by Christa C.
I remember in my freshman year of high school, my teacher has us read “Great Expectations.” I’m not entirely sure I understood what Dickens was trying to say at the time, but I do now. Looking at my calendar, every weekend has me jet-setting to a far off land, including Prague, Paris and Berlin, one after another, with excursions and activities planned that I’ve only dreamed of since I was young.
I can’t even put into words my excitement to see the Anne Frank house ever since I read her diary as a kid because it’s been burning away in my mind ever since. But I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be disappointed because I have built up these expectations for so long. Was Dickens right? I think for some, the excitement may get the best of them. For me, and I hope for others, I am optimistic that all will be as I’ve dreamed because I plan and ask questions.
I have an overwhelming desire to know what I am jumping into. Call it what you will, but I think over-analyzing can often be a good thing, even helpful. You’ll find if you ever travel as much as I am about to that planning gets tedious. But I have devised a recipe for helping me deal with the anxiety that is planning. Treat a trip as an invitation, and identify:
These are the basics you’ll need to have figured out to be able to have a grasp on what your experience will entail. And when all else fails while researching, because the internet is, in fact, not the holy grail, ask questions.
It was stated beautifully in my favorite movie, “Good Will Hunting:” “If I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.”
Experience is evidence that you were there and lived it. Ask people who have been to the places you want to go — they’ll know a heck of a lot more than Google, I can tell you that much. I recently went to Barcelona, and my friends and I met two guys studying abroad as well. They told us stories about everywhere they’ve traveled, giving us tips and tricks for when we go there one day. Taking their advice, we found great little eateries in our local neighborhood, and they’ve become population lunch spots for other study abroad students as well.
So the next time you start to go into panic mode planning five trips at a time, take a step back and ask for help — you’ll be amazed how it can change your expectations.
About the blogger
Christa C. is studying abroad on the SAI Programs: Florence University of the Arts program in Italy.