Study Abroad Beginnings: Behind the ‘Plane in the Sky’ Picture
Hola from Viña del Mar, Chile! I am just finishing up my first week of school at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez and have been in this beautiful country for about 10 days — and when I say beautiful, I mean beautiful. Chile is incredible.
Viña is on the Pacific coast, so the ocean is just a short walk away. Viña is a sister city with Valparaiso, the port city of Chile, which is equally as beautiful. The culture here is so rich and Chileans are so kind, and I am really looking forward to the next four months in my new home!
Though I have been feeling that “study abroad glow” for a while now, I had a really rocky start. There was so much build up to this experience that all I could feel while walking through the gates of the airport was pure excitement. But, when the time came to say bye to my mom, I found myself much more teary than I had anticipated. After a long hug, I escaped quickly and headed for the escalator down into the terminal before my mom could see the fear in my eyes. All of a sudden, I got hit with every imaginable emotion: Hopefulness, doubt, readiness, unpreparedness. These feelings stayed with me as I wiped away my tears, standing in line for the security check. Not too long after I sat down at my gate, the plane I was about to board that would take me to a new and foreign land drove up to be prepared for departure. Things were getting real.
As an infrequent flyer, the plane itself also held a certain fear for me. With a deep and dramatic breath, I stepped onto the plane and found my seat, an aisle seat in the back of the plane next to an eight-year-old boy. Tears still in my eyes, I listened to “Come Sail Away” by STYX as my study abroad journey began and the plane took off for Santiago, Chile.
I have a lot of friends who have studied abroad, all of whom have posted a picture of the view outside the small airplane window during their departure from the US. For me, that photo has always translated to me as my friends’ excitement for their study abroad journey. And while, yes, I was SO excited, my overwhelming feeling was that of self-doubt. I looked out that small window and felt afraid.
While at first I thought a nine hour flight through the night would be the worst thing ever, I think it ended up being a blessing. During those uncomfortable, long nine hours, my negative feelings slowly fleeted and were replaced by those of utter happiness and excitement. I am doing an amazing thing, I’m going to Chile! My long flight gave me time to process all my emotions before touching down in my new home. Even though I felt that I wouldn’t be able to succeed, or that I was making a mistake, when I arrived in Chile I knew I was exactly where I should be.
So, if you’re reading this and are thinking about studying abroad, I’m here to tell you it’s possible that it may start out as a rough ride. You will feel emotions that you have never experienced before. The inspiring photos you see about a seamless departure or sole excitement about leaving do not tell the whole story.
Study abroad is about going out of your comfort zone, so it is OK to feel overwhelmed or scared. But, it will pass and you will be so thankful that you made the leap and got on the plane.
Study abroad has already brought me so much. You’ll grow and see yourself in a whole new light. You will be encompassed by the rich culture of your destination and be intrigued to see it all. The hardest part is just making the decision to go, and then stepping on that plane. But after you do… you’ll be so glad you did.
This post was contributed by Cayley Pinson, a student from the University of North Carolina — Wilmington who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Viña del Mar, Chile.