I knew I wanted to study abroad before I started college. During my senior year of high school, a bunch of my friends went on a ten day trip to Australia and New Zealand, but I decided that I'd rather save up for taking a whole SEMESTER abroad later. They had a great time--I missed out on a lot. But I kept telling myself that I'd have my Australian experience all in good time. The land down under became my ultimate mission, and I locked into the dream like a pitbull in a dogfight.
Their was no time to waste. The day after I graduated high school, I started a job at BOX cafe in Nashville. I had a little bit saved from graduation presents, but I had to earn more if this Australia thing was going to happen. Now free from school, it was go time.
Fast forward a bit to the first semester of college when I visited the study abroad office for the first time. I discovered that music students often couldn't find a whole semester program that met their credit needs. You see, every semester requires you to take private lessons in your principal instrument (voice for me), and you have to take classes like music theory, aural skills, and piano classes in consecutive order. You must also be part of an ensemble every semester. It was important for me to find a program that would not get me behind in my degree progress, and a lot of that had to do with WHEN I decided to go. It became clear that the first semester of my junior year would be the ideal. The required lower-level classes would be done, piano proficiency would (God willing) be passed, and I'd be in a more flexible private lesson situation.
Then I actually had to find this dream program. I scoured Belmont's website which led me to Arcadia's study abroad program where I ran through every Australian destination until I found the University of Melbourne's handbook. The classes listed inside the jazz & improvisation major had a chance of being approved by the Belmont music faculty. Alllllllright--let's do this.
The next three semesters were spent contacting professors, study abroad faculty, and making sure important steps were done way in advance. Most of my time outside of school was spent working, working, working. I had three jobs at one point last semester. One day I went straight from a 6:30am-12pm shift to school for 12:30 to 3:15pm classes and then right back in the car to make it to a 4-9pm rehearsal. I literally had no time. I had to eat meals in the car at stoplights. I made excuses for myself, saying it's all for Australia and whatnot. But I think it was more: I had gotten addicted to being needed somewhere outside of school. When I was working, I was able to give back to society, contributing to someone else's needs besides my own. On campus it was all "me, me, me", what can I get out of this, how does this class serve me. I hated feeling like a leech of information. I wanted to throw it back into the world! I saw so many friends that were just lying dormant in their class schedules, not reaching for anything beyond campus yet. The idea of Australia had become my escape--my release from the cycle of remembering and forgetting class information. I just had to get there.
But I also had to be healthy about it. I had to quit two jobs. That was hard. I really don't like quitting, it makes me feel inadequate. But one of those adult-y things I'm learning is that seasons come and go without us taking it personally, and clinging to the idea that nothing changes, is a sure-fire way to stunt your growth. Grrrrr, but that doesn't make it any easier.
And then my plane flight was a week away, and I had to sever my ties to Nashville. I quit my last job, said goodbye to friends, had my last home cooked meal, packed all my essentials, and had to walk away from my parents' embrace in the BNA terminal. That was the hardest part. They wouldn't leave until they couldn't see me anymore.
Now, as I sit in my new room, two weeks since I left the States, I am reminded of how busy I was last year and how tired I felt all the time. I am deciding right now that this university experience will not be like it was at home. I will NOT remove myself from campus. I will NOT get in so over my head that I forget why I'm doing the things I'm doing. One step at a time. One day at a time. No expectations, no disappointments, no anxiety. What freedom!