Food for Thought 3

My first couple days abroad

I’ve never not had someone to pick me up at the airport before. 

When I was mentally preparing for my trip across seas I wasn’t that nervous. It didn’t seem like there was anything to be nervous about. Everyone on my trip was traveling alone. None of us had ever been to this country before and all I had to do was get on a plane, meet my driver at the airport and meet all the other study abroad students who would be just as confused/ tired as I was. It seemed like a very straight forward plan. Nothing to get anxious about. When my flight got moved to a day earlier I was even less stressed. I would have a goodnight sleep over everyone else and I would just take a taxi to the school the next day. Super simple. 

But I failed to think of one thing. 

I’ve never truly experienced the feeling of traveling alone before. Sure I’ve taken flights by myself, I’ve driven across multiple state lines on very little sleep with just me and dorm belongings and I’ve gone on 12 hour road trips where I was the adult in charge. But I’ve never been in situation where no one was there to greet me. And trust me, it humbles you real quick. 

Image of plane 
Photo by me

“But I’ve never been in a situation where no one there to greet me.”

This is because going to a new country as a tourist and going to a new country as a contributor; as in a person who is going to give and take from a single community for multiple months, are very different experiences. This may seem obvious, but it isn’t until you stay in a new country as the former do you really realize how different the experiences are. I cant tell you how many times in the past week in a half I’ve thought to myself how easier it would be if I’m a visitor. 

When I fist landed and couldn’t find the bus and spent 3 hours trying to find a way back to my hotel I was very aware of the fact no one in that airport was obligated to help me. When the lady in the accommodations office didn’t hear me knock and berated me for 10 minutes on Americans lack of manors I was very aware of the fact, I needed to do better. And when going to my first class and leaning that my final was worth 65% of my grade, I realized I couldn’t slack off. 

When you go to a new place as a tourist its very easy to brush off the cultural differences. Easy to not get embarrassed and just think to yourself “oh well I’m just a tourist.” You move on and in a few hours forget the embarrassing event even happened. But when your staying for longer than a few weeks you have to reflect and change. It’s not just knowing that there will be cultural differences but changing yourself so you blend a little easier. Making continuous decisions in your life so you don’t make that mistake again. Because, unlike a tourist I will take that final, I will see the accommodations lady again, and I will find myself In a couple weeks flying to Paris with no one to great me again.