Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Notes from Abroad: Embracing Your Fear of the New Year

Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Photo by Molly Phegley

The beginning of a new year … students are adjusting to new class schedules, reuniting with friends, and pursuing — or, most likely, breaking — those new year’s resolutions that look exactly the same as last year’s.

With a new year and new semester, there always comes change, whether it’s adapting to harder classes, different teachers, new roommates, etc.

But how often do we give attention to the internal changes? The changes that develop with each and every new obstacle? Those that submerge from our subconscious routines and thought patterns? Those that are not anticipated?

These are our most developmental years. This is the stage of life where we are coming into our own unique identity. It’s the time when we are most unstable, forcing us to find stability in the chaos of our college years.

Change equals growth.

While I watch all of my friends beam and chirp about their exciting plans for this semester, I am cheering from the sidelines while also trying to prepare for the biggest change of my life.

In less than two weeks, I will be flying into Barcelona, Spain, to study abroad for the next five months — alone.

Yes, I know! That is so exciting!

The first few months of planning and preparing to study abroad were filled to the brim with daydreams of what my life will be like in Spain.

Will I finally get to live out my Cheetah Girl’s moment? I imagined myself skipping through the streets in flowy sundresses while local musicians play acoustic tunes in the background, or filling a basket full of beautifully fresh fruits from street vendors and cruising my bike down to the beach for a picnic.

But as time flies by and I grow closer to saying goodbye to the only home I’ve ever known, that excitement has slowly and sneakily manifested itself into fear.

Change equals growth.

That is what I keep reminding myself. Change resides in the world of the unknown, and its most frequent visitor is fear. Fear of what is to come. Fear of knowing you cannot control the outcome of this change.

There is really no way to prepare for it. While my feelings of anxiety and excitement tangle themselves into a big knot of overwhelming emotions about what my life will be like for the next five months, time continues to pass by.

I have spent the past month trying to “prepare” myself mentally and emotionally to leave behind my family and friends, but how can I know what to prepare for when this is an experience that is completely foreign to me?

I’ve learned I cannot prepare. I’ve learned the only way to truly embrace change is by surrendering myself to the scary, yet enticing, world of the unknown.

I think the entire point of this is to remind not only myself, but all of my peers, that fear is the catalyst of growth. So whatever obstacle you will be facing this semester, seize your fear. Let it inspire and motivate you. Let that fear remind you of the growth that will soon unfold.

A very close friend of mine once asked me, “If you are not nervous about the outcome, then is it even worth it?”

If you would like to follow me on this journey, I will be publishing weekly articles on Tuesdays under the column name “Notes from Abroad.”