As I sit at the gate waiting to board my connecting flight to Dubai, the main feeling I have is uncertainty. I can picture some concrete images of what I should expect from these next three months: a new dorm room full of new roommates (maybe a few faces from the pre-departure meeting), picturesque but generic Cape Town views of windy cliffs and ocean, a dinner trying out some local cuisine with the group in Stellenbosch, and classical safari vehicles roaming savannas in Kruger with a giraffe and maybe an elephant in the background. I can’t quite fill in the gaps between these sparse and admittedly blurry images; so much is unknown and so much is waiting to be learned.
After dwelling anxiously on this uncertainty as my fellow passengers slowly collect in the gate, I realize I know quite a bit more what to expect now than I would have a year ago. I can fill in these gaps in images with my less visual expectations. While less concrete, to me, they’re even more exciting because they give me an excuse to reminisce on this past fall in Paris. Having studied abroad so recently, I’m confident of a few things to expect: to gain knowledge and skills in the field of global health which cannot be acquired in the U.S. alone; to gain new perspective with which to evaluate my own culture, my experiences, and my views; to make great new memories with even better new friends; and to grow in resilience and independence as I meet new challenges associated with living abroad.
This uncertainty is the most challenging but also the most exhilarating aspect of study abroad. Thinking back on my memories of the first time around, I can’t wait to go back: not to Paris, but to a new and, at its root, similar adventure.