Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about study abroad. Theoretically. Even thinking about all the things I can’t wait for — living in a city that parties harder and longer than anywhere I’ve ever been, learning a new language (Catalan), doing research in a bilingual city and really living abroad, rather than just seeing the sights and peacing out — aren’t helping me to muster the expected enthusiasm.
I can’t help thinking that an entire year of studying abroad is just going to be the equivalent of a very long vacation, a way to put a pause button on life, only to press play again when I come back. In my head, I’m already making more plans for when I get back than for when I get there. I haven’t even left yet, but I’m more excited to start life back up again when I return to the states next summer, than I am to leave.
All I can think about are the things that I’m going to miss, like Starbucks and Chipotle, driving on freeways, speaking English, the Chicago accent, tortillas and quesadillas, my parents and friends, the Keg, Northwestern’s linguistics department, Thanksgiving, the Nordstrom at Old Orchard, seeing movies without Spanish subtitles, rollerblading at the Skokie Channel park and a whole host of other things that I’m sure will occur to me later.
I know that part of the reason for these sentiments is related to the fact that I’m leaving my boyfriend behind, with nothing but some sort of vague hope that we might reunite on the other side. Rather than indulge in “fun-until-it’s-over” expiration dating, I was forced, by the curse/blessing of having found a good relationship, into suffering through pause-button dating. I met my boyfriend long after I’d made plans to study abroad, long after the wheels for the excursion had been set in motion, but we decided to watch the movie anyway and just see what happens. The show’s definitely not over the moment I get on that plane.
The problem is, with study abroad in the way, we don’t know how the movie’s going to end. Is it a tragic drama or a romantic comedy? Is the close-up on our tear-stained faces the last shot of the movie or only the middle? There’s no way to know until I get back and press “play.”
I haven’t left for Spain yet. Rather than feeling excitement and anticipation in the days before my departure, all I feel is frustration and reluctance. Why did last year’s Staci decide that she needed to escape life for a whole year? And why does this year’s Staci have to pay the price? Why did I choose to do a full year?
Even though I know a year is only 1.2 percent of my life, from this side of the bridge, it looks a whole lot like eternity.