Illustration by Ren Rader, guest contributor
Hello from abroad, Trinity! This semester, I’ll be writing in from London, as I’ve decided to join about 40 percent of students (according to an email from Dr. Katsuo Nishikawa Chavez, director of the Center for International Engagement) who study abroad during their time at Trinity.
Although I haven’t quite arrived in the UK by the time I’m writing this, I’ve already navigated various obstacles that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for, which I thought I’d share with you in the form of unsolicited advice.
First, the paperwork involved is kind of a lot. I knew studying abroad was going to take a lot of signatures and whatnot, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to spend as much time and energy as I did on paperwork alone. If you ever plan on studying abroad, whether it be over a semester or over the summer, be prepared to schedule some time for yourself to actually get all that paperwork completed because there are deadlines, and every time you think you might be finished, there’s a hundred other things you have to look at and sign.
The next thing for me was packing. I now have a new, heightened respect for students who come in from abroad or out of state because having to pack actual essentials into suitcases for a whole semester (as opposed to just throwing everything in a car and driving over to Trinity without thinking about whether you will actually use something or not) is a lot more challenging than it looks.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I’m one of those people who is much more likely to over-pack than under-pack. For example, when it came to packing for my semester abroad I had to ask myself 10 times whether I was actually going to need three pairs of platform sneakers with me in London. I decided I didn’t, but I definitely thought about it for longer than I should’ve.
Something I fooled myself into thinking was that preparing to spend four months abroad wasn’t going to be at least a little bit scary and nerve-wracking. Like yeah, I act cool, calm and collected whenever my friends and family ask me or comment about my semester abroad, but as the departure date has come closer, I’m beginning to freak out.
It’s not like I’m even going to a city with a different language, or the desert or something. I’m literally going to London, but that isn’t stopping me from having fears, doubts and nerves in the days leading up to my departure. To anyone I told I was super excited and not scared at all, I was definitely lying. Yes, I’m excited, but I’m also really scared. I’m putting it in writing, so I can humble myself the next time I’m feeling overly confident about something.
What I’ve surprisingly experienced a lot during these last days of preparations is an overwhelming pressure to make “every second count.” If you plan on going abroad, people you know, including those who have studied abroad (professors, family members, etc.) might preach about making sure you take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities you’ll have, and you’ll probably want to, too. I wasn’t prepared, however, for my motivation to make the most of my time abroad to become the fear of what would happen if I don’t.
I can’t help but ask myself, if I am not having the time of my life with every step I take will I not be taking advantage of this opportunity enough? If I don’t come back to Trinity with some kind of proof that my horizons have expanded, will it all have been for nothing? I sincerely hope not, but I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.