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I know I'm not alone in saying that I'm not ready for this experience to end. The fact that we're leaving for the States in two days is really beginning to set in, and I'm becoming more and more anxious as the time grows closer. I have so many worries about returning home. How will I feel when I get back? What will it be like being away from this incredible community we have created over the past three weeks? Will it be hard to explain my experiences here to my loved ones back home? What if they don't understand? I know that the only people who can truly understand what I went through on this journey will be the ones I experienced it with, and I'm scared to know that we will all go our separate ways once we return home. I want to say that we will all stay close and will all be as tight of a family as we are right now, but I know that life happens. We are crazy busy at home, with most of us working multiple jobs, some of us studying on other U of M campuses, and with a good handful of us graduating this May. I have learned so much from the other individuals on this trip, and am proud of the discussions we have had, the witness we have shared, and the community we have created. If nothing else, I hope to share a little flavor of this environment within my other relationships back home.
In a way, I feel like this abroad experience was meant to happen for me. As I've shared in our pre-departure meetings, I was originally planning to study abroad in France, over May term in 2011. Finals were approaching, packing had begun, and the money was down. And then it was over. I had been miserably sick with chronic sinus infections and other icky illnesses over the course of spring semester, and antibiotic after antibiotic, things only got worse. I finally met with an ENT/surgeon who told me that there was no way that I would be fly, let along make it through a three-week abroad experience. After various tests and scans I found out I needed to have surgery. I began the appeal process, and never got on the plane to France. I was devastated. I decided it wasn't meant to be, and over time, I realized that wasn't the kind of experience I was really looking for. I began to talk to advisers and other students in my major, and learned about Tracing the Footsteps of Social Change. Throughout my college experience, I have gained both academic and personal passions for social justice issues and frameworks, and because of that, I couldn't possible think of a better or more appropriate learning abroad opportunity.
Throughout this experience, I expect to feel anxious, nervous, uncomfortable, lonely, self-conscious, and even ashamed. I also expect to feel joyous, excited, passionate, compassionate, empowered, and loving, among other positive emotions. I hope that I feel all of these things, and that I am able to work through all of these emotions and new experiences to learn more about myself through the stories of others. I also know that I can't have too many expectations going in to this adventure. My main goals for this trip are to step out of my comfort zone, build positive relationships, and to keep an open mind and heart along the way. Also, if there is ever a time to get over a fear of flying, I guess this is it (EEEEK)! Cape Town, here we come!
Love to you all, and happy holidays!