It began with time travel. We were high in the air, the lights of civilization shinning in the distance like so many expertly crafted jewels. Soon we were zooming over clouds and oceans, blank expanses serving as backdrops as we journeyed through time and space.
Houston, Texas had been our origin. Auckland, New Zealand was our destination. It would take us 14 and a half hours, and by crossing the dateline, we would skip a day and travel into the future and then enter a land of mythic beauty.
Even as I was sitting on the plane, struggling to sleep, it still didn’t feel real. I was going to be studying in New Zealand for three and a half months. I had made the decision almost on a whim. I had the room in my schedule and in Boston University with its idiosyncratic ways, studying abroad is actually cheaper than studying on campus. So I thought, why not?
But then with the jet lag clouding my vision and the sudden winter chill cooling my body, I couldn’t help but ask myself, what am I doing here? I wasn’t as prepared as when I went to London. I knew little about New Zealand, it’s culture, it’s history, besides the abbreviated rundown I read in my guide book. I had only just recently watched Lord of the Rings in full, and even those movies only give one a glimpse of the landscape of the country and nothing else.
I knew even less about the people I was with in the program. The rooms they assigned us were meant to be doubles, only they squashed four of us in with only one dresser, one closet, and one vanity to share amongst us. We were isolated from the other BU students. Everyone was scattered about in the hotel, which sat across the street from the University of Auckland were we’ll be studying.
I’m a senior. I should be living out my glory months in the comfort of Boston with my friends, lording over the lowly freshmen and taking advantage of my momentary superiority? But I remembered the trapped feeling I experienced after coming back from London and the wistful eyes of last year’s seniors, bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t go abroad again. I am here because I wanted to be, because I could. A normal semester isn’t enough for me anymore, and this opportunity only presents itself once in a lifetime.
And now that I’m looking out over the city with the sun rising in the east and a good night’s sleep under my belt, I can feel it: the nervous excitement and wonder of exploring and experiencing something new. The next few weeks are going to be rough, no doubt, but it’ll be worth it. As Bilbo Baggins would say: