Real or not real? Real.

(Mockingjay premiers tonight so I thought the title was appropriate.)

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Today marked an exciting step towards my journey abroad: my visa is here! The Spanish Consulate is very particular about visas–you have to take the application to the consulate in person, which for me meant going to Houston, Texas. Luckily for me, one of our lovely study abroad coordinators traveled to Houston for our entire group to get our visas. All I had to do was take a non-smiling photo at CVS, fill out a short form, and figure out what’s the big deal about money orders vs. a regular check. No problema. Actually, the hardest part of the process was not smiling for the photo while standing there with one of my best friends who is also going to Spain. I mean, how can you not smile when you’re preparing to study abroad?

So now I have a passport. I have a plane ticket. And I have a piece of paper with an official consulate stamp that gives me permission to reside in Spain for 6 months. Is this real or not real? With all these official documents, now it’s starting to feel very much real. It will be real in 7 weeks, 6 days, 17 hours, and 33 minutes. And I’m both ecstatic and terrified to the extremes all at the same time.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of studying abroad. I remember reading Little Women and wishing to be Amy traveling Europe…speaking in foreign tongues, reading, painting, reveling in the beauty and splendor that the great cities had to offer. Having never been outside the country (other than touristy island cruise stops), the rest of the world is a stranger to me. I read about these places in books, study them in my classes, but they all seem so distant, so removed from my own little corner of the earth. It’s as if the world is this huge hidden treasure just waiting for me to discover new things every day. New foods.  New places.  New customs.  New language.  New people. At long last I have the treasure map, and I am thrilled to start this journey that I know will be the memory of a lifetime.

But I am also terrified. New foods. New places. New customs. New language. New people. Every day. Every day.  Once that plane lands, there is no going back. There is no “I really could go for a home-cooked American meal with my family watching our favorite English movies or hanging out on a Saturday night with some friends back home” to take a break from the newness of everything around me. Emails, social media, and Skype, when I can use them, are not the same as crying from laughter in person over a silly inside joke, or a hug from your best friend when you need reassurance and encouragement. Now it helps, of course, that one of my best friends is going to Spain with me, and I am confident that I will make some amazing new friends along the way. But I am also leaving behind some incredibly important people in my life, and it’s a strange and saddening thought to be going through life for half a year without those people. It’s a scary thought.

Sometimes, though, I think doing things that scare you can be a good thing. That’s how we grow as people. If we never risked anything, we’d never gain anything either. I know that the people I love will be back here waiting for me when I return to the States, and I can’t wait to greet them with huge hugs and tell them story after story of my adventures at a mile a minute.

-Steph

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