The day has come! At the time this post is live on my blog, I leave for the airport in four hours.
Last night I spent a good hour-and-a-half choke-sob-gasping with my boyfriend and again with his littlest sister (she's such a sweetie). Just the prospect of leaving them finally made me feelings come to a head and burst from me. I knew full well that this was coming-- a sad and tearful goodbye followed by "We'll see you in December/January!" but I never anticipated how hard saying goodbye, even just for a semester, would be. It's gut-wrenching. I've spent weeks trying not to cry and now the flood gates are opened. But last night wasn't the end of it. Today when I go to the airport, my boyfriend is coming with my family to send me off. Even more sobbing is bound to ensue because of him and because I'll be saying goodbye to my parents and my sister until they come and visit me in November. I guess what I've learned from this is, it's okay to cry. It's okay to be sad. There's no reason to try and stop yourself from feeling these things. It's only bad if it's interfering with the life you want.
I'm about to embark on this really great (I hope) chapter in my life. Only 10% of college students (previous college students and current college students) and counting choose to go abroad during their college career. Few decide to spend a semester or a year abroad. On the one hand, I think "Why wouldn't you take an opportunity like this?" and on the other I'm thinking, "I don't blame you." I'm not walking into the next semester thinking that everything is going to be easy to handle and hunky-dory all the time. That's completely unrealistic. This semester abroad has already presented me with challenges, and I haven't even left the country yet.
I know that I'm going to do a lot of learning over the next semester. Not just in classes, but out in the world as I learn how to navigate my area and other parts of Europe, learn how to rely on myself, and more. This is a great opportunity for me. I'm genuinely excited, despite the trials and tribulations I've gone through so far.
I've known for years that I was going to study abroad while I was in college. I never thought that I would study abroad in the Netherlands, of all places. I never thought that I would go to a place where I don't know the primary language (in this case, Dutch). I never thought that I would live in a smallish town, even temporarily (Leiden is very much a college town, so when students leave, there aren't very many people). While I knew that I'd be going abroad and meeting all kinds of people, I never thought that I would study in such an international hub.
My flight takes off at 10pm from Minneapolis, MN (if all goes well and everything is on time). My flight is about 8 hours long, but I will be able to sleep for at least half of my flight as I try to adjust to the timezone the Netherlands is in (7 hours ahead of me) before I even get there. After I land in the afternoon, I'll take the train from the airport in Amsterdam to Leiden, and then walk to my new school (the current plan is to walk, any way).
I won't guarantee that you'll see a blog post or a video right away. I'll get hold of my family, of course, and let them know that I've arrived safely and that I'm happy and healthy, but I won't write or record anything until I've had a chance to get my bearings and acclimated a bit. My goal is not to spend as much time on this blog as possible, but to soak up the city, meet as many new people as I possibly can, and be as Dutch as this American can possibly be.
This will be the last 'Predeparture' post from me. From now on, my study abroad posts will be labeled 'Netherlands Adventures!' As I've probably said before, my book reviews will keep coming, but most of them have been stockpiled and scheduled. This will ensure that I'm not spending an exorbitant amount of time away from my new environment.