As I begin writing my first post for the Temple Study Abroad Blog, I’m sitting in the Air Canada terminal at La Guardia, staring down a two hour wait for my plane, after getting through security with far more ease than expected. Before today, I’d never left the country before, except a brief trip to Toronto and Niagara falls when I was six or seven years old. Now I’m here, bags packed and passport in tow, en route to Tokyo from now until May. I’m stepping out on an adventure that I cannot begin to comprehend the scope of, simultaneously thrilled beyond belief and terrified.
It seems strange that a trip to the other side of the planet began meeting up with Pat, a friend from school, and my roommate in Tokyo, in my driveway in suburban Philadelphia. Pat’s parents dropped him off just minutes after my mom left to take my sister out to Chicago for her freshman year at Loyola University. We somehow piled what seemed like way too little luggage for an entire year into the back of my dad’s car and headed out, leaving Philadelphia behind for the better part of the next year.
We drove north through Jersey and crossed the bridge into Staten Island, and then on to Brooklyn, heading for my grandmother’s house in Nassau county, where we planned to stay our last night before the flight the next morning. The ride up was peppered with small, nervous conversation that didn’t begin to scratch the surface of what everybody wanted to say; we were all too lost staring into the depth of the coming events to say much. When we got to Long Island we headed out to the beach, one final look at the grey waters of the North Atlantic before we traded it for the other side of the other ocean in another country on the other side of the world.
The morning after we sat on the tarmac at La Guardia, our bags crammed beneath our feet and hanging under our eyes (neither Pat nor myself slept more than two hours the night before, preferring instead to anxiously toss the time away on my grandmother’s air mattresses). I was battling alternating waves of panic and euphoria as the plane picked up speed, pulling up and out, north over New York City and the Hudson River, towards Canada. Staring down at the largest city I’ve ever known being dwarfed by the increasing altitude, I really felt for the first time that I was leaving.
I started this post this morning in an airport in New York City and I’m finishing it now a mile up, somewhere over the Arctic Ocean. I’m in a strange time warp; the cabin is dark, but it’s as light as midday outside the artificially tinted windows. The clocks on the plane have been hovering somewhere around five p.m. for hours now, as we cross time zone after time zone, but my phone, which hasn’t worked since crossing into Canadian airspace, says its seven o’clock in the evening. The man to my left is drinking wine and listening to Kidz Bob on the in flight entertainment system, and to my right, Pat is fast asleep. Writing this first post here at the top of the world has given me time to collect my thoughts, hone and focus my excitement, and for the first time since I received word that I’d been accepted into the program, I feel almost ready for the year to come.