departure

214/366

Coming to college, I knew close to nothing about what I wanted to do. Picking a major was a terrifying idea and I joined an absurd amount of clubs my first year, just to try a little bit of everything. There were two things I was absolutely certain though:
1. I was not going to be a math major (hello, C+ in high school calculus) 
2. I was going to study abroad for a year. 

There was no question about it. I was seventeen and had just come off of a summer with the NSLI-Y program in Tajikistan where I learned Persian in a matter of 6 weeks. That's incredible, but it wasn't just about the language though—it never is. I learned more about the world, caring for others, and myself than ever before; I grew and moved on and became the best version of myself I've ever been. Life-changing almost feels like too mundane a term to describe that summer. I fell desperately in love with the world around me and all that it had to offer. As soon as I got to Hamilton, I knew that the year abroad was absolutely necessary. I wanted—no, needed—to feel like that again, this wonderful melange of lost, inspired, completely opened. 

And here we are now, two years later, on the eve of my last night in America for quite some time. I'm leaving for France tomorrow evening for a full year. I'll be spending the first two weeks (and my birthday!) in the beautiful beach town of Biarritz for orientation. Then, I'll be off to Paris where I'm living with a host family and studying at various French institutions for a year. I have an anthropology project, a long trip to North Africa, and maybe even a summer research project planned already. It's all very exciting, but I don't feel quite how I expected to feel. I'm thrilled, yes, and I know within a week, this apprehension will seem unfounded and ridiculous, but right now?

I'm anxious as shit. 

I've known for over half a year that I was going to be going on this program. Since then, between finishing up school, piles of paperwork, and the visa application process, it's been so easy to push the reality of the situation to the side and focus on the details. Send in this document, scan that, copy this paper. 

Most of the time, I barely care. I keep on telling myself that compared to Tajikistan, France was going to be a cakewalk. Developed, first world country? Easy. I can do this with my eyes closed. Other times, the five-year-old in me emerges, and I get giddy about the romance and Old World beauty of Paris. I (foolishly) fantasize about walking along the Seine at sunset with a crepe in hand, accordion music in the background optional. 

There are some other moments though, when the reality of the situation hits me full force—like right now. I remember how fucking terrible my French speaking and sense of direction actually is. And I realize with a sudden heartwrenching gasp everything that I'm leaving behind. There's weekend challah in the cold Backus kitchen, sleepless unproductive nights in KJ with my friends, endless hours losing myself in my darkroom, the beauty of the Glen in every season, Silent Disco shenanigans, Taiwanese food. I'm leaving behind old friends, new friends, a new love. That one kills me.

But none of it matters because for all of my worrying and sadness and yearning, I can't stop any of it. So, forget about it all, push him to a corner of your mind for now. Chin up, finish packing, and less than 24 hours from now, the adventure begins. Allons-y!