Shana’s Dominican Diaries


Vorfreude. A German word defined as the intense sensation one experiences from thinking about future plans: the feeling manifests from expectations of future pleasures and anticipations such as planning a trip, going on a date, or other life-changing events.

It’s the night before my flight…and I can’t seem to fall asleep. Not that I’ve had much of that since the start of the semester, but tonight is different. With my impending trip to the Dominican Republic in less than 24 hours for my first study abroad experience, I’m a mess of emotions.

I’ve done plenty of readings by now on culture shock, traveling alone for the first time and moving to a new country. They say first comes the Honeymoon Stage. This is where feelings of joy and enthusiasm can be found. You’ve just arrived and you’re absolutely in love with everything and everyone you encounter. Next, the Frustration Stage: you begin to yearn for familiarity and tire of misunderstanding gestures/signs etc. The Adjustment Stage: Frustrations are quelled as you start to feel more familiar and comfortable in the environment. Finally comes the Stage of Acceptance: You realize and appreciate the differences you’ve come across and in my own experience, this is usually when I begin to feel sad because I’ve grown attached to my new environment.

But why doesn’t anyone talk about the stage before you leave for your destination?

I feel excited, but that’s fleeting. Next I am faced with the dread, nervousness, apprehension and fear. All at once too, like lightning striking. I begin to wonder if I’m making the right decision. Sure this is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I can’t help but question myself. Am I ready? What if my host family hates me? What if my Spanish sucks and I make no friends? What happens when I get homesick and my family isn’t there for support? These questions and more arise as I feel the butterflies in my stomach again. I start to hyperventilate. It’s good to see I can finally make use of the yoga classes I’ve taken though: I’m a pranayama pro.

A few days ago, however, I had a conversation with a close friend who helped put things in perspective for me. She told me that everything I was feeling was valid and that it’s okay to be nervous. She assured me that the blend of emotions I am feeling usually results in the greatest experiences. That’s all it took.

I’m a firm believer that if you wait until you think you’re ready, you’ll be waiting forever. Quite frequently now, I listen to my peers complain about their lives and how they can’t wait to graduate so they can start working. They can’t wait to start working so they can make money. They can’t wait to make money so then they can finally start living the life they desire to live. Sure, money is definitely something to think about, but I just don’t like the “waiting” aspect of it all. The biggest mistake we all too often make is thinking that we have time. It’s become incredibly trite to hear by now, but time waits for no one and that’s my biggest fear.

I’m still nervous about my trip, but I now embrace the feeling. I push those thoughts away for I know I’m more scared of not ever getting the chance to do this. I’m more scared of letting my fear overpower me.

And so this New Year, a time of change, new beginnings and of starting over, I would like to raise my glass to facing my fears. How about you?


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