The Virtues of Study Abroad: Volume I

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UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA

THE VIRTUES OF STUDY ABROAD: VOLUME I JUNE 2014


“TRAVELING - IT LEAVES YOU SPEECHLESS, THEN TURNS YOU INTO A STORYTELLER.” - IBN BATTUTA

This publication, The Virtues of Study Abroad: Volume I, is designed to showcase the merit of Study Abroad programs – especially how they contribute to the personal growth of students. The following student works are intended to highlight the various personal characteristics that emerge and are strengthened by an international educational experience. Participants were inspired to share what they value most about the opportunity to study abroad. They wrote about traits many other study abroad students also say they gain: confidence, empathy, courage, engagement, understanding, enthusiasm, perspective and perseverance. This publication not only discusses the potentially-life changing personal and educational benefits of Study Abroad programs, but also how the University of Oklahoma’s focus on international education makes these experiences possible. The variety and availability of programs speak to the degree to which educators and administrators value Study Abroad as an important component of higher education. Participation in such programs gives students the opportunity to practice intercultural communication skills, cultivate an openness to new experiences, and engage in a style of learning that inspires curiosity and a life-long love of learning. We hope the following personal stories and observations resonate with those who have studied abroad, as well as prospective journeyers alike.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. [CONFIDENCE] Michael Wieczorek .......................[3] 2. [EMPATHY] Corie White ...................................[6] 3. [COURAGE] Symphonie Swift ...........................[9] 4. [ENGAGEMENT] Ty Isom .......................................[11] 5. [UNDERSTANDING] Katie Bush ..................................[14] 6. [ENTHUSIASM] Nicholas Pattison ........................[17] 7. [PERSPECTIVE - a photo essay] Karina Legradi ............................[20] 8. [PERSEVERANCE] Kayli Nelson ...............................[24] BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY .............................[28] PHOTO CITATIONS .....................................[29]

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1 [CONFIDENCE]

MICHAL WIECZOREK College Degree Program: MAIS, Global Security Studies
 Study Abroad Programs: Kyoto, Japan; Yamaguchi, Japan; Krakow, Poland “My first travel abroad experience was part of my requirement to graduate as an IAS major... I loved it so much that as soon as I returned to Oklahoma I started making plans to study abroad again in Japan. I was hooked.”


When I got off the plane at Kansai International Airport in Japan, I could not feel more out of place. My blonde hair and blue eyes were like beacons directing everyone’s attention. As a consolation prize I was, at least, average height for the first time in my life. This was my first trip abroad alone, and the first time I would live alone away from my family. I had moved out months before but home was always a short drive to the other side of Norman. What brought me to Japan, this time, was the study abroad requirement for my IAS degree. I was studying Japanese— having given up German after one semester with its dative case— so going to Japan made the most sense. I chose the summer program because I wanted to complete my college education in the suggested four years—if not faster. This was supposed to be a quick formality and side-trip. I did not expect it to be a life changing experience igniting a passion that would lead me to return to Japan for two semesters, study abroad in Poland for another one, teach English in Spain for a year, and complete a State Department internship at the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia. I returned

to Oklahoma after that one month in Japan full of optimism and desire. I immediately started preparing for my return, for which I would have to wait one more year, and for the arrival of two friends from Japan and one American friend from Tennessee. The one year wait for the second part of my Japanese story was taxing, but it came and went quickly. However, the second time I returned to Oklahoma was not as easy. Will Rogers World Airport, Norman, and Oklahoma had lost some of their luster after experiencing Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Osaka, Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, and Melbourne. I was lucky that I had a close friend who had just returned from a year abroad in Lima, and we could commiserate and take solace that we had someone to speak to who truly understood what we were both going through. What was supposed to be my final fall semester was starting, but I heard that a new study abroad opportunity was possibly opening in Poland. Six months after returning from Japan and after many letters and emails to Financial Aid and President Boren’s office, I boarded a plane in February to Krakow, Poland for another semester 4


abroad, putting my graduation on hold until the following spring. My return ticket was originally scheduled for July 2010, but I did not see Oklahoma again until May 2012. I stayed an additional six months in Poland to volunteer with an organization—Erasmus Student Network— that assists exchange students at my university in Krakow. The next year I followed a job (and a Spanish girl) to Madrid to teach English at a prominent academy. I realized how difficult it would be to find a job with only a bachelor’s degree, so I returned to Oklahoma to pursue my masters, but the itch to travel remained. After visiting my friend in South America over the summer, I again left Oklahoma for my Embassy

I FOLLOWED A JOB AND A SPANISH GIRL TO MADRID internship in October 2013. When I returned a week before Christmas, I knew that this was truly what I wanted to do. I could not see it looking ahead, but looking back I realize that each of these experiences were steps to where I am and what I want today. These experiences changed me profoundly. Everyday activities, like shopping and getting lost, turned into daily challenges that had to be surmounted when done in a foreign country and language. I learned to relish these small victories until they became second nature. I was put in situations where I was forced to meet and speak with new people from all over the world in multiple languages. The shy, quiet Polish immigrant kid from Oklahoma with the weird name became a confident and open man who is

less afraid to sing karaoke, dance around other people, or present or teach in front of foreign students and professionals. I used to think that traveling and studying abroad were about the location—the sights, foods, and fun—and to a point they are. I saw my fair share of palaces, castles, temples, shrines, cathedrals, museums, and a minor league soccer game in Japan, but what I remember and miss the most are the people. The people I shared these experiences with are my most precious memories, including the nice cabbie, the train station employee who carried my bag, and all my friends, many who I still communicate with today. They made these experiences precious. It was sobering to learn that people from every part of this planet—especially students—share so much in common and we all want many of the same things for ourselves, for our friends, and for our families. I was able to see that the things that divide us—language, race, religion, or anything else—are truly as superficial as we make them to be. I believe I was trying to find a place to call my own, a place where I felt I belonged. It has taken studying, living, working, or traveling to five continents, but I finally feel as though I can live and belong anywhere, alongside people going through many of the same experiences. I do not think that these lessons in life and love could have been learned in any better way than by studying abroad, and I encourage everyone, from my brother to my friends, to do everything in their power to make it a part of their educational experience, for it will change their lives.

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2 [EMPATHY]

CORIE WHITE College Degree Program: Joint Juris Doctorate and Masters of International Studies Study Abroad Programs: Brazil; Vina del Mar, Chile; La Paz, Bolivia “I hope to pursue a career in International Law politics.”


Who knew that so many of life’s mysteries could be observed on a beach in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. The day I most clearly remember was one of my last days in Salvador. A friend and I went to our favorite beach, a secluded rock beach between the fort and the lighthouse. Usually it was virtually empty, but that day was a holiday and everyone was off of work, so all the beaches were more crowded than normal. There were several cute families at the beach and one adorable little girl caught a fish in her hands and proudly showed it to everyone on the beach who would look her way. As there were more locals at the beach that day, I got in some prime people watching. One major thing I noticed was the amount of skin being shown on the beach by everyone: young and old, tan and pale, fit and not, male and female. It was a bit shocking at first to see older ladies in thong bikinis and older men in speedos, but the more I thought about it and the longer I was in Brazil, the more I appreciated this approach to beachwear. All of the people on the beach are sending out a message – you can go to the beach, enjoy the sun, and show as much skin as you want no matter WHAT you look like. Nobody seemed to be worried about other people looking at their wrinkles/cellulite/paleness/etc. in judgment. That attitude really rubbed off, and I felt comfortable and confident in my bikini (an American bikini, not a thong Brazilian one!). There were several little boys and girls playing on the beach, and I thought about how great it is that they are seeing people of all ages and sizes having fun on the beach and celebrating their bodies. I was also captivated by the vendors selling their wares on the beach. All sorts of things can be bought from wandering beach vendors in Brazil, from speedos to fried cheese on a stick to

cocktails. Usually the vendors come up to bug you incessantly and you have to be firm in brushing them off, but on this secluded beach the vendors were much more respectful of our space. One little old man in particular struck me. Here was this old man, probably between 60 and 70, working on a holiday that most people have off. He walked along the beach in the hot sun, barefoot and with a limp, lugging a large cooler behind him. He was calling out what he was 7


selling (cold beverages), but his voice was giving out from old age. He had on a wedding ring so I assumed he was married and most likely had a family. It seemed unfair that I was 23 years old and able to pay to go to another country and sit on the beach all day, having vendors bring me food and drinks, while this man was working on a holiday in almost unbearable heat. In reality, I knew nothing about this man: his past, whether he had to work or just wanted to make extra money, what kind of person he was, etc., but of course I jumped to conclusions and assumed he was a nice guy working to support his family who deserved a day off. In the states he would most likely be retired, enjoying the holiday with his

family. The whole situation gave me a sense of sadness. I’ve been around a lot of hard working people that are in poverty despite their best efforts, and I usually don’t let it get to me. But every once and a while, someone makes me think about things more deeply and I’m overwhelmed by it. So there I was lying out on the beach, tearing up while imagining this man’s life story. Friends I’ve lived and worked with in Latin American countries have said similar things; sometimes, someone just strikes you and tugs at your heartstrings.

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3 [COURAGE]

SYMPHONIE SWIFT College Degree Program: International Studies, Minors in Anthropology and African Studies
 Study Abroad Programs: Scotland; Finland; Tanzania 
 “Why I chose to study abroad? So much more complicated than something I can briefly list here.”


Procrastination is a frequently used word on college campuses. Some people put off doing their school work, some put off important conversations, I put off packing. I regret it every time but here I am, it’s 3:00am and in 5 hours I have to be at the airport to leave for Glasgow, Scotland. I have one pair of shoes in my red suitcase. “How can one person fit everything they need for an entire month into one suitcase?” I think to myself. Granted, I can fit my entire body into this red suitcase, and I know this from experience, but there isn’t enough room for everything I want to take with me. Two hours later I’ve managed to squeeze what I will soon discover is more than enough of everything plus my baby blanket. Yes, I am a 19-year-old who can’t take extended trips without the security of the hand-sewn baby blanket that her grandmother made her. So here I go, baby blanket and all, ready to take my first trip abroad, alone… in this airport… how do I navigate this airport?

NOW THAT I HAVE LET GO, I CAN HAVE MY ADVENTURE

blanket safely secured in her suitcase. Ok, so I’m off the plane and I’ve taken the bus to the city center railway station and I am certainly not as prepared as I thought I was. I’ve been wandering around for over an hour with this giant suitcase trying to find the office where I can pick up the keys to my apartment. I mean, this suitcase is heavy. Finally, an incredibly nice Italian exchange student sees me struggling, lost and exhausted from 14 hours of travel, and points me in the direction of the office that I am looking for. But as I walk away relieved, one of the wheels on my suitcase gets jammed. So now I am dragging my broken suitcase the last stretch to the office where I will wait in line for 2 hours to get my keys. A week later I will realize that the office I was looking for is a short 10 minute walk from the railway station, if you know where you are going. So here I am, on what I know will be my last study abroad program. I’m unpacking the contents of my suitcase in my home of one month near Arusha, Tanzania, and I realize for the first time that I don’t have my baby blanket. At 21-years-old, I have finally learned that I don’t need the comforts of home to make it around the world safely. Now that I have let go, I can have my adventure.

As I am preparing to leave for my semester in Helsinki, Finland, I am much better prepared. I have now learned how to fit four months worth of clothes into one suitcase and international airports no longer seem like mysterious jungles. Why I am going to Finland for four months, I have no idea. Maybe I am trying to continue on some adventure that never ended when I said goodbye to Glasgow after a month. Regardless, here I am again, a 20-year-old with her baby 10


4 [ENGAGEMENT]

TY ISOM College Degree Program: International Security Studies with minors in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies
 Study Abroad Programs: Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, Jordan “I first studied abroad because it was a requirement for my major. After my trip to Lebanon and Tunisia, I decided to go for another round because I had realized that I loved traveling. Anyone who has the opportunity should study abroad.”


During the summer and early fall of 2012, I traveled between Lebanon and Tunisia. While there, I made some of the best friends and memories of my life. My original plan had been to only go to Lebanon for a few weeks, but after two months, my plans had obviously taken a backseat to my sense of adventure (and at times, stupidity). I jumped from Lebanon to Tunisia and back to Lebanon, all the while buying my plane tickets on the fly (no pun intended) and getting my living and working situations locked down before my plane hit the runway. I can honestly say that if I had the choice between planning everything months in advance or planning hours in advance, I would definitely take the latter. It’s not only more fun, but it adds to the excitement and adventure as well!

Bouazizi set himself on fire and sparked the Tunisian Revolution. In Tunisia I saw what I previously only knew on an intellectual level: that every country has all kinds of people and cultures within it, and the only way to experience that fact is to go outside of your comfort zone, and, more importantly if you are with a study abroad program, to go outside the comfort zone of the program.

GO OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE, GO ON YOUR OWN ADVENTURE, GO OUT AND MAKE MEMORIES.

While in Tunisia (and in Lebanon), I had the opportunity to meet people that I consider some of my best friends today. I also was able to meet political and social leaders from parties across the spectrum, from the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, which holds the majority of seats, to the secular Ettakatol party, to even the communist party. Also while there, I had the chance to tour the country and see everything from the beautiful coastal town of Sidi Bou Said (where I would be absolutely fine with spending the rest of my life), to the city where Mohamed

Now, I’m not advocating that people go out and rob banks while abroad, but what I am supporting is that you stay away from the rest of the Americans studying abroad with you. Instead, go out and meet new people! And if the Americans with you want to join you, bring ‘em along! Now this will scare the crap out of the program coordinators. They won’t expect you to want to go out and meet strangers unless they’ve been properly screened and vetted, but but you should do what you can to go on your own adventure. If I hadn’t gone out of my comfort zone, then I wouldn’t have made the memories I have today. Some of these memories include riding a Soviet era train around the country and getting off at random places where we had no idea how to get back. Some of these places were tiny towns where no tourist would ever go, but the people were probably the kindest and welcoming I have

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ever met. They didn’t invite us into their homes, they pulled us into their homes and gave us a full course meal including fresh out of the oven bombolone (a pastry that looks and tastes like the love child between a donut and a sopaipilla). At another stop, we found ourselves at Sidi Bou Said, the place I mentioned earlier that I wouldn’t mind living in for the rest of my life, with its white washed walls, blue doors, and amazing atmosphere. By the time we got back, our trip had taken a full day longer than we expected (we were given free beds to sleep in at one home), and our fellow students, who spent the last few nights hanging out with each other and drinking at one of the very few bars in the country, were wondering where we went! When we told them what we did, a few of them thought it was great, but most of them thought we were crazy, as they were content with doing the same thing every night and never experiencing the country.

Another trip we took was to the sooq, where we had an amazing time haggling with the shop owners. While some of our fellow students were happy to play the dumb American tourist and pay way too much for souvenirs, my friends and I, with our newfound Tunisian partners, were able to haggle everything down to great prices! As I said in the beginning, Tunisia, like other countries, has a rainbow of different kinds of people, from the politicians trying to sell their “solutions,” to the educated entrepreneurs and philanthropists that I met and believe are the true leaders of the country, to the regular folks just trying to have fun and make a living. When studying abroad, you must meet and experience all these personalities and more. Don’t stay cooped up in your apartment/dorm/hotel and spend every night with your fellow Americans. Go out and, in the immortal words of Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” 13


5 [UNDERSTANDING]

KATIE MARION College Degree Programs: Geographic Photography, Cultural Anthropology
 Study Abroad Program: Ireland 
 “I chose to study abroad because I thought it was the best way to gain a learning experience and to travel. It was nice having people my age to experience it with me and try to figure out and discover new things about a culture together.”


In a world that is culturally, politically and geographically divisive, there are still some common themes present in all regions. Art is one of these commonalities. Art has been a part of every culture, both ancient and modern. It is how art is depicted and stylized that sets one art form apart from the rest. Street art has formally been seen as an art form since the 1980s; graffiti, however, has been around for quite some time. Ancient cave drawings from earlier civilizations are considered by some scholars to be the earliest form of graffiti. While there is a fine line between graffiti and street art, there is also an area where the two overlap. Street art is considered to be a specific art form, while graffiti, more often than not, is considered vandalism, except by a few who welcome it. Graffiti and street artists intentionally place their messages in areas where they want them to be seen by certain people. Pieces that are hidden, for example, are meant to be found by those

willing to search for them. As I study abroad, I consider many ways in which to view the world around me and understand the locations I visit. Taking an interest in and studying graffiti and street art has become my favorite way. For me, viewing the struggles and messages that locals put out into the world is the best way to gauge a particular area, especially when it is done in an artistic way. This is not to say that just looking at street art or graffiti will allow you to fully understand a specific locale, but it will aid in the complete understanding of a culture while you also learn about its history and present. Every individual has stories to tell from their life experiences. Most stories are connected to the past, whether history or a memory. It is important for some street artists to tell their story. For example, I found a message in a common alleyway in a neighborhood in Cork that read, “This one story I have to tell is about love. How 15


the context of graffiti. Anthropologist Faye Ginsburg suggests, “…that looking at media made by people occupying a range of cultural positions, from insider to outsider, can provide a kind of parallax effect, offering us a fuller sense of complexity or perspectives on what we have come to call culture, but only if we have the analytic tools to put these perspectives together into a larger meaningful framework.” (Ginsburg 1994:6)

much have you loved someone that you would do anything for them? Well that happens [to] me everyday.” As a student studying abroad, or as an anthropologist conducting ethnographic research, it is important to take all aspects of a culture into consideration. This is why I feel it is especially important to consider local street art and the messages that street artists are risking fines and imprisonment to write, especially in

This quote reinforces the importance of understanding the perspective of the “insider.” Like a study abroad participant, anthropologists are almost always an “outsider” to the culture in which they are conducting their fieldwork. Adopting this mindset allows the student--or anthropologist, or studentanthropologist--to better understand the beliefs, struggles, and life occurrences of the “insider.” Ginsburg, Faye. 1994. “Culture/media: A (mild) polemic.” Anthropology Today 10(2):5-15.

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6 [ENTHUSIASM]

NICHOLAS PATTISON College Degree Program: International Security Studies
 Study Abroad Program: Saint Petersburg, Russia 
 “Studying abroad opened my eyes to another world, and helped me grow as a person.”


Study abroad experiences vary. I can only recount my personal experience in the hope that some of you will be inspired to study abroad in your own way. I have been back for months now, and yet I still think of my time abroad every day. I spent the Fall 2013 semester in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I had never before traveled outside of the United States. In fact, no one in my family had ever spent much time abroad except for military service. But I have long been fascinated by Russia. In my years at OU leading up to my semester abroad, I took every class I could that had anything to do with Russia. I spent my spare time reading about Russian history, culture, food, government – you name it. If it had to do with Russia, I was interested.

studying abroad can change you as an individual is that all of the norms in your life will be challenged. Living in a different culture, among people who do not necessarily share your beliefs, and almost certainly do not share your background, is profound. Before I went to Russia, I felt that I had a solid understanding of what Russia must be like. After all, I did spend years of my life reading about the place. But once I got there, and started making friends and learning about how they view the world, I had to second guess myself.

ONE CAN ONLY LEARN SO MUCH AT A DISTANCE

As time went on, I longed to go to Russia. After all, one can only learn so much from a distance. I wanted to be up close and personal. I wanted to see with my own eyes the magnificent buildings I had stared at on Google so many times. I wanted to change my location, my understanding of myself, my country, and my life. So that is exactly what I did. No one can know exactly what you have or will experience while studying in another country. But for me, in terms of personal growth, studying abroad was the best thing I have ever done. The journey is your own. It is yours and yours alone. It may not seem like something as simple as living in another country can be very philosophical, but in fact it is. The reason that

One way that I feel studying abroad truly helped me grow as a person was by taking me outside of my comfort zone. I realize that this may not be an issue for everyone, some people feel right at home no matter where they are. But that was not the case with me.

I have at times been accused of being borderline antisocial. I liked my bubble, I liked knowing what to expect all of the time. I was comfortable, but being comfortable isn’t all it is cracked up to be. As I learned, “getting out there” can provide a new outlook on life. I remember my first day in Russia. I met my 60something-year-old host mom and tried my best to communicate with her. I unpacked quickly and set out to explore the city. I got pretty lost and only found my way back home after about 5 hours. The second day, however, was very profound for me.

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I opened my eyes slowly that morning because the sun was shining brightly through the windows. The windows in my room were huge and covered only by a white lace curtain. I had slept deeply, mostly due to jet lag. At first I thought I was at home in Oklahoma. I instinctively checked my phone and then felt a sinking feeling. My phone didn’t work because I was in Russia. I had absolutely no way to contact my friends, family, or the other students who arrived from OU with me. I sat up slowly on the edge of my bed and stared out the window for a moment. I felt hopeless and scared. I questioned my decision to come here and my ability to cope with being away. I decided right then and there to rise up and leave my fear behind.

also likely underline that as Americans, we have a higher quality of living than any other people in the history of the earth. Going abroad will help you gain perspective on yourself, the world, and our great nation. Set aside your fears and doubts. Go abroad and see and do things you dream about, now. Experience a different world. Challenge yourself. I promise the reward outweighs the risk.

I didn’t look back. During my time abroad, I was able to visit Moscow, Helsinki, Stockholm and Turku, Finland. I went to museums, palaces, shops, malls, churches, bars, and clubs. I experienced everything I wanted to. I had the time of my life because I decided to put myself out there, and to leave my fear of the unknown behind. Again, if you are a very social person and want to study abroad, then go for it. You are already a step ahead of me. Conversely, if you are like me and think it sounds nice but can’t commit to it – do it. I did it, and I am not dead. You may have the chance to travel later, perhaps for your career or a vacation. But you certainly will not have a chance to live in another country for an extended period of time without worrying about your job or your family. Don’t let anything hold you back. Ever. Living in another country will open doors for you. It will 19


7 [PERSPECTIVE - A PHOTO ESSAY]

KARINA LEGRADI College Degree Program: MA in International Studies 
 Study Abroad Program: South Africa Karina received an OU Student Support Grant for an international internship. For two months, she worked at the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. The following photos were chosen to exhibit her new perspectives of South Africa.


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8 [PERSEVERANCE]

KAYLI NELSON College Degree Program: MA in International Studies 
 Study Abroad Program: Turkey “For me, study abroad wasn’t a requirement. It was an opportunity.”


Mountain frescos in Turkey I love to travel, but I’m a terrible flyer. It stands to reason that before I loved study abroad, I dreaded it. There are questions you ask yourself – Can I manage to get around? Is it enough just to see these places? Is this poverty tourism? – for which the real, barebones sentiment is this: What if I’m an inherently privileged American who can armchair travel with the best of them, but goes weak at the knees at the sight of a squat toilet? All the doubts and queries are practical matters, solved as well as they can be pre-departure by research and reason. Bridging the gap between wanting to go and being terrified you’ll somehow fail doesn’t happen until the plane takes off and there’s no turning back. For me, that’s when the doubt manifests physically and erupts like a geyser in my gut. It starts as a steady dread infused with sharp pangs of panic, then takes shape like a knotted tumor—the kind that grows a shiny new molar and patches of hair and looks right at home in a Vincent Price film. It knits itself arms, legs, and tiny tumor climbing gear, and then mounts an expedition to base camp airplane sickness bag at 3,000 feet.

It – this unexplainable fear – sits in my chest and drips into my stomach. It cycles through my faculties and shuts them down, one by one. The colors on the index card-sized television fit into the seat in front of me suddenly sear my eyes. Air can't get to my lungs; it sits in my mouth and I chew it. The 60% of me that is water has relocated solely to my face, where I am barely discernible as human beyond sweat and tears. At a certain point the obstruction in my chest hits critical mass, and I’m an inconsolable mess for the greater part of the flight. I don’t feel this way stepping onto a plane. For the first ten minutes I’m completely fine, excited and happy, even, for the forthcoming adventure. On my first flight to Turkey, the rush of inescapable anxiety and terror was an unpleasant surprise. “So,” my friend said as we departed the plane, after I’d spent the past four hours crying into the complimentary pair of socks tucked into our seat pockets and unable to explain myself, “You’re afraid of flying, then?”

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My skin felt like cream cheese and I needed to vomit again at the mere thought of this development. “I guess?” A profound understatement. Once, between Germany and Istanbul, my nausea was so bad that the girl seated next to me alerted the flight staff, who ushered me to the back of the plane. Opposite the countertop spread of coffee and cabinets, there was a steel divider separating the last of the economy seats and the tail end of the plane. It sported a little ledge to serve as seating and enormous harnesses for the flight attendants to use in case of turbulence. They sat me down against it and strapped me in. “See?” One of the German attendants patted my arm. “Is better, yes?” It was better. The cool steel against my back and neck, the immobility… More than anything, however, I welcomed the solitude. Certainly, the staff was milling about, taking coffee breaks and passing through the space, but none seemed concerned with my presence. I was nothing they hadn’t seen before. I didn’t know how to express myself. “Thank you for removing me from public shame” was probably an old German proverb, but I didn’t know the pronunciation. It was a long flight. I had time to think extensively about why I felt this way when those around me were wholly unperturbed. I still try to reason through the anxious exercises. It’s not simple discomfort. I’ve done the 9-to-5 job, and am presently a student. Sitting for eleven hours in a confined space is practically a hobby of mine, an extreme sport in some cases. Yet the dread – and its physical manifestation – persist.

On my second flight to Turkey, I brought every aid imaginable: plenty of water, earplugs, an iPod stocked with Sir Patrick Stewart narrations (what better voice is there to trust when hurtling off into the skies?). Better still, I had at my disposal a number of pharmaceuticals – some prescription, some palmed into my hand by a knowing friend or family member. Part of my anxiety is born of the realization that it’s not pain – just terror. And while this feeling is immobilizing on the plane, it jettisons me into action once the wheels crash against the ground. When the plane is drifting down the runway and no longer in transition, I relearn the same lesson: placelessness is what’s terrifying, not buckling into a commercial airliner. When the plane taxis to a stop, the nausea lifts. Stepping into a new country, shaking off the airplane stink, it’s almost as though it never happened. My first trip, it came as a rush of relief: I wasn’t scared of traveling or feeling out of place. I relished being somewhere new. Traveling was as wonderful as the flight was miserable. Returning to Turkey confirmed my thinking. The nausea and dread is part of the package. The relentless anxiety that churns through my body and makes a sobbing infant of a grown adult is not something I expect to overcome anytime soon, but it’s a measly price to pay for what’s in store. One month studying abroad was so unlike the previous four years of my college education that, despite the debilitating self-doubt and nausea, I have every intention of doing it again.

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Devrent Valley in Cappadocia

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BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY Visit the Education Abroad office at the University of Oklahoma to speak with an advisor and begin planning your study abroad experience. Study Abroad 101 sessions are held throughout the academic year. OU offers many study abroad opportunities, such as the OU Study Center in Arezzo, Italy, which offers both semester and year-long programs in Italian history, language, culture, and more. OU also offers summer Journey programs across the globe led by OU professors with linguistic, historical, political, cultural, or other expertise in the given area. The cost of such programs may be generously subsidized by multiple scholarship options, including the Presidential International Travel Fellowship, which OU President David Boren created to make international travel and study abroad opportunities available to more students. Visit studyabroad.ou.edu to begin your journey!

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