“The Jumping off Point”
As I hugged my parents goodbye at the gate of The Minneapolis International Airport, I tried desperately to convince myself I was making the right choice. I was roughly five minutes from boarding a plane that would fly my 18-year-old self over my Midwest home, the Eastern United States, and the cold, grey Atlantic for an exchange program in The Netherlands. I was at the do or die moment. If I bored that plane, in less than 24 hours I would be thousands of miles from the only hometown I knew; thousands of miles from my parents, friends, and other family members; thousands of miles from being able to speak English without much thought. And, to elevate the risk, it would be eleven months before I’d be back at this very gate and into the safety of my parents’ arms. Eleven months! This was indeed the jumping off point. Was I really ready to spread my wings?
I fought hard against the giant ball of emotions that kept trying to choke me-- the ball my mom and I would later call “the gremlin” in our team effort to fight off my homesickness via a very long distance phone call.
“This is your chance,” I kept telling myself. “This is your chance to make your future grandkids proud. This is your big adventure, your chance to Carpe Diem. This is no crying matter. Smile and go, Em, Smile and go.”
And somehow, my positive thoughts worked. I managed to put on my finest smile and hide my tears from mom and dad that late July morning-- even though they could not hide theirs. I boarded that Holland-bound plane with my brand new rolling luggage set, one useless Dutch phrase I had learned via the only Dutch Learn-it-yourself language program I could find, some positive thoughts, and soul full of a naïve confidence. Little did I know how much I would rely on the latter two items during my year long quest to discover the world and myself.