By Janna Wale, Thompson Rivers University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship and a member of the BC Study Abroad Writer in Residence Team.
Okay, so I don’t know how many of you guys packed your own lunches growing up, but my mother made sure I was self-sufficient. We would go to the grocery store every week and my older sister and I were allowed to each pick a few items to include in our lunches for the school week to come.
As we got older, we pumped the brakes on some of the things we knew were a definite ‘no’ (chocolate, candy, chips, cakes) and actually began to pick out fruits. As we progressed from grade to grade we had a better understanding of what was going to get squished in our backpacks and what wasn’t.
To this day, every time I see a banana I can hear my mother telling both my sister and me, “If you want the bananas, eat them at home. Bananas don’t travel well.” For the longest time when it came to travel, I was the banana.
Before studying abroad in Scotland, the thought of packing up and leaving for months at a time did not a-peel to in the least. It was terrifying. I was terrified. What if something happened while I was away? What if nothing happened while I was away and I came home and didn’t love it anymore? How could I leave my parents and friends? I grappled with this fear of the unknown and previous travelling experiences before leaving for Scotland, and almost didn’t follow through with my study abroad experience despite being told again and again how amazing it would be and how fortunate I was.
To be truthful, this fear of travelling did not go away when I got on the plane. It did not go away when I got off the plane. It did not go away when I unpacked my suitcases for the next 4 months. This fear of travel took time to go away, and I learned a lot from it. If you are considering going abroad (which I hope you are!) it is important to learn to be okay with being uncomfortable. It is also important to learn that just because you are afraid of doing something, it doesn’t make doing it any less worth doing. When you arrive and it is challenging and it continues to challenge you, this is normal. And it will pass.
Like all things in life, being abroad takes practice. The more you do it, the more you immerse yourself in uncomfortable experiences will also mean the more you will learn and grow from them. The things that used to seem impossible will become achievable. It’s true, before my study abroad experience, I used to be a banana. With some practice and some work and a lot of really hard days, I’m more of an orange when it comes to travelling now (orange you glad I didn’t say banana?).