This isn't what I'd say to you if you asked me, "how was studying abroad," as so many people have, but it is true. Six weeks into the 18 week program I withdrew.
But I wouldn't tell you that, at least not upfront. No, if you asked, I would probably smile and tell you, "it was good. I learned a lot." Although...this is also true.
Until now I've been hesitant to bear the complete truth about my experience. I've been too embarrassed to talk. I've been hesitant to seek the counsel of those who will give me insight. I haven't yet faced what I've done. Here I go, or do I mean went? [Cheesy]
It was just about the time that I started to think I could navigate the halls of the University of Minnesota Duluth with my eyes closed that I decided to go international with my education.
[A quarter of a million students studied abroad last year and I was one of them. DO I NEED THIS?]
At that time, and still now, studying abroad seemed like such a buzz word on college campuses. An insignificant passerby in conversation. Something that people just do. So when two friends suggested that we try it together while we ate dinner one night, I made it a mission. Those two friends ultimately decided not to go but their decisions had little effect on the ones I went on to make.
I thought, "I'll do it."
Well, the presupposition of that sentence indicates that I am or was at one point able. As I would come to learn, proper presupposition was clouded by my tendency to think I can do anything.
[the point I'm trying to make below is that of course I thought I could go with a non-umd program]
UMD coordinates some study abroad programs but students also have the option of seeking out non-UMD programs. This route is a little unorthodox and despite the smaller amount of support offered on-campus for such programs, students still choose this route when it means a cheaper price [or a better fit]. [explain USAC? Explain frustration with Deb Good] I chose a non-UMD program in Brighton, England- a coastal city just south of London with a reputation for art and entertainment.
[scene, where should I take my readers? Should I take them to Brighton with me? Obviously.]
I stepped onto foreign soil for the first time when I arrived at Heathrow airport in London on January 29th 2009.
I traveled from London to Brighton by bus. A two hour ride. I later learned that Janelle, an Oaky in the same program as me, had taken the same bus ride. In a blog that she maintained for her friends and family back home Janelle wrote about the beauty of the landscape on the ride:
"The first impression I had was green. The land surrounding the highway was a wet, lush, verdant blanket of rolling hills and pastures...The hills rolled past and revealed large houses, which, if I were a more mundane person, I would describe as "quaint". I loved them, not just for the older architecture or the latticed windowpanes, but the distinctly comfortable, lived-in feeling I got by watching them flick by."
I neither saw nor felt anything that she did. My ride may have been in the same bus on the same route as Janelle just hours earlier but our rides were completely subjective.
I was distracted by the hole in my stomach, the kind where you can't imagine ever having any desire to eat again. Somewhere along the way I had been prepped for this. Culture shock, right? Could it really happen this fast?
[Insert scene of seeing flat and flat mates for the first time]
On January 31st, three days after my passport was stamped for the first time, I sat in my bedroom with my suitcase tucked under my bed and its contents [filling] my new home and wrote this:
"The culture shock is wearing away each day. I felt physically sick immediately when I got here...I'm trying to be very patient with myself and remember that I am not alone. I can do this...Min Young and Lucy helped me get through the first night. I only cried a little bit. Min Young gave me a Korean charm and Lucy made me English tea...My stomach feels better today. I hope it does every day or I won't be eating."
[Need scene/development showing my desire to leave]
[Need scene/develepment making decision to leave]
[Need scene/development about hardships afterward]
I walked in and said, "Hi Deb, my name is Kristen Krebs. I studied abroad in Brighton, England last spring. Do you remember me?"
She looked at me with a smile and said, "The name sounds familiar."
A little generic but I'll take it.
I said, "Okay. I actually came home early from my experience and right now, in one of my journalism classes, I'm writing about what that was like. I wanted to consult you as a professional in the field and ask you some questions about what happens when people do come home from their experiences early because I assume it happens."
"Actually it doesn't," she said.
Hm. That's not what I thought I was going to hear. In fact, had I heard five months ago, I probably would have been crushed.
She went on, "I hope that doesn't make you uncomfortable."
It really doesn't. I'm okay.
At this point she got up from behind her desk walked behind me and shut the door to her office creating a barrier between me and the people outside who might be quick to judge me about the heart-to-heart I am about to have with Deb Good. I assumed she was trying to protect my privacy in this seemingly "uncomfortable" situation. It made me laugh.
What a relief. Not that Deb Good's door is closed- that mine is.
Deb Good (study abroad coordinator at UMD, personal interview)
Min Young Yoon (letters, skype interview)
Janelle Bernales (blog)
My personal diary
Sources yet to use
personal travel records/itineraries
Facebook messages between Joel Gyolai and myself
Mark and Sue Krebs (parents, personal interview)
Joel Gyolai (boyfriend, personal interview)
mass e-mails sent out by me to friends/family informing them of my