When I was a kid, I was terrified of flying in airplanes. Not because I didn’t like heights, or because I thought we would all crash and die or anything. I knew that was highly unlikely – my dad used to explain to me how planes had a gazillion safety features, and how they could land anywhere, even in the water, if they needed too. So, in the event of a bizarre aircraft malfunction, I knew that I would probably be fine.
No, what I was terrified of more than anything was losing my favorite stuffed animal in the event that our hypothetical flight had to make an emergency water landing. I was incredibly distraught when I learned that luggage usually did not make it out of situations like that. So I, at whatever young age I was, resolved to never, ever fly in an airplane, especially over water.
I am pleased to report that I did eventually overcome this (perhaps irrational) fear. I actually took my first flight when I was in middle school for a class-related trip, and it was without my parents if you can even believe it. I survived. And I’ve taken plenty of flights since then, the Florida, California, Arizona, and Montana. Now, I’ve learned that of all the things to complain about on a flight, safety is usually not one of them. You can complain about the cramped seats and you can complain about the food, but ultimately, safety is not usually one of the main concerns. And I’m glad about that, because of all the things that I have to be terrified about for this upcoming trip, I’m glad that flying is not one of them.
If you’re reading this post on the day it comes out, (which you’re probably not, but a blogger can dream), then I am actually flying out tonight to go on a three-week long trip to France (through my school). We’ll be spending most of our time in the Alsace region of the country, with a few days in Paris at the end of the trip.
The transportation is the least of my concerns during this trip. We have a direct flight, and the chaperones know what they’re doing. As long as I listen to them and don’t do anything stupid, I should arrive in the country in one piece. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things that absolutely terrify me about going out of the country for the first time in my life.
Don’t get me wrong I am incredibly excited about this opportunity. I got a three-week long experience in another country without having to plan it myself? And I get to have an experience more unique than the average tourist? Sign me up! But with any trip, especially one to an unfamiliar place, there are things to be concerned about. And so in the interest of honesty (and also taking some time to reflect on this trip before I actually leave on it), here are a few things that terrify me and excite me about leaving the United States for the first time.
Things that Scare Me
1) Relying on public transportation for the first time
Hi, I grew up in suburban Pennsylvania where public transportation isn’t widely used, if at all. Maybe a bus here and there, but most people drive themselves. I understand public transportation in theory, but I’ve never really had to rely on it. Fortunately, I’ll be with people who know what they’re doing, so I don’t think it will take me long to figure it out
2) My French-speaking skills are… rusty
I took three semesters of French in college, and I still practice it regularly (through DuoLingo, which, let’s face it, isn’t all that helpful). I do all right reading and writing, but listening comprehension and speaking are my weaker areas. Hopefully I’ll start to remember some of my lessons as I spend more time there.
3) I haven’t really been exposed to big cities before
See: Suburban PA upbringing. Granted, I live near the third-largest city in my state, but Strasbourg’s population (277,000) is more than twice that of the city I’m familiar with. I’m not afraid of getting lost or anything, but I’m sure the size will be overwhelming at first.
4) I’m going with people I (mostly) don’t know super well
Which is part of the fun, I suppose. I’ve met the other students who are going on the trip, but we haven’t had many chances to really get to know each other. This isn’t really a big concern for me; I’m just hoping we all get along and everything goes smoothly. We’re all adults though, so I think it will.
This that Excite Me
1) Trying lots of new food
Look I know it’s a stereotype about France and food and everything is so delicious. But we were required to do some reading from a guidebook before our trip and some of the sections we read talked about the different regional specialties and other sorts of foods commonly served in the area we’ll be traveling to. And they sound really good.
2) Putting myself to the test
I know I said a lot of those challenges terrify me, and they do. Even so, I’m excited to test myself and see how well I handle them. I’ve never had an experience like this before, so in some ways, I’m treating it like a puzzle that I have to figure out, and that helps a lot.
3) Getting to see some pretty famous places
Strasbourg (the city we’re staying in) might not be the first place you think of when you think of France, but there’s a lot of cool sights to see there! (So I’m told – and I believe it.) The big landmark is the cathedral there, so I’m looking forward to seeing that. And, of course, we’ll be in Paris for three days, and I’m excited to see the Eiffel Tower, (what remains of) Notre Dame, and other famous landmarks.
4) Going on what a sure to be an adventure
Adventures scare me, but I love them. It’s something different and new and a little scary, but also exciting. I’ll get the chance to see places I’ve never been before, and learn new things too. And I’ll get to do it with people who know what they’re doing (thank goodness), and peers who are experiencing this for the first time too. So despite all of the things that there are to be worried about, I’m going to do my best to put them aside and enjoy the adventure.
So, since I’ll be out of the country for a while, there won’t be any new blog posts coming up until mid-June, and I won’t post my May In Review until later in June too. I had originally been hoping to have all of that taken care of before I left, but between trip preparations and working, I just didn’t have the chance. But I think this will be a good creative break for me too – I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk about when I come back!