It’s the Final Countdown

Oh my goodness, I am leaving the country in seven days.

Rollercoaster doesn’t even begin to cover my emotions over the past few months. When I was accepted to the program at the end of September, I was totally psyched. The email came the day before my birthday (BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER!) and I read it on my phone while I was having coffee with one of my BFFs. We both squealed in the middle of Starbucks and I honestly couldn’t believe it. I kept refreshing my email just to make sure the message wouldn’t go anywhere. When I called my parents to tell them, my mom was very excited for me, having studied abroad herself in Salamanca, Spain while in college. I’m not really sure how my dad felt about it, he responded with, “Are you sure you want to go? You’ve seen the movie ‘Taken’, right?” Taken—that movie about the girl who is kidnapped while in Europe and her CIA operative father Liam Neeson has to fight ninja-style to save her life.

What a funny man my father is.

That excitement feeling lasted for about a month, and then to be honest, I sort of forgot about it. I was focusing on my schoolwork and extra-curriculars, and Spain slipped to the back of my overpacked head. Then Halloween, midterms, and Thanksgiving all happened and before I knew it, it was December 1st. I started making semester countdown calendars and that’s when I realized I only had 2 weeks left in Madison and 5 weeks left on this continent. HOW DID THAT EVEN HAPPEN? That dose of reality left me doubting myself for the first time on my road to study abroad. That was the first time I thought, “I can’t do this.” My nerves, fears, and worries started to outweigh my excitement. I did not know how I would make it through an entire semester.

Over those next two weeks, I received a lot of information about my program. I pre-registered for classes, I was able to email my host family, and I learned a lot about what would actually be going on while I was in Spain. Hearing these details helped me relax. A lot. I think a lot of my fear was simply fear of the unknown—the fact that I now knew where I would be living and what I would be doing was very calming and this knowledge substantially lessened my fears. I am still incredibly nervous about this experience, but now I would classify my nerves as “anticipation nerves” instead of “panic nerves”. To be completely honest, I think once I actually get there I’ll be fine. It’s the “getting there” part that worries me more than the “being there” part.

Getting there. Yeah. I have only flown on a plane twice before in my life. Once when I was seven years old and once when I was thirteen. In other words, it has been a really long time since my last air travel experience. The “flying” aspect of air travel doesn’t bother me; it’s the airport that is causing me stress. I have been told that it is very straightforward: follow the signs to your gate, check your bag, go through security and customs, then get on the plane and go. Easy enough, right? Unfortunately, logic hasn’t stopped my imagination from running wild with thoughts of being detained by security and not being able to find my gate in O’Hare and missing my flight and losing my luggage and every other thing that could possibly go wrong in an airport. Needless to say, I have a very active imagination. But THANKFULLY, you can fly direct from Chicago to Madrid. A connecting flight would probably put me right over the edge. I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I am so incredibly happy that I don’t have to fly through La Guardia, Atlanta, London, or Istanbul. It’s the little things in life.

But, that’s enough babbling for now. This is it. Adiós Madison, I’ll see you next fall! ¡Hasta pronto, España! Let’s do this!