There has been a long break in between when I was accepted into the Freiburg-IU program for the spring in November and when I will actually leave in February. Since I was blessed with a particularly long winter break free from the rigors of academia (or other forms of mental stimulation) I have had plenty of time to think about, dwell on, and begin to stress about my upcoming program. But during this time, I have already started learning a few things and setting some goals. Each different step on this first leg of my journey, before even setting off to anywhere other than my couch at home, has taught me something new.
First, saying goodbye to friends is difficult. I am an out-of-state student, so when I left school after the fall semester, I wasn’t going to be able to see my friends over winter break. Luckily, my application was due in early August so I knew all semester that there was a possibility of me having to say goodbye. But I would encourage anyone looking at studying abroad to appreciate this foresight. It allowed me to really cherish the time I got to spend with my friends and encouraged me to remember that while school is very important, friends can be a priority as well. In the midst of planning everything for my trip, I was learning to be present and enjoy the moment and enjoy where I am. This lesson is one that I want to stay with me once I am abroad and making friends there, and when I come back and see my friends again.
Second, although I just mentioned being present in the moment, there are practical things that do need to be planned and even the smallest details need to be considered. When I applied for study abroad, I thought about planning things like flights, housing, and other legal information, but I never thought that the things I would worry the most about were from which website I needed to buy train tickets, or about what suitcase to use (still an unanswered question). I never thought that I would be thinking so much about all the little details, but when I get these sorted out, I free up some mental space to dream about the fun that I am going to have.
Lastly, I set a goal for myself to keep an open mind about this trip. I can plan all I want but life is life and I hope that while my spontaneous traveling and globe-trotting will be new, fun and exciting, this is an amazing opportunity to live life in a foreign country rather than just be a tourist and that means discovering things like how to do laundry there and new restaurant etiquette. My goal is to remember that those things are just as exciting.