The Not So Scary Pre-Departure

Italy has always been on my bucket list; in fact, it’s been the number one destination I’ve wanted to travel to for years. From the ancient Roman Empire ruins that comprise Rome to the colorful umbrellas lining the beaches of the Amalfi Coast, Italy is a country rich in history and diverse experiences. My freshman Fall semester, I made the decision that sometime before my junior year, I’d study abroad in Italy. After initially choosing Rome, I eventually settled on Sorrento. Although I’ve known I was going to go abroad for the past two years, it didn’t begin to feel real until the week leading up to departure. From buying last-minute necessities to keeping up with my constant seat changes on my flights, the final week home was a whirlwind. Perhaps all the last-minute details kept me distracted from dwelling on my fears.

Ever since I settled on the idea of going abroad, there were two main fears that constantly crossed my mind: navigating airports and layover flights. It’s not that I’ve never been to an airport before, I’ve traveled numerous times between Florida and New York. However, besides two family cruises to the Caribbean, I had never ventured beyond the United States. So, the thought of being alone in an international airport where I don’t speak the native language instantly sparked some fear and uncertainty about going abroad.

Leading up to my departure date, I wasn’t scared about going abroad (besides the few passing thoughts of navigating international airports and layover flights). Perhaps it’s because I’ve dreamed about this day for so long, that it actually happening didn’t faze me. Or, maybe it’s because I knew if everything went terribly wrong my first five weeks, I’d have a close friend of mine in Sorrento for the remaining five weeks of the program-so how bad could things be if she was there with me? Regardless of the reason, going abroad didn’t begin to feel real until the final seven days leading up to departure when there was a suitcase lying around my house as I began to pack for the trip ahead.

One thing I quickly learned was that my going abroad fears were nothing to be concerned about. It didn’t take long for me to realize that navigating the Miami International Airport is far more difficult and confusing than the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany and Naples, Italy. With straightforward signs (and luckily, lots of English) and friendly staff, I preferred navigating the international airports compared to my own. Which is ironic considering it was once a fear of mine. I think that’s what study abroad is truly about (besides temporarily living as a student in a foreign country). It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning that sometimes the things we fear are not all that terrifying once we face them.

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