This morning I woke up and looked at my phone. December 15. And it suddenly hit me that exactly one month from today, I will be boarding a plane to Seville. That’s a realization filled with way too many emotions for 7 AM, especially when I had two finals to focus on today.
All the pieces are falling into place. I have travel documents and a tentative packing list. My Pinterest boards are filled with bucket list sites all over Europe that seriously need to be narrowed down, because I want to go everywhere. My friends who are also studying abroad and I bring up Spain in practically every conversation. Every bump along the way this semester, I have mentally responded with, “It doesn’t matter, because soon you will be having the time of your life in Spain.” I have been dreaming of traveling Europe my entire life, and now my dream is about to become reality. As it begins to feel more and more real, I am bursting with excitement and exclamations of, “I just want to LEAVE already!”
But then doubts start to creep in. Am I really as prepared as I should be? Should I have done more research? What if no one can understand my Spanish, or I can’t understand anyone? How exactly do I balance traveling with really getting to know my host city? Will life on campus and at home just keep passing by, will it matter that I’m not there? What will it be like coming back to the States? What if this trip isn’t everything I imagine, what if it doesn’t make me as happy as I think it will? Am I really cut out for living a different life for 5 months?
My guess is that those questions are not unique to me, that many people studying abroad have those same worries and fears. So for myself and for my fellow worriers, here is my attempt to logically dispel my fears: Am I prepared for Spain? I think I’ve done my research, and I will be reading more over Christmas break I’m sure. My Spanish isn’t perfect, but I trust the nearly 10 years of experience I have with the language, and one of the purposes of living in Seville is to immerse myself and practice until I am fluent. I’m sure I’ll get stuck and maybe I won’t understand what everyone is saying every second, but learning comes from making mistakes. If I don’t make it to every single place in Europe in half a year, it will be alright, because I will definitely return. Real friends will be at home and on campus when I get back, and hey, the internet has made global communication easier than ever.
Realistically, studying abroad is not a magic cure-all for life. It won’t take away the stress and the heartache and the exhaustion and the wondering when full contentment will finally come. Because all those things are part of life, no matter where you are on the globe. But it will be an opportunity to see new places, meet new people, and change up the monotony a bit. It will be an opportunity to wonder at new marvels in unfamiliar cities, a chance to remember how beautiful this life can be. Ultimately, however, contentment is an attitude, no matter where you are.
Am I cut out for this new life? No. And that’s exactly why I’m going. Because if you never challenge yourself to do things that scare you, life will be boring and you will never discover the best version of yourself. I will learn to be cut out for a life of experiencing new things and trying everything before I say ‘no,’ a life of openness to new ideas, and a life of adventure. Courage, dear heart. Because in the words of The Princess Diaries:
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. For now you are traveling the road between who you think you are and who you can be.”
I am terrified, but I also have courage. Because this adventure to Spain is going to teach me who I am capable of being. This adventure is going to teach me to live.
Heck, yeah! Great post, Stephanie. Also, love the Meg Cabot quote. 🙂
Thanks, Elle! It’s one of my favorite quotes 🙂
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