As I sit by a window in LAX’s international terminal snacking on one of the homemade muffins my mom and I managed to pack into my stuffed backpack, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the bittersweet feelings of leaving home to study abroad.
In about twenty hours, I will be landing in Melbourne, Australia, pack on my back and teddy bear in hand. Not only will I be sixteen hours ahead of my friends and family in Miami, but I will have essentially skipped Monday, February 12th. I will not have a February 12th in 2018. For some reason, I am obsessed with this fact. It’s like the perfect way to describe the adventure on which I am about to embark.
I’m jumping hours ahead, away from my comforts and into a new land. Upon arriving in this new land, there will be a few things I know. I know to look for people in blue shirts in the Arrivals Hall in Melbourne. I know I will be in Melbourne for three days before departing to Sydney. I know that in Sydney I will be living in UNSW’s Kensington colleges. I know what classes I’m taking. I know of some of Sydney’s main attractions. But it feels like there are a gazillion things that I don’t know. Who will I meet? Where will I travel? Will I do it alone? Or will others be as excited about climbing mountains and exploring new places as I am? Will I make morning surf sessions a routine? Will I fall in love with a particular coffee shop? How will I like my classes? How will I decorate my dorm room? Will I miss my home and family? Will I be having too much fun to think about it?
If I knew the answers, they would no longer be unknowns. And just like skipping a day of the year, not knowing what this particular experience will be like is exactly what makes it new, exciting, and different than what I’ve done before.
However, anxiety about the unknown is to be expected. Because an adventure like this means climbing out of my comfort zone to be surrounded by the unfamiliar, I’ve found that the best way to cope is to climb out with some comforts in tow. With me, I carry a teddy bear given to me by my mom, a guilty pleasure easy-read, my favorite vanilla chap stick, homemade mom-muffins, calming essential oils, and chick-flick comedies downloaded on my laptop.
I may be leaving my family, skipping a day, and subjecting my legs to numbness on a sixteen-hour flight, but at least I have the tools to make the unknown just slightly less scary.