So a couple of days ago, I mentioned I had big exciting news… that news is, I got accepted into a super prestigious intensive summer program (and given a full scholarship) in Europe! So this summer, I’ll be traveling there both to take the course, and to do field work. This is really exciting, and if all goes well, I’ll be getting some really important data for my thesis as well. (Provided, of course, that I pass my oral exams and will still be DOING a thesis.) I’m really excited, too, because I’m going to be traveling to several different countries, including France, so I’ll even have a chance to practice my French.
But as exciting as international travel is, I’m a lot terrified about how it will manifest for me. I’ve been flying alone since I was 13, I have no qualms about taking flights by myself (and I have dealt with connections, overnight layovers from missed flights, and all sorts of ridiculousness). But I’ve always had someone on the other end, ready to pick me up, or I’ve known where I’m going and how to get there, and had done it with supervision multiple times. I’ve never gone somewhere completely new, alone, without anyone to meet me on the other end. And I’m terrified. To get to the university where the summer course it, I need to take 2 trains and a bus from the airport. In a country that I don’t speak the language of. I know most people speak English, and between English, French, and a phrasebook, I should be OK, but that doesn’t change the anxiety.
I’ve traveled internationally before, both with my family when I was younger (we had relatives living abroad that we would sometimes visit), and with a group, twice, in high school. But on high school trips, there’s a group, and chaperones who do all the planning, and the guiding. They make sure you get from point A to point B. Intellectually, I understand that I can do it myself. If I don’t melt down, and manage to keep my sensory overwhelm to a minimum, I’m really quite capable of following directions, problem solving, and getting where I need to go. But it’s a first time thing, and when I’m doing something for the first time, I like to be with someone else. That way, I have someone else to look for, to check in with. If I get lost, I’m not alone. It’s not that I fear being alone, but rather, I fear being lost and not able to help myself in a new, overwhelming situation. Solo international travel is a great opportunity for any young person, and I’m excited, but that doesn’t stop me from being nervous and terrified as well.
The other thing that I’m nervous about is food. I’m sure I will figure it out, but I’m really no good with food. I don’t enjoy it, and I have so many texture issues that I can’t deal with most complex meals. I know there will be a lot of those in my near future, and I have to figure out how to deal with the stress of being away from my comforts, away from anyone I know, in a place that the language isn’t English, AND a place where there’s new strange foods, customs, people, and schedules. Good for broadening my horizons. Not so good for keeping myself out of melt-down mode.
So overall? Super duper excited, and super duper terrified. It’ll be a great experience, and I’m going to learn a TON of stuff. I get to completely immerse myself in my special interest, working with a group of international graduate students, professors, and scientists alike, none of whom I’ve ever met before, but many of whom I’ve read papers by. I’ll be working with a bunch of the smartest, most dedicated people in my field, and it’s going to be fabulous. I just have to make it there first.
Wish me luck!