Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is it real yet?

So I was recently talking to a friend who I haven't spoken with in forever and they asked me if my study abroad is starting to feel real now that it's approaching. I still don't really have a good answer for her, but after talking with my fiance over yummy dinner last night I did realize something.

Photo by Illaura Rossiter Copyright 2012
So far, for the last 6 months, or however long ago I decided to study abroad, I've been terrified of it. Terrified of leaving home which I have never been more than two hours away from. There have been times where just the thought of going abroad has reduced me to tears. I was terrified of ending up in a country where I wake up one morning and don't even speak the small portion I speak now. In fact I've woken up more than once with night terrors about getting to Japan and I can hear the people and see the signs, somewhere in the back of my mind I know what they say, but I feel the utter panic of not understanding anything.

True, so far there have been days where I have thrown my arms up in the air in exasperation and said "That's it! I'm not going to Japan!", but every night before bed I understood that if I don't take my chance with this experience that I will always regret it. Yes, it's scary. Yes, I'm going to a country where I will be the minority. Yes, I can't fluently speak the language, I don't intimately understand the culture and for once in my life it won't be easy to pass a class, but if I don't go I'm going to spend the rest of my life being the girl who should have didn't go to Japan.

And what the hey, my student debt is already through the roof, what's a little bit more on top of the pile?

But last night I was thinking about my friend while waiting for dinner and got to talking with my fiance and I realized that the terror I have been feeling every time I've thought about this trip is subsiding a little bit. For now at least. Just T-5 months to go, right?

You all probably think I'm ranting right about now, but I think this is an important part of the experience and I haven't even gotten to the airport yet. Especially if you have never been far from your family and you're big on family (like me), then the idea of being separated by an ocean and in completely different time zones is terrifying. The fear of not being able to understand the language also is a completely understandable fear, no one wants to make that terrifying blunder or not understand something vital.

         "To get through the hardest journey we need take only
             one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping."
                                               - Chinese proverb

However, I'm finally reaching the stage where I've cried about as much as I can until it's about time for goodbyes and I'm starting to really, really be excited about this again. So many things to do, so little time. So much to learn. So much to see, experience, eat, people to meet. There are so many opportunities and experiences I don't even think I've thought up yet, so it will be an experience to remember.

So if hurdle number 1 was the paperwork, then the next hurdle is an emotional and mental one. If you're doubting yourself asking "どうして日本に行きたい!?!" (Why do I want to go to Japan!?!), then just step back and take a breath. You can do this! It might not be easy, but you'll be all the better off for it. If you have any friends or family backing your study abroad experience now is the time to talk to them! Remind yourself why you want to go, what you want to accomplish and that you have people backing you every step of the way! Don't forget, you've already taken the biggest step in your study abroad experience, deciding to go.


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