Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Waiting Game*

Do you ever feel like you're just waiting for life to begin? It's like you're stuck in a giant, sadistic game of Monopoly where every card drawn reads "DO NOT PASS GO." That's when the soundtrack of my life kicks in and i hear a "wah wahhh" ringing in my ears. (yeah, maybe i should get that checked out...)

It feels like The Waiting Game is a constant presence in my life. I'm always waiting for something: that next paycheck, summer's start, summer's end, my laundry to be done... and the list goes on. The most intense rounds of the The Waiting Game inevitably occur before major life changes. It's possibly the cruelest, most intense game you've ever played--like the real-life equivalent of Jumanji, except you don't have a price scanner to zap those annoying killer monkeys... hypothetically speaking, of course.

Anticipation of studying abroad has triggered the worst round of The Waiting Game ever. It's like someone spilled Pepsi on the game board and never cleaned it up, ensuring a nice sticky mess. My game piece, which would surely be purple and/or covered in glitter, seems to have a bad case of the stickies. Yes, the stickies. I'm pretty sure whoever spilled the metaphorical Pepsi got it nice and good over the "Summer" section of the board, considering how slow the past three months have gone. With my departure date looming only 3 days away, however, my game piece has finally reached the end of the board. This round of The Waiting Game is coming to a close... let blind panic ensue.

Although I'm incredibly excited to begin this new chapter of my life, the fact that I will be leaving in a matter of days has stirred up a bevy of emotion, and not all of them good. Obviously, the good emotions outweigh the bad: I'm excited, good nervous, elated, anticipatory (is this a word? Probably not.), and a hundred other things. Sometime over the past month, however, doubt and fear have wiggled their way into that elusive space somewhere between my spine and pancreas: they've simmered, become more potent, and have suddenly spilled into my stomach in the form of evil butterflies.

The prospect of studying abroad is scary. You're not only leaving behind family, friends, places, and material objects--you're leaving behind an entire culture. That's scary--both in the Jaws sense of scary and the ohmygodifeellikemystomachisgoingtofalloutofmybutt sense of scary. I liken it to the moment before I've given big speeches--I'm terrified, my extremities have gone numb, there is a tingle behind my last left molar, and adrenaline is pumping through my veins. It's seriously uncomfortable, but not entirely vomit-inducing... unless of course you suffer from glossophobia (look it up), which thankfully I don't.

Other nerve-wracking musings are as follows:

1. How in the world am I going to fit all of my shoes... much less everything else... into ONE suitcase. Yes, that's right, I will only be bringing ONE (1) suitcase with  me for a 10 month study abroad program. I guarantee you that I will be wearing my winter coat, two pairs of shoes, several pairs of underwear, and all of my valuable jewelry on the airplane just to be able to bring more stuff with me.

Yes, I took a picture of myself sitting in Bertha the Suitcase.

2. There are two truths in life: (1)  I am a poor college student, and (2) the US dollar is only 7/10 of a Euro. This means i'm three-tenths poorer in Europe than i am in the United States. Bummer.

3. I don't speak Italian. Those seven semesters of Italian classes I took? Yep, summer took care of those. Italy better watch out because I will be using massive and animated hand gestures to supplement my seriously deteriorated Italian skillz. Stay at least five feet away... oh, crap...  wait, sorry... 2ish meters away from me at all times.

4. I don't understand the metric system (see #2) or Celsius temperatures. That, and i don't know what size i am in European shoes and clothing. This could be a serious problem.

5. While I would never say it aloud, the seven-year-old inside of me will be screaming, "Mommy! Daddy! NO!!!!" when the time comes for me to board the plane. Epic sobs may ensue... the likes of which no one has witnessed since Titanic hit theaters in 1997.

Reasons 6-154 exist, but I have neither the time nor energy to write them all down.

One of the most heart-wrenching aspects of studying abroad is the fact that I will be forgoing my final year at UW-Madison. Having transferred to Madtown my sophomore year, I've only spent two years as a Badger, which is 1000 years too few. I love Madison--it is a city and a school that has stolen a piece of my heart and has refused to give it back. Having visited the city this past weekend, I have a serious case of "You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too" syndrome. I know that Bologna is going to be amazing. I know that it, too, will steal a piece of my heart, but I'm still upset that I will be "missing out" on a year at Madison, the lovely city that holds the people, places, and memories that have come to mean the world to me. Leaving Madison behind is possibly the hardest part of leaving, and that's saying a lot. My friends, family, and home will hopefully all be right where I left them when I get back... but I only get to be a Badger once. It's a priceless thing.

From L-R: Hope, Myself, Christen, and Lizzy. Pregaming for football games = good times.

When it comes down to it, however, I'm confident that studying in Bologna will be the sickest, coolest thing ever. My case of melancholy will surely abate once I step onto Italian soil. Stay tuned for the wild ride...

*This blog entry was originally written for the blog I write for UW-Madison's Office of International Academic Programs. The original can be found here:

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