Last February, during a break from Sing Song practice, I walked into the Campus Center to check my mail. I opened my mailbox and pulled out the long-expected envelope. Without hesitating, I tore it open and began reading. I made it through the first sentence before I ran shrieking through the Campus Center to tell my friends the good news. I had been accepted to the ACU Study Abroad program in Oxford, England.
Growing up, I only left the country twice, and both times were for youth group mission trips to Mexico.Â Naturally, I was excited for the opportunity to travel “across the pond” and visit a country I knew about only through stories, history books and Harry Potter films.
My excitement grew as our departure date approached.Â However, less than three months before we were scheduled to fly out, everything fell apart.Â My dear friend, Anabel Reid, was killed in the ACU bus crash on Nov. 4.Â My excitement about leaving suddenly turned to fear, anxiety and hesitation.
I began questioning whether or not I should still go go Oxford.Â I felt guilty about leaving my friends and I wondered if I would be able to handle the strain of adapting to a new culture on top of everything else I had just been through. Then I remembered how excited Anabel was when she learned I would be going to Oxford.Â She was the kind of person who would never miss an opportunity to do something amazing.
Many people have said that their ambition is to travel the world, but not many of them actually have the chance. If I let an opportunity like this pass, I would never be able to forgive myself. There might be other chances for me to travel and visit other countries, but each experience is “once in a lifetime.”
Studying abroad is not the same as simply visiting a different country. Studying abroad means actually living in another country and immersing yourself in their culture. Learning how people in other countries live fascinates me, and I plan on using these next three and a half months as a learning experience.
There are many specific things that I am excited about doing: meeting new people, visiting Paris, riding the London Eye,Â trying new food, taking 5.2 billion pictures (more or less), sitting on the same bench where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien sat, visiting the Harry Potter museum… the list doesn’t end.
I’ve heard from Study Abroad alumni that the groups of students traveling together become like a family.Â This is one of the things I am the most excited about.Â Recent events taught me to never take friendships for granted and I am looking forward to beginning new relationships.
My excitement about leaving has been rekindled, but reality hasn’t sunken in yet. My bags are packed and I’ve said goodbye to most of my friends and family. My goal is to keep my mind completely open because I have no idea what to expect when I step off the plane. Great writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis andÂ J.K. Rowling would view this journey as a new adventure. Adventures might be unexpected, but in the end they are always worth the risks.