The idea of studying abroad fascinated me when I was in college. I watched friends of mine apply for semesters in Paris, Ireland, Antarctica, Australia and I was envious. Having two jobs most semesters as well as having to work all through summer and winter breaks, I didn’t have the financial flexibility to take part in these programs. And I still had college loans to pay off! I always thought I sort of missed my opportunity to have this kind of an adventure, but this year, well past my college graduation I applied for a writer’s residency in Iceland. And I was accepted! After the excitement wore off, I was suddenly hit with all the anxiety and concerns that accompany the idea that I’ll be pretty far away from my regular routine as well as all my friends and family for such an extended period of time.
Will I make friends?
I’ll be sharing a residence with six other artists. What if I don’t like them or they don’t like me? What if they all bond over worldly travel like I’ve ever experienced and I just don’t fit in? I know that there’s no hard and fast rule that I have to become besties with my housemates but it seems like it would be nice if we could all be friends in the event that we want to take breaks from our creative projects and do some sightseeing. Here’s hoping that we can at least get along in our shared kitchen and common spaces, and maybe one of them will share my penchant for staying up late and making snacks.
Wait, what kind of new technology will I need?
Am I gonna need one of those adapter plug thingies? For my hair dryer? For everything really? What about my phone? Can I get by on apps or am I gonna need an international plan for the time period I’ll be there? What’s more cost effective? Will the wifi really work there? Will my phone bill be astronomical by the time I come home? Obviously these are all easily rectified with a little planning. Talking to your cell phone provider to explain the situation, weighing out options for an international calling and data plan, or switching sim cards once you’re abroad. As for my hair dryer, I’m sure Google can easily answer that question and other technology questions specific to Iceland and most other places.
What happens if I don’t feel well?
This is just my anxiety at play and i know it. Simply because the worst feeling when you’re sick is not being in your own bed and comfort zone. But there’s no point in expecting the worst, it’s just smart to anticipate potential needs and prepare. I know that I can get debilitating migraines so I will be sure to have enough medication for that as well as a various assortment of things like band-aids, antacids, and allergy meds. Plus I won’t be outside of civilization. There are actual stores and places to buy these kinds of items in other countries. I’m also going to make a just in case emergency contact list solely for the sake of allaying my fears about this.
What if I don’t like it?
This is what’s at the core of all these other stresses, the possibility that I just might not like being there. Or I’ll be so sad being away from everyone I love that I won’t be able to enjoy my beautiful surroundings. But I don’t believe in mistakes, I believe in experiences. Every experience is worth something even if it wasn’t the best personal choice you could have made for yourself. There’s Skype and FaceTime and plenty of apps to talk and see whoever I need to if I’m feeling nervous or homesick. And if I really really needed to get back home for some reason? That’s what an emergency credit card is for, booking that necessary flight.
What if I love it there so much I want to stay?
This is the romantic in me who has read far too many novels in the vein of Eat, Pray, Love. And the answer is so what if I do? It’s important to take each day as it comes and do what feels right, even if it’s not at all what you expected.
Really any experience is going to be what you make of it, regardless of where you are. Nothing every goes perfectly whether you’re under the covers in your own bed or in another country, I think the best course of action is to take deep breaths and roll with whatever comes your way. And enjoy the adventure.