Studying abroad seems like a rite of passage in college. Almost everyone studies abroad at some point in college. However, for students with mental illness, that’s not too easy.
I have anxiety, and I would consider it to be pretty severe. Let me put it in perspective: I’m 18 years old and I’ve had probably four sleepovers in my life. When I was little, I COULD NOT leave home for a night. Even when my parents got divorced, I never wanted to stay at my dad’s new house because, well, it wasn’t home. Hell, I go to community college and live at home. As I’ve gotten older, I can handle a night away at my cousin’s house 20 minutes away now. But 20 minutes is a lot different than 3,956 miles.
I found out about studying abroad through a poster in the Student Life Center at my college. There seemed like an endless list of places you could go; Germany, Ireland, Thailand, China, Belize…But one in particular stuck out to me: London.
My school is offering a thirteen-day trip to London, England over the summer, where those participating go to plays, musicals, comedy performances, and so on and so forth in London. I was a theater kid in high school, I did everything from helping build sets to directing a full-blown One Act play for Fine Arts Week. I loved being a theater kid. That’s why this London trip should be a dream come true, right?
Wrong. It’s not my high school theater crew anymore. It’s college kids, all of whom I’ve never even met. Sure, they go to my school, but it’s kind of hard to make a ton of friends at a college that has five campuses. I’ve never even met these people, and I’d be spending thirteen days in a hostel in Central London with them.
That, and I’ve never been away from home for more than three days. To go from spending a night in a town 20 minutes over with my cousins to thirteen days halfway across the world is a bit of a jump, no? For someone with anxiety, you can imagine how horrible that sounds.
However, there’s another part of me that’s like, hey, it’s only thirteen days. I plan on going to a university three hours from home when I transfer out of my current community college, so thirteen days is nothing.
I also feel like I need to prove to myself and my family that I can do it. I can tell my mom seems a bit worried about the whole thing, and my dad, who rarely brings up my anxiety, even asked me today, “Are you sure you can handle it?” To be honest with you, Father, no, I’m not sure.
I want to be able to handle it. The trip sounds amazing, and sounds like it would be a lot of fun. Sure, I don’t know anyone now, but I would meet my traveling crew before we left for London, and hey, we’d be roommates, so I’d meet them anyway. The problem is staying away from home for two weeks.
I don’t know if I’d be able to pull it off. Thinking of it now, it sounds terrifying. But when I got there, would my mind change? Would I love the city so much that I’d forget about life here in Wisconsin for thirteen days? Or would I be sitting in the hostel while the other kids in my group ran around London, crying and FaceTiming my mom so I can get a quick glimpse of life back home before dinner?
I have until late January to decide what to do, and as of now, I’m leaning towards pushing myself to do this. I’m 18, I’ll be 19 by the time the trip leaves, and I need to learn to get away from home before I end up 40 years old and living in my mom’s basement.