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Written by Sanjana June 15, 2018
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien in the voice of Gandalf, “The Fellowship of the Ring”
Coming to this study abroad, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out the door.
This past academic year was a blur of applications and interviews, substituting meals for Luna bars, and forcing myself to do 5-minute meditations before presentations to control my stress. It was the grind in the most glorified sense. There were wonderful high moments: I was admitted into three highly competitive clubs and programs; I lined up an exciting internship; I was the president of one out of four of my student organizations; I got good grades; I applied to study abroad. I proved to myself that I could do everything.
But there were also many unfruitful moments. I threw myself into my work to an extreme degree, sleeping 2-3 hours some nights. My stress and anxiousness were at an all-time high. Before meetings, presentations, and even parties, my stomach felt unsteady and my thoughts would spike up and down as though my brain was shaking. Near the end of the semester, my body began to catch up. I would catch random fainting spells during meetings, class, and even the movie theater.
So coming to this study abroad, I was terrified. I was terrified of meeting new people, my lack of athleticism, and not having time to myself. I addressed most of those concerns in this blog. But past that, this month was one that forced me to forget myself for a few moments.
Being in New Zealand felt like an illusion, pulling colorful pieces out of me I never knew I had, creating an amalgamation of parts both unseen and vibrant. I left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for home, bravery in the face of uncertainty, and a boost to my mental health after a turbulent semester and year.
Gratitude. I turn 20 this summer. I cannot handle anything government-related (like taxes), cannot cook, and struggle with normal life things, not life itself, because my parents took care of everything for me when I was young. I realized that in Ohio, I had a wide safety net that I didn’t have in New Zealand. I always had parents to take care of me when I got sick, close friends looking out for me when I was down, and even teachers and professors who’d support me when I was stressed. This detachment made me eternally grateful for my family and friends back in Ohio. In another light, the trip pushed me to new dimensions of independence, teaching me how to handle life by myself in an unknown country.
Bravery. This is kind of stupid, but the turbulence was really bad on my flight from Houston to Columbus on my way home. One of the girls next to me started getting really worried, clutching onto her boyfriend’s hands and leaning her head against the back of the seat in front of her. But I thought to myself, “You jumped off a bridge in Queenstown. You hiked dozens of rocky, unstable mountains. You didn’t have a single fainting spell this trip. You’ll be fine.” It was a steadying thought.
Mental health boost. I think that for the first time this year, I felt calm on this trip. I got a healthy amount of sleep every night, worked out, and made friends on the trip despite being nervous about it (you can’t help but be friends with people you travel with, no matter how introverted you are). I thoroughly enjoyed my project, which reaffirmed that I wanted to be in business and wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I could. I took time to read books, watch TV, write blogs, make food, and even research random articles online, like how Blockchain worked or what’s going on with the Israel-Palestine conflict. I felt a deep sense of relief: I felt confident, capable, and that everything would be okay.
Going out your front door is indeed a dangerous business. It’s easy to be swept off in a whirlwind of adventure, of capabilities and wrongdoings and every degree in between. But it’s often so worth it. My “Lord of the Rings” obsession culminated in this trip because I was living an adventurous life in the same place as Bilbo and Frodo and Sam, but now it’s time to go back to the Hobbit Hole. (Hopefully I won’t be like Bilbo at the end of “The Hobbit” and find all my belongings auctioned off and being ostracized from society, but it’s a risk you have to take!) I missed Columbus. I missed my life – my parents and sister and friends, the food, the ability to sing without anyone telling me to shut up.
So this will be my last New Zealand blog. You’ll notice that there are only nine blogs I wrote from New Zealand, not ten. This is for a few reasons. 1) There are nine members of the Fellowship, and it seems to be a strong number. 2) Like I told you before in my Hobbiton blog, J.R.R. Tolkien typically wrote 10 chapters in each mini-book in the LoTR series. In the last book, there were only 9, left for the reader to finish the novel.
This blog is open for you to use as a starting point for your own adventure. Travel! Meet new people! Push yourself to do the most un-you thing possible!
I’ll be cheering for you! Go on!
When you see the corn #GoBucks #Columbus
Author, Study Abroad
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It's senior year, my hair is short again, and I'm living my best life. If you want, read my blog and see all the weird stuff I wrote freshman year and all the weird stuff I'm still writing now.