About a year and a half ago I sat in class and listened to a group of girls give a presentation about their trip to Tanzania. I had always known that I wanted to study abroad, but I never knew where I wanted to go or what type of program I wanted to choose. By the end of their presentation my heart was set on Tanzania. I talked it over with my parents, figured out how it would fit into my schedule, made some financial calculations, and then impatiently waited for the 2015 application to be posted. After filling out the application and getting accepted, my excitement and impatience grew even larger. Most of my free time in the past few months has been filled with preparations for this trip. When I think of my preparations two categories come to mind: physical and mental.
Like all trips, there were a lot of physical preparations that needed to take place. I have made list after list and numerous shopping trips to ensure that I have gathered everything I will need to take with me. First on my list were clothes. With the school dress code in mind I set out to find skirts and other clothing items that would adhere to Tanzania’s cultural norms which are much more modest than ours. Next I focused on gathering all of my toiletries and anything I may need while away. Along with this I stocked up on about every type of medicine you can think of. Since I will not be able to just hop in a car and drive a few miles to a Meijer or Wal-Mart, like I do here, I decided it is better to be over prepared. Gathering all of my clothes and personal supplies has been a long process, but I am glad to say that everything on my list is finally checked off! As well as gathering supplies for myself, I have also gathered supplies for my classroom and the children of my school and the orphanage. I reached out to my family to help me gather these supplies and I am overjoyed with their contributions. From pencils and stickers to jump ropes and bubbles, I have everything I wanted and more. I am so grateful that my family was able to support me through these supplies and gifts for the children. The only things I have left to do is to finish up hemming my skirts and pants (which my mom is doing as I type, thanks Mom!) and to figure out how I am going to fit everything in to my luggage.
My other preparations have been of the mental type. Other than a 4-day cruise to the Caribbean and a trip to Canada, I have never traveled outside of the United States for a long period of time. I am about to enter an environment so much different than what I am accustomed to. I am also going to be thousands of miles away from home. These things, along with anxiety about the long flights, have caused me to lose some sleep. However, I feel like these late nights spent worrying about the things that could go wrong were a somewhat necessary part of getting prepared for this trip. No matter how horrible or scary of a scenario my mind comes up with, I always arrived at the conclusion that the experience I will gain from this trip will be worth the risks. I know that if it was not safe than we would not go. Also, I know the differences I am going to encounter are all a part of experiencing other cultures and they will only help me become a worldlier person. Although it may be scary, I am ready to step out of my comfort zone and to approach this trip with an open mind and adventurous spirit.
It seems unreal that this life changing journey is finally about to start, but I am ready!