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A Tale of Two Cities: Preparing for take off

What felt like yesterday, when I sent off my personal statement and application to study abroad, is actually eight months ago, and my flight to New York City is tomorrow. My bags are finally packed (I know, you’d think I’d be ready in advance of ‘the night before’ but 11:55pm deadlines for the past two years at university have turned me into an advocate for last minuteness) and I honestly have no idea how I am feeling.

Over the last few weeks I have excused the consumption of far too many coffees, indulged in a few too many meals out, and opened the Wetherspoons app one too many times, all in the name of catching up with friends before parting ways for a year. My social life is not complaining but my bank balance is politely nudging me to not make this a regular occurrence. Every person has asked me how I am feeling and, despite the many opportunities to rehearse and refine my answer to that predicted question, each time my response has remained equally uncertain.

I like to think of myself as someone who is rather well travelled and adventurous for my age, or at least my scratch map would suggest so (all without having taken a gap year to ‘find myself’), but I have always completed those journeys with a best friend, or two, by my side. I am also always the designated document holder; boarding passes, accommodation confirmations, maps for the local area, useful phrases in the nation’s language, seven-page internet explanations of the cheapest transport option. Those bits of paper made me feel like I was as prepared as I could be for those trips and yet the possession of that information fails to comfort me this time.

The arrival of my American flatmate Annie on our first day in Pooley House (our first year university accommodation) springs to mind. She walked through the door of Flat 45, her flight luggage trailing behind her, located her room and proceeded to ask an abundance of questions about where would be best to locate a UK SIM card for her phone, bedding, kitchen utensils, and all of those university essentials that an IKEA trip usually solves. I had all of the answers. On my first day, having moved away from home, I already felt at ease in London because I had visited so often as a teen and awaited my opportunity to live there.

I am moving to a country where I do not have to overcome a language barrier (besides the occasional misunderstanding of their pronunciation of herbs), where I have accommodation waiting for me, I can tick off multiple things from my bucket list, I have enrolled in classes that excite me, and where the flight is no longer than the door-to-door journey from my home in Essex to visiting my sister in Edinburgh. Plus, when (I intend to be honest in this column hence that wasn’t an ‘if’) homesickness kicks in, I know that my family are seconds away thanks to the wonders of modern technology – as is Greg James’ show on the BBC Radio iPlayer.

This is what happens when I have been asked that same question; how are you feeling? I verbalise all of my anxieties and worries, freak out about them a little, remind myself that it is totally normal to be nervous… and then the excitement hits.


20-years-old and I am one sleep away from embarking on (cliché preparing for landing…) the adventure of a lifetime.


Image – Katie Bevan

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