A year of preparation has come down to this: my departure to Europe.
Over a year ago, when I made the decision to enroll at Pepperdine University, I did so with the intent to study abroad. I had heard nothing but marvelous reviews about Pepperdine’s study abroad programs, and I was so excited to choose one to attend.
Mere days after I graduated from high school, I was on a plane bound for Madrid. My parents and I were going to be backpacking through Europe for a month. Among other sites, my main goals were to visit Lausanne, Switzerland and Heidelberg, Germany. These were two options that Pepperdine offered. I had narrowed my options down to these two and wanted to see what each city was like before I decided to spend a year there.
High in the Swiss countryside, nestled between hills and Lake Geneva, I arrived at Lausanne. It was breathtakingly beautiful and I loved it. I was a little bit turned off by the steep hills, although it’s ironic because Pepperdine’s Malibu campus is nothing but stairs and hills. When lunchtime rolled around I headed to the McDonalds to see what the fast food chain was like in Switzerland. It was 15 Swiss Francs ($15.30) for a Big Mac meal. I just about fell over from shock. Even though the rest of Lausanne was wonderful, I couldn’t see myself living there for two semesters.
So I continued on to Heidelberg.
My parents and I didn’t arrive in Heidelberg until late in the evening, after we had gotten off at the wrong train station. I didn’t have an opportunity to explore the city until the next morning but I fell in love with it. Maybe it was my German heritage, the cool weather, or possibly the lingering smell of bratwurst and sauerkraut, but I knew that this was where I wanted to spend my sophomore year. The Altstadt was quaint and had the ambiance of an old German village combined with the ease of modern conveniences.
I only got to spend one afternoon in Heidelberg, but I knew that I would return.
Fast forward to August. It was the first day that applications for the International Programs were accepted and I was eager to apply. The applications opened at 8:00 in the morning. That same day, by 1:00 in the afternoon, I had already submitted my application. Talk about being eager!
On October 23rd, the results were released to the students. Some of us knew that we wouldn’t get in to the competitive programs and we were all on edge. In true Marisa fashion, I became violently ill the day before. It wasn’t related to my anxiety over the results, surprisingly. (In my defense, I stayed sick for a whole month afterward.) My mom was worried about her only child being sick away from home so she came down and visited me. I suppose having a temperature of almost 103 degrees was enough to concern her. Regardless, she was able to be with me that evening after I received my response from IP. All I had to do was endure the agonizing wait until IP let me know if I was accepted to Germany…
Despite my raging fever, I still went to my classes and tried my best to not pass out. Campus was exceptionally quiet that day. All of the students were anxiously waiting to hear if they were accepted into their program. My Communication 180 class was on edge. Half of the students were awaiting the news and the other half were upperclassmen who had gone abroad their sophomore year and were waiting to see which ones of us had been selected.
You can imagine my relief when I finally saw the email from IP show up in my inbox. I nervously opened it, feeling the attention of the room on me.
Congratulations, future Heidelberg student…
“I got in to Germany!” I shouted, not knowing how those words would affect the next months of my life.
After the initial excitement, I had to do a hard reality check on my future. Studying abroad in Germany for two semesters meant making a lot of sacrifices. It meant that I had to put my relationship, friendships, family, and extracurricular activities through a 5,000-mile distance. Was I ready to go on this emotional roller coaster in my quest to see the world?
The answer was yes. I was shocked at how supportive everybody was of my decision. It’s unconventional for someone to have such a strong desire to travel and to do so during his or her college years. But I’m not the most conventional person.
As my departure date draws closer and closer, my nerves are beginning to get to me. I know I will enjoy my time abroad but there are a lot of things involved with living in Germany for a year. I can plan and plan ahead but I have to be ready to tackle any unforeseen problems that may arise.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I’m in for a good ride. Hopefully you are all as entertained by this blog as I think hope you are.