Things to Think About Instead of Packing
Three days are left until I take the IFSA-Butler group flight to the program orientation in London, and I’ve just about given up on waiting for things to “feel real yet,” although not from lack of trying. Since my fall semester ended, I’ve been getting more and more excited at the thought that soon I’ll actually be studying abroad. My remaining time has been spent vaguely pondering the accumulating list of things I should already have started. (It might help if I pack the clothes I’m going to bring. Well, I should wash them first. And, before that, it might help to decide which clothes I’ll need. I guess.)
Instead of packing, I’ve been thinking about study abroad. My roommate at school is from North Carolina but studied in Japan during high school. She told me that when she was abroad, she drew a lot more art than she did at home. This matched up with a psychology study I read that suggested living abroad can increase creativity in measureable ways (So, expect to be dazzled by the creativity of future blog posts here.) My parents still talk fondly about the months they spent in Spain when they were both Boston-area undergraduates, and how the exposure to another culture made them more aware of their own. So far, everything I’ve heard is making me more excited.
Like the intimidating pile of laundry in my room, my excitement has had a long time to build up—about three years. During the first week of college orientation, I went to a panel on study abroad where a speaker pointed out that in the real world, you rarely have the option to travel for months at a time and then return to your jobs and finances, both as intact as when you left. As I listened, I wondered why I had never considered studying abroad. However, for most of my life, such extended traveling has been a—I have to say it!—foreign concept.
A lifelong Massachusetts resident, the first time I left New England was the summer before college, when I went with my friend to Europe, staying with her family for two weeks. The trip–and especially England!–left a lasting impression—one I made sure to secure when I made both of us detailed scrapbooks.
I enjoyed reimagining my trip as a coherent story, because for as long as I can remember I’ve loved creative writing. I had this in mind when I looked through my school’s database of study abroad programs. University of East Anglia immediately stood out because of its impressive literary associations (Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro were two of the creative writing graduates I recognized because I love their books). Instead of applying directly, I chose to go through IFSA-Butler because, as excited as I was, the academic and cultural differences seemed very intimidating with my limited travel experience. I felt like I had made a good choice when UEA seemed to have some difficulty processing my application and my admissions decision was released late: the intervention of the program staff helped me feel reassured it would all work out–and it did. I can clearly trace why I chose to study abroad, why I chose England and then UEA and then IFSA-Butler. The most exciting part, though, is the part that hasn’t even happened yet. It still doesn’t feel real.
The study I mentioned:
Maddux, W. W., H. Adam, and A. D. Galinsky. “When in Rome … Learn Why the Romans Do What They Do: How Multicultural Learning Experiences Facilitate Creativity.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36.6 (2010): 731-41. Print.