5 Things I Didn’t Worry About Until I Decided to Study Abroad

February 15, 2016

ISEP student Marie K. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is an English and creative writing major from Hendrix College, and is currently studying abroad at Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany.

Personal looking into airport terminal
Personal looking into airport terminal

I’ve been told that worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair - you exert a lot of energy going back and forth, but you never really get anywhere. Yet, everyone worries. We worry about grades, jobs, our families… We even worry about trivial things like haircuts and whether we’ll make it home in time to watch Ellen. Worrying is unavoidable, but there are certain things I never even thought to worry about until I decided to study abroad.

1. Outlets

How many things do you own that have to be plugged into an outlet at some point or another? Your phone, laptop, blow dryer, coffee pot, iPad—the list goes on. But not all outlets are made equal. Different countries have different outlets that require different shaped plugs. My American-bought phone charger is not going to fit into a German outlet! Not only that, but my charger is made for 110V, and German outlets produce 220V! What is this electricity thing and why is it so complicated???

2. The weight of my shoes

Because of baggage fees, I will only be taking one suitcase to Germany. While said suitcase is large enough to fit my mother’s entire body (something she thought she should show me while we were still in the store), it can only weigh 50 pounds (Sorry, Mom!). Do you realize how much shoes weigh? A lot. Shoes weigh a lot.

3. ATMs (because who knows if my debit card will work)

I was told by a very well-traveled faculty member at my home institution that I should make sure I have a card with “a chip” in it before I go abroad. He said cards with “chips” are more likely to work outside of America. “What are these mysterious chips?” I thought to myself, “And how can I get one?” Turns out I can’t. Unfortunately, my bank doesn’t have chipped cards. But! I should be able to use the ATMs in Germany to draw cash out of my account at home! “Perfect!” I think…EXCEPT I’VE NEVER USED AN ATM BEFORE. I’ve always been so nervous that the machine would count my money incorrectly that I’ve just always gone to the bank when I needed to make a withdrawal…

4. Riding a bike without training wheels

At the risk of sounding like the biggest scaredy-cat ever, not only am I afraid of ATMs, but I never really learned how to ride a bike without training wheels. I lived on a dirt road my whole life, and riding a bike over gravel is a pretty unpleasant experience, so I never really got that into it. I figured knowing how to ride a bike wasn’t that important. Little did I know, riding bikes is one of the most common forms of transportation in Europe. Maybe I can find one with training wheels?

5. Whether or not my dad can figure out how to use skype

I have told all my loved ones to download Skype onto their phones with the hope that, once I’m abroad, I can still see them every now and then. Unfortunately, my father is a technologically challenged man, and I fear Skype may be a bit too much for him. I really hope it isn’t too much because it would be really awful to have to go five months without seeing his face. It’s very emotional for me to look at the faces of my parents, my brother, and my boyfriend while knowing that pretty soon I won’t be seeing them. Every time I look at them, I trace the lines of their faces with my mind and try to not think about how it will feel when the only familiar face around me is my own.

As the first person in my family to leave the country, I don’t feel bad for saying that this whole study abroad adventure is terrifying for me. I’m not ashamed of my fears and worries because they are feelings that I can’t control. What I would be ashamed of is if I let myself be held back by them. I can buy an outlet adapter and power converter online or at Walmart. I spent an evening sorting through my shoes until I found four pairs that will meet every need and together weigh only five pounds. Who cares about the chipped card? I have to use an ATM at some point! If I can’t figure out how to ride a bike, there’s always public transportation. And, as my mom said, “If Skype is the only way for your father to see his little girl’s face, he’ll figure it out.” I am afraid, and that’s okay because I recognize that fear is what highlights the things I have yet to tackle in life. It’s what makes me think of ways to overcome.

*Like reading posts from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group here.

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