark on will be an amazing experience.