When I was in high school, I used to joke around with the students in my strength training class about how at the end of the semester we would pool our money together to buy shirts that had “I survived strength training with Mr. Wagner” printed onto the back. Of course, we never made the shirts, but continually laughed at the idea. Now, as a sophomore in college, similar thoughts have crossed my mind. If I designed a V-neck with “English major. 19 credits. Two jobs. Trying to get to Japan, finish my schoolwork on time, and balance a teetering social life” etched into the fabric, I wouldn’t have to explain myself. My peers would justify my coffee consumption, frequent naps, marriage to schoolwork, and my severe lack of appearances in whichever room they’ve occupied. Instead of being labeled as “boring,” I would be “understandably busy” or “slightly insane for a reason” because I’ve never been more exhausted in my life, but then again, I’ve never been more exhilarated.
There is an onslaught of tasks that need to be completed before any of the participants can board their respective flights in January, and I would be lying if I wrote about how finishing the pre-departure requirements unfolded in a straight-forward series of events. I rushed into CVS after a six-hour work shift to get passport photos taken for the Certificate of Eligibility. My hair was freed from its catastrophic bun and finger-combed, my face was shining from the oil that accumulated after working behind a 300-degree hot case, and my make-up had faded tremendously. The result was a handful of photos that bared more resemblance to a criminal than a student planning to studying abroad.
There were a handful of other moments that also—miraculously—worked themselves out. I was able to connect with some of my other classmates via facebook and those of us who lived near each other agreed that it would be beneficial to meet outside of the orientation time-period. Of course, it was only after I had misread the SEPTA train schedule and used a stranger’s smart phone to message the group that I would be late that we were able to all formally introduce ourselves. It was a bit embarrassing to show up nearly forty minutes past the initial time I had established, but it was still invaluable. Being able to share two boxes of pizza and wander around Temple Main Campus for a few hours helped spark friendships. I know that these individuals especially will help me (and hopefully I will be able to help them) cope with language barriers and culture shock.
Preparing to go to Japan—to say the least— is dizzying, but it’s all I’ve ever wanted. These memories I’ve made are hopefully only a starting point for those that I’ll create while studying abroad. These days, I walk back and forth between the buildings on campus with my head skyward. At night the plane lights appear to be using the stars for camouflage, but when I spot them, I’m not used to thinking that one day I will be a passenger in a plane that someone else spotted.