I'm about six days away from jumping on a plane and traveling almost 5,000 miles to London, England for 12 weeks. I hate flying and have cried on about 90% of the flights I've been on (keep in mind, I hadn't flown before I was 18), I don't necessarily like being lonely, lost, or confused, and I've had a personal vendetta with the study abroad process since my sophomore year of college.
Does it make any sense that I would want to go abroad? Not really.
Am I doing it anyway?
Why the hell not?
Let's back up to sophomore year when I had my first real encounter with study abroad. I had just started dating this really great guy when he told me that he had a dream to study abroad in Germany for a whole year his junior year. We had only been dating for a couple months, so even though I cared about him a lot, I encouraged him to go. The last thing I wanted was for him to stay in Tulsa because of me and then our relationship fall apart. We talked about the idea of me going abroad and joining him, but that wasn't something I could see myself reasonably doing. I accepted the fact that he was going to leave, and we decided to stay together throughout the process. We had a strong relationship, and I really wanted him to be happy. There was nobody else for me.
We were together for about a year before he left in August, 2009. I remember the last time he came to visit Tulsa, our last hug and kiss, and most of all, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that hit when I saw him drive away for the last time. I remember when he called me right before he boarded the plane, and of course the tears that followed. I remember realizing that there would be no more 'goodnight' or 'i love you' text messages, no more holding hands on road trips, and when I went to hang out with his friends, he just wouldn't be there.
The first few months really weren't that bad. We skyped a lot, wrote letters, and occasionally he'd call me on the phone to surprise me. We did everything to make it work, and it did. My sorority sisters comforted me when I cried, and his fraternity brothers helped put me at ease and hung out with me all the time, joking about him and reminding me how wonderful he was.
But that December, I panicked.
Near the end of finals, I was in a car wreck that totaled my car and really shook me up. I remember being so scared in a bad part of town with no way to get out and strangers talking to me. I was crying everywhere and the only person I wanted was seven time zones away. All of a sudden, I was angry at him. I felt abandoned, and even though neither of us could have predicted this, my overreaction to the situation had a lasting effect on my feelings for him. When I realized that he wasn't there, that he couldn't be there, that he'd never be able to comfort me the way I needed him to-that's when it got real. I was finally lonely.
I'm not what you'd call a 'consistently reasonable' person. I blamed study abroad for all of this, even though I knew how silly it was. My boyfriend had been talked into leaving me for a whole year, and it messed up my life. I didn't know how to feel when we talked anymore, but suddenly it seemed like the distance between us was so much more than a few thousand miles.
And then, a new guy came into the picture.
I started talking to a second guy, who had been a friend of mine for a few months, and as we got to be better friends, we discussed my current boyfriend and how I had felt about missing him and how unfair the situation at hand was. After all, I was 21 years old. Should I really wait around for a guy when our future together was so uncertain? I could rationalize it any way I wanted to, but in the end, no matter how much I cared for my beau abroad, there was now somebody at home who cared about me too. So I broke it off with my boyfriend, and eventually started dating my new friend.
I won't say it was easy to get over my ex, but it was nice to have someone again. Maybe that's all I really needed. Even though my boy in Germany had bought a ticket for me to visit him, I turned it down. I couldn't get on that plane out of crippling fear. It was easier just to stay home.
As the next school year started, my new boyfriend and I went through a rough spot, breaking up and getting back together. We had a different dynamic than my ex and I, but we made it work somehow. But the nail in the coffin of our relationship finally came when he told me he was applying for an internship in Scotland.
What. The. Hell? Is this deja vu? Didn't I already send one guy to another country? And now this?
Being the intelligent and charismatic guy he is, of course he got it. There was never a doubt in my mind that the Karmic gods would shit on my life by sending another guy abroad after I'd broken up with one guy for being abroad.
So my Scotland man and I set a date to end our relationship. We finished out the fall semester together, but each day was bittersweet knowing that our happiness was fleeting. The morning I had to watch him drive away that one last time, I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach all over again. I remember feeling how unfair it was to have to go through this twice, and even if I was proud of the boyfriends I had 'sent' abroad and genuinely wanted the best for them, Study Abroad had cheated me again.
When I came back from winter break, I felt different. I didn't want a boyfriend anymore, but rather joked that if there was anyone out there who was unsure about studying abroad, they should date me for a few months and they'd definitely leave. I felt like it was time for a change, time for me to do things for myself and not sit around watching other people do fun things. It was time for me to live my life. I was a senior in college (set to graduate in December), and in a few months, my closest friends would be gone. This time around, it was about me and my friends, but mostly me. Carpe diem, mo' fo's.
I had heard of the Arts Management internship with Diorama Arts Center in London for years now. I discussed it with my friend Jenny (who had gone last year) on our way to class each week, and she gave me her honest opinion. When my adviser emailed everyone in our major about the summer position, I decided to go for it.
Why not? What did I have to lose? Worst case scenario? I wouldn't get it and I'd have to do something else. Best case scenario? I'd have to confront my fear of independence and get the experience of a lifetime.
Obviously, I got the internship. I texted my ex-boyfriend, with whom I had reconnected and become good friends, and he seemed excited. I know he had mixed emotions about it, and for good reason. But since he worked in the study abroad office, I was glad to have a friend there to help ease my worries and guide me through the process.
So even though I had been twice scorned by the study abroad process, I agreed to put myself out there, confront all of my fears, and just go for it. This is the absolute last thing I ever saw myself doing, but here I am. It's my time, and I'll never get an opportunity like this ever again. It might be the scariest thing I ever do, but in the end I know it will be worth it. I've stopped thinking that anything in my life will ever make sense, but this is just the way it is. I decided to do this, and I'm doing it. I'm not taking the easy way out and staying home anymore. We'll see what happens.
So 6 days, and 1 (very large) Long Island Tea from now, I'll be on that plane. Wish me luck!