University of Wisconsin–Madison

Letting Go

For those of you that know me, one of the first descriptors that may come to mind for me is A-type personality. I love, and often need, every aspect of my life to be as organized and well planned out as possible. My planner for school consists of five different colors associated with different projects, as well as weekly and daily objectives ranked in importance. When I travel, I have booked everything a minimum of three months in advance with detailed itineraries, sometimes even down to every half hour full of activities.

Interning in Japan was an A-type person’s nightmare. After being accepted four months prior to my start date, I knew nothing about where I would be living and working, what to see in Japan, how to dress and act, or even if I would get my visa accepted! I tried to research it all online, but there is only so much I could gather. Stressed and nervous, but with classes and finals in full swing, I boxed off all information and feelings regarding my internship until after finals.

Then I only had two weeks left.

Surprising myself (and my family) I successfully made it to Japan and started work without my normal, rigorous A-type planning. It wasn’t easy, and I still had more than my fair share of panic attacks in the first month from anxiety I had nothing planned, but I learned how to let go. Now I’m planning trips sometimes less than three weeks in advance, and even then with little more than a plane/train ticket and accomodation. I go into the week with no idea what to expect work will be like in lab (what experiments will go right or wrong) or what I will see when I travel on the weekend. I am still planning activities for when I get home during the summer, sometimes I wonder if this is my coping mechanism, but overall I have been able to tame my detail oriented A-type personality beast.

Letting go is one of the hardest, but also valuable, skills I have learned while being abroad, from unplanned trips to last minute work dinners to failed experiments. I was expecting coming into this internship to learn new techniques and about a different culture, but never could I have imagined I would also be provided the opportunity to change some of my core habits. It goes to show you that you learn a lot more than you can plan (no matter how much you may try to plan) on a study/internship abroad. I think the next hardest challenge I will face is letting go of this culture I have begun to call a second home which will continue to test my newfound “letting go” ability.