I'm Studying Abroad Next Semester and I'm Scared

A semester abroad has been written in the stars for me since birth. And as the daughter of a French teacher who studied abroad in Paris and later lived in Toulouse, a city in the south of France, for three years, France has always been the country in question. The more I grew, and the more I started to resemble my mother in nearly every aspect of my life, the clearer it became that I would follow in her footsteps and come of age during my own French study abroad experience. And, to be clear, that’s always been something I’ve wanted; but now, as a sophomore in college, that coming-of-age is right around the corner. I recognize that I’m very lucky to have a mom that’s so supportive of my studying abroad, and I’m extremely excited to see what this experience has in store for me. But I have to be honest - I’m fucking terrified. 

I was bitten by the travel bug relatively recently. Last winter break, my cousin and I embarked on a spontaneous, 10-day tight-budget Europe trip. We stayed in hostels and mastered the public transportation systems in every city we visited. By the time we got to Paris, though, we had the luxury of staying with a close friend from home. She had been living in Paris all year, and I deeply admired her ability to adapt to new environments and the culture around her.

Me and my cousin in front of the Eiffel Tower

Our first night there, we went out to the Cafe des Langues, a bar that transformed into a nightclub/cafe hybrid on Monday nights for international students looking to improve their French. It was packed to the point of overflowing with university students from all over the world, all drunkenly trying to carry conversations in French before just giving up and switching to English. It was then that I decided I would do everything I possibly could to study abroad the following year. I knew I didn’t want to wait any longer to experience the life I was getting a taste of, and I was prepared to work my ass off in order to achieve it.

When I returned to New York for my second semester of freshman year, I immediately began preparing for my semester abroad. I planned the next year’s schedule and living situation around it, and tried to figure out if my scholarship money would carry over. I started letting all my friends know they would have to prepare to live without me second semester sophomore year, reminding them every time a conversation about future spring break plans came up. I was all in, and I ignored every gentle nudge of a doubt from my parents and friends.

“Are you sure you want to go so soon?” my mom asked. “There’s really no rush.”

“I’m positive,” I reassured her. “Besides, it makes more sense academically for me to go sophomore year.”

To be honest, I didn’t really know if that was true at the time; I just needed a practical reason to justify my restlessness. I was riding the high of a trip that made me feel independent and adventurous, and I just wanted to go. Now, I’m facing the consequences of that. 

After just a few weeks of sophomore year, I began to realize how much I loved my life in New York, and how little I wanted to leave it. I’ve felt the weight of the quickly approaching second semester since I got here in August, and along with it, the impending fear of leaving my whole heart - New York - behind. Weirdly enough, though, it’s not the city itself that I’m terrified of leaving behind for sixth months (mostly because I know it’s not going anywhere). It’s the warmth, familiarity, and stability I feel from the community I’ve built here. There are people, places, organizations, restaurants, smells (oddly enough), and sounds in New York that I love like family, and I hate to think about the likely possibility of things changing while I’m gone.

It’s suffocating knowing that the dream you’ve had since you were a child is right around the corner and having second thoughts. And on top of that, knowing that your second thoughts are only a product of fear and anxiety, yet not being able to get rid of them, is even more suffocating.

But after a few short weeks of doubting myself and thinking I’d just go junior year instead (if at all), I forced myself to shake the feeling. I finally submitted all of the forms and made all of the appointments with advisors that I’d been putting off since the start of the semester. I recognized that my procrastination was a direct result of denial, and I came to terms with my feelings of uneasiness. 

I realize now that being uncomfortable with spending months away from my life here is just something I’m going to have to accept with open arms. Homesickness, FOMO, and loneliness are inevitable, but in a way, that’s a good thing. All of these feelings are a part of the growing process that I’ve so desperately wanted to experience for myself. It might not seem like it now, but in the end the hardships will be just as, if not more important, than the good parts of study abroad.