Sitting at gate D7 awaiting my already delayed first of three flights, I can’t help but feel exhilarated. Nothing, not even a flight delay, can change that. Today, I leave the U.S. for four full months abroad. My travels begin with visiting Knut at school in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, then taking a weekend trip to his hometown near Oslo, Norway. Next Wednesday night, I fly to Barcelona to begin the most exciting leg of this journey: my semester of study abroad. In my opinion, tackling three countries in just one week is a spectacular indication of the adventure to come over these next few months. With my Spanish visa in my hand and my clichéd Adidas Superstars on my feet, I am so beyond ready for this unforgettable journey.
Studying abroad in college is something that I have always known I would do. I never debated the costs and benefits of missing out on a semester of college or even considered the almost inevitable homesickness and culture shock that will eventually hit me. As a young girl, I associated college with a chance to live somewhere else, to explore the world beyond my own comfortable country. I knew that college was my ticket to study abroad and study abroad was my ticket the world. And alas, we are here.
But things have changed. The world is not what it was when I devoured the S.A.S.S (Students Across the Seven Seas) book series as a 12-year-old girl. As I mentioned in a previous post, crime and terrorism aren’t words that signify the atrocities of a past time, but rather these tragedies appear daily in contemporary news.
Recently, countless people have approached me to ask me why I am going abroad “at a time like this.” They wonder whether or not I am scared and question if I’ve thought about the danger I’m putting myself in. Worse, they ask why my parents are allowing me to do such a thing.
My answer to those people is why not? The United States is comfortable and safe to us only because this is where we live. Evil exists within our borders just as much as it does outside. Am I scared to be in Europe this semester? Absolutely not. I refuse to allow the intentions and actions of a small percentage of this world to squash my dreams and stifle my excitement. Because if I do that, if we all do that, then they win. Evil triumphs. And why would I ever let that happen?
While I am abroad I promise to exercise the same level of caution that I do in Easton and Nashville and Atlanta. I assure you that I will not travel to cities or events that pose a legitimate threat to my life and safety. If Vanderbilt or the U.S. government tells me to stay away, I probably will. But I’m not going to stop living.
I have been waiting for my entire life to get out of the United States and see the world. In my opinion, studying abroad for four months is not nearly enough time. But it’s a start. It marks the beginning of my dream to live in another country, to speak another language, and to mesh with another culture. I look forward to seeing the world from a completely different lens and hopefully shedding my all-too-naïve small town American mindset.
For me, this journey isn’t about dodging danger or dwelling on unavoidable “what-ifs”, it’s about experiencing life to the absolute fullest. I have exactly 112 days to see the world in a completely new way.
Follow along, if you will!
P.S. I have officially changed the clock on my laptop and IPhone to a 24 hour European version and I am already seeing how different the world (or my digital devices) can look. Ahhh, the joys of travel.