My internet's browser history says a lot about how the past two weeks have been for me.
"How do I pack my life in two suitcases?"
"Is there an international phone plan?"
"What is X amount of pounds in dollars?"
But then there are the questions that not even the internet could help me answer.
"How will I go without seeing my family every day?"
"Is it too late to change my mind?"
"What if I can't do it?"
My nerves as I was getting closer and closer to the airport were skyrocketing. It was a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and everything in between. At the time, I wanted more than anything to ask my dad to turn the car around. Four months. That's how long I would be away. Away from my family, my boyfriend, my friends, my church, everything that I was familiar to and comfortable with. Four months may seem like nothing to a lot of people, but for me it feels like a lifetime. In that same car ride, however, I remembered something. Two and a half years. That's how long I had been preparing for that day to come. It was two and a half years of studying, working, and the hardest part of all; waiting.
Since my freshman year of college, I've been determined to study abroad. More specifically, I wanted to go to Oxford University. As an English major, an aspiring writer, and a lover of all things theater, of course I saw myself in the land of Shakespeare. There was no doubt in my mind that it was the one place I was made to go to. There was no doubt in my mind that all arrows were pointing in that direction. And, most importantly, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be able to get there. I've always been a straight-A student, very determined, and incredibly hard-working. So I did what every straight-A, determined, and hard-working student would do when they want to study in the second best school in the world. I threw myself into my studies and my job(s). For about a year I slaved away in the world of retail, telling myself I had to save up money. When I couldn't take that anymore, I turned to my current job at an after school program. I balanced that out with my classes and was able to get my GPA right where I wanted it.
Finally, junior year came. My plan had always been to wait until my spring semester just because that's how it would work out with all my classes. I applied in August, and it was no easy process. I ran around getting signature after signature, approval after approval. After a few weeks of crazily running around getting everything done, I sent in all my paperwork, my recommendation letters, and a cute little passport-sized photo of myself for my student ID. There was nothing left to do but wait.
Meanwhile, my family and I had applied for citizenship. (It was a big year for me, as you can tell.) We got our fingerprints done and received the one hundred questions we had to learn for the upcoming interview. So it was back to studying for me. I dove in to relearn all the things I had learned back in middle school: What is an amendment? Who makes federal laws? How many voting members in the House of Representatives? As I memorized these questions with their respective answers, I thought about how many of my American friends would not know the answers to even half of the questions. Slightly irritated, I kept my opinions to myself, studied the questions, and waited for the date of my interview to arrive in a letter.
In case you haven't been keeping count, that makes it two letters I had been waiting for. Very quickly, my routine became: wake up, check mailbox, go to school, go to work, go home, check mailbox, do homework, check mailbox, shower, check mailbox, check mailbox, check mailbox, go to sleep, and repeat. I easily could've started telling people that my new hobby was to check my mailbox. Pathetic, I know.
Finally, we got our letters in the mail telling us that our interviews would be on November 8. Happy as ever, we studied even harder to prepare ourselves for the big day. But I was still waiting on another very important letter. By this point, I was at my study abroad office every day, emailing people back and forth both from the Oxford office and my own. I was making phone calls and meeting with my advisors. But mostly, I was just trying to stay calm. My departing date would be in January, and with each day passing it was one less day I had to prepare myself. Then, on November 7, a day before my interview, I got a letter. "We are pleased to offer you a spot at Oxford University." And just like that, I knew that everything would fall into place.
Except it didn't.
The next two days were the longest days of my life. I got to my interview, prepared and ready as ever, my mom on one side and my sister on the other. We sat and waited for our names to be called. My mom was called. My sister was called. And again, I was left waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Both my mom and sister came out, ceremony date in hand, and I was still, you guessed it, waiting. After about two hours, my patience was slimming, so I went to the front desk and asked what was happening. They told me there was a mixup and that my name would be called shortly. And it was! I went into my interview, nailed my test, and watched the official as he typed away on his computer. Then, he looked at me and said, "You passed your test. However, the system just crashed, and I was unable to input your information, so I cannot grant you citizenship today. We will send you a letter confirming your date." At that moment, my heart sank. I walked back to the waiting area and told my mom and sister what had happened. They were in just as much shock. So I went home and continued to wait for yet another letter in the mail.
The following day was just as miserable. I went to my financial aid office to secure my aid for my time abroad. That's when I found out that the program I applied for and got in to was not the program I wanted. Long story short, they were asking for a lot more money than I had originally planned for, and there was just no way I would be able to afford it. So after confirming this with my family, I returned to the study abroad office and withdrew my application. I watched as my two and a half years of work got erased off the study abroad list. Feeling crushed, I listened as the study abroad coordinator told me about two other options that might work for me. One was to go to Ireland and the other was to go to Scotland. She said it was highly unlikely they would accept me so late but that it was worth a shot. She told me she would email both schools and all I had to do was wait for them to answer.
It wasn't long before the school in Ireland emailed back saying they don't accept late applicants. But it also wan't long before Scotland said they did! As the holidays were approaching, I quickly went through the entire application process yet again. It was the day before Thanksgiving when I found out I had been accepted to Glasgow Caledonian University. I was extremely thrilled, as you can imagine. However, there was one last piece of the puzzle to be fit in. I wouldn't be able to travel without first securing my citizenship.
So I went back to my hobby: checking the mailbox. Although I was also obsessively calling Immigration Services to request updates, they always told me the same thing. Only the letter would have the date and time for my ceremony, and they could only do something about it if I didn't receive the letter thirty days after they sent it. I was beginning to look for ways around this. Worst case scenario, I would go to Scotland for the start of the semester, return home the weekend of the ceremony, and make my way back to Scotland to finish off the semester. But that's just not how it was meant to be. On December 31, the letter came. Nervously, I opened it and read the date on the paper. January 12, 2017. TWO DAYS before my flight. Once again, I felt like everything was falling into place.
And this time, it did.
I attended my ceremony on Thursday, picked up my passport and packed on Friday, and left on Saturday. Everything happened so fast that I didn't even have time to process. So there I was on my way to the airport, ready to embark on an experience of a lifetime. While in line for security, I looked at my family waving back at me, then I looked down at my newly printed American passport, and I remember thinking to myself: this was worth the wait.
A week into my study abroad experience, and I'm settled in, enjoying each day, and oh yeah, going to classes. I've had to deal with minor bumps in the road, such as applying for a visa while already abroad, but overall I have no doubt that this is exactly where I need to be right now. I miss home, just as I predicted I would, but there is nothing more reassuring than knowing all my hard work actually amounted to something. As I lay in my cozy little studio apartment, I can't help but think about what a crazy journey it's been. And with each day that goes by, I find myself more and more thankful that things turned out the way they did because I know that God's ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11