I wrote this over Spring Break, so excuse the time-lapse.

My family moved into our house six months before I was born, and I’m sitting in my bedroom with a huge and odd-proportioned east-facing window right now feeling Spring Break decrescendo. I snuggle into my Grandpa’s old chair I’ve covered with a woven blanket I bought when I went to a pow-wow with my best friend, Lacy (she’s Delaware/Potawatomie), last year. My burgeoning library is taking over my room in stacks, shelves, and piles (not to mention what has trickled to Norman over time). My sweet Sheltie, Sable, sleeps on her back outside my door and my Dad is snoring over some movie. I made vegetable stew for dinner with potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, peas, cannellini beans, lots of garlic, and a rich herby tomato broth. (Cooking is the one nonperson thing I miss while at school!) I love home.

Don’t worry – I love the residence halls, too! I could wax poetic about Vanessa’s and my collegiate, independent, Bohemian nest, but I’m not there now.

I’m thinking about all the conversations and art projects Lacy and I have spilled onto my beige carpet – and how I (accidentally!) kneed my now-boyfriend in the mouth when he and two other friends tried to exploit my ticklishness by leaping off my bed and onto me. I frantically scribbled out my high school senior research paper at this desk (that was when a five page literary analysis was long!), the back of my door is solidly collaged with pictures from high school, poems I read in class, quotes, and friends’ artwork.

Why am I subjecting you to a maudlin description of my physical and emotional environment? Because I’ll be leaving it behind in less than six months (OU is only 45 minutes from here, so I haven’t really left home yet) – I will be spending September 2010 to June 2011 in Aarhus, Denmark.

I can hardly believe it! I’ve spent most of sapient life working and planning and dreaming about leaving the country, going abroad (I regularly threaten expatriation when I read about our politicians’ antics), and now it’s just a heartbeat away. I am a ball of emotions and contradictions – nervous, excited, hopeful, wary, nostalgic, elated, inspired, doubtful, and confident.

I don’t speak a word of Danish (I do speak French and Spanish, and survival German) – my courses will be in English, but I’m concerned about operating in the larger community without knowing the language. But this is also an amazing opportunity to learn a language organically! I will live in one of the most environmentally progressive countries in the world, in the country that was recently recognized as the happiest in the world. I want to bundle up all the knowledge and experience I have as an American, then go to Denmark and really experience and analyze their culture, politics, problems, and solutions.

I’m writing from the pre-departure side of things: I can’t tell you how wonderful our study abroad program is, though it is the friendliest and most efficient university bureaucracy I’ve encountered. I can’t tell you 10 quick tips for European survival or how to get through a transatlantic flight without going mad (I plan on reading all the novels I buy and stack on my shelf while I slog through scholarly reports and academic books). I’m tempted to conclude with a trite paragraph filled with truisms about the need to experience other cultures, travel the world, meet people, learn languages – all things I believe in, but I haven’t lived them yet.

Right now I’m living the last six weeks or so of spring semester, the last six months or so of my American life. University life lends itself to thinking ahead: less than half way through a semester you’re already picking classes for the next term. You have a five page paper due and you look ahead knowing this prepares you for the fifteen pager you’ll wring out of your newly educated mind and soul during finals week.

Seniors, you might be there right now – your final projects are coming up, you’re ordering caps and gowns and tassels and cords and pomp and circumstance, and you know that in six months you could be sitting in your dorm room studying for your first test and wondering where high school went. So, if I may be permitted one truism for this post: even as you do all the necessary planning and paperwork, live in the now. Don’t try to cling to it out of fear, but truly experience it – that’s the balance you’ll have to strike at OU and in your life generally.

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One Response to “Going Abroad”

  1. Kerri S. on March 26th, 2010 4:27 pm

    I had a fantastic time studying abroad in France when I was an OU undergraduate. I know that you will have many memorable moments in Denmark!

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