“I can’t believe this is actually happening.”
Those are the words that I am repeating to myself as I am sitting at the terminal within the Dulles International Airport. My family had just said their final goodbyes, and I was now left alone in a terminal with my thoughts racing and heart hammering in my chest.
As I looked out to the window where my very large plane is pulling in, my carry-on suitcase catches my eye and I am reminded of the monstrous battle I fought to fit my clothes, shoes, toiletries, and other essentials that would help get me through these next five months. I waited until 3 days before my trip to pack, and there were countless times I would pack, unpack, and repack. It took my aunt, my brother, and I to sit on my suitcase just to zip it closed. The key takeaway lesson from my grave failure: Plan ahead and travel light.
If you would’ve asked me my Freshman year if I was going to study abroad, I would’ve gave you a very confused look, followed by a deep laughter, and would’ve concluded with an “absolutely not”. The entire idea of going to a new country honestly frightened me and I didn’t think I was ready to make fully be on my own. But now, I see it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to embrace personal growth and reflection in a country I’m not familiar with at all. This was the time to find comfort in the uncomfortable and joy in the unknown.
This entire trip felt like it was months away. It felt like I still had time to hang out with friends and research some more, but alas, this day came faster than Usain Bolt crossing the finish line. I, Shakera Vaughan, was going to embark on my toughest journey yet—and it was actually happening.