Brianna Condilenios, Simon Fraser University, winner of the spring 2020 BC Study Abroad Scholarship

Study Abroad Destination: the Netherlands

I arrived in Maastricht with three neatly packed black pieces of luggage and a folder holding my precious city maps, confirmations, and to-do lists. I meticulously prepared every thinkable element of this trip, from making a double copy of my birth certificate to handwriting the exact train transfers I needed to get from Paris to Maastricht. I have always found delicious comfort in planning. So for my first time in Europe, I wanted to ensure my safety and success through careful precision.

I cautiously wandered down cobblestone streets and ventured into curious-looking stores. I did not know where I would end up or what I would find. I allowed myself to get lost in the enchanting splendour of Maastricht. I said hello to people without knowing if they would want to share a friendship. I enjoyed the shy friendliness of meeting new people, not knowing how they would be. Slowly, I was learning how to let go of my strong desire for control. 

Then a global pandemic came roaring through the world like a tornado. Almost every student I met flocked home in a panic within the blink of an eye. I had just built up an understanding of how life works here, established relationships, found a rhythm, and silently everything just shattered right before my eyes. I was left in a foreign country with almost no contacts, and everything in the world was rapidly changing. This was not something I had scheduled in my planner.

With no clear idea of what the future would look like, I gradually loosened my diligent planning skills to a less structured approach to life. I let go. I went on bike rides without a destination in mind, just to see where I would end up. I went to the grocery store and bought food that was not on my list. I got tattoos without knowing exactly how they would feel. I ate dinner at midnight and changed my plans on a dime. I stopped trying to control every element of my life and accepted the beauty of the unknown.

I now welcome uncertainty with open arms. Although a little order and organization is comforting, I have learned to thrive in an environment where that simply is not promised. Along the way, I developed wonderful friendships and an astounding openness to life that I would not trade for the world.

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