This Is Nothing Like My Pinterest Board

She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.

Elizabeth Edwards

I would very much like to laugh at the Kenzie who wrote up her grand imaginings in the last blog post about what she thought her trip to Granada would be like. What actually happened couldn’t have been further from that dream scenario. There was no waiting at the Newark airport gate, no calming cup of hot tea, and no smile of victory. The nerves though? Those were definitely there along with some new friends I wasn’t quite expecting: exhaustion, anxiety, stress, and utter chaos.

The calm before the storm: at GSP airport for my first flight

The best question to ask about my trip is: what didn’t go wrong? The morning of my trip to Granada, I was blissfully early, packed under the weight limit, and dressed in my cute yet comfy travel outfit— in other words, all my planning had paid off and I had done everything I was supposed to. I was sitting at my gate with hours to spare and making TikToks about my upcoming adventure. But as I was about to learn, plans can go awry very quickly even when you do everything right.

The next thing I knew, my flight to Newark was so delayed that all my subsequent connecting flights would be missed as a result. So what did I, a reasonable young adult and seasoned traveler, do? Well, I sobbed in the middle of the airport Qdoba while shoveling lunch into my mouth and listening to my mom list out my options for me over FaceTime. It was not a pretty sight but I think I get points for my multi-tasking.

I ended up having to go back out to the counter, get re-booked on all new flights, go through security again, and then I finally got on a flight to IAD airport in D.C. Things seemed to be looking up though— the airline ended up upgrading my seat to Business-class because of all the last-minute changes which also meant I had access to the lounge at the D.C. airport. I had a place to relax until my flight to Frankfurt and got to try out my Spanish skills with a lovely mother-daughter duo I met there at the lounge. The flight was amazing and I took full advantage of my first ever Business-class experience. I even got a pair of wings from the flight crew!

A pair of wings from the sweetest United airlines crew

If only those wings had been real. Once I landed in Frankfurt, complete chaos ensued. The D.C. flight had arrived late so as I was disembarking the plane, my next flight had already begun boarding. But I still had to get on a bus ride to the terminal, go through border control, and then sprint from gate A1 to gate A60. I was crying, out of breath, and in full panic mode as my name was being called throughout the terminal in very angry-sounding German. I miraculously made it onto the flight but I couldn’t even feel relieved because at that point, I felt like I was going to simply drop dead from the sheer trauma of the trip.

But I had made it! I was on my flight and landed in time to make the program’s bus ride from the Málaga airport to Granada— all is well now, right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

Now, I know this post has been very doom and gloom but that’s exactly what it felt like. I was on the worst trip I have ever taken in my life and all my hopes of a great start to a magical study abroad were getting shattered one by one, brutally and efficiently.

The AGP airport in Málaga was confusing and poorly laid-out and after almost half an hour of waiting, I realized my luggage had been lost in Germany. I managed to set-up the delivery of my luggage to my residence hall in very broken Spanglish and then I rushed to get a taxi with two other friends to the hotel we were meant to meet the rest of the program members at.

I hate to admit this but my attitude at this point had completely soured. I no longer wanted to be here in the way I had been waiting for this program for months on end. I just couldn’t catch a break and things did not get better once I got to my residence hall. If anything, they got worse. My first night was so bad, my parents had to stay on FaceTime with me for over 6 hours. As in, my beautiful angel parents actually stayed on FaceTime all day their time to watch me sleep because I could not stand being alone.

I felt lost, overwhelmed with anxiety, and riddled with panic. I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from this nightmare.

The worst part, though, was the severe disappointment I had for myself. I was so ashamed that I was feeling so bad because I’d done this before. I moved away from home at 16, for crying out loud; I even studied abroad for a second time at 18! I thought this was going to be easy or at least something I was used to.

I felt lost, overwhelmed with anxiety, and riddled with panic. I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from this nightmare.

So here we are, a week into the program. I’m not going to lie and say that everything is perfect. I’m still adjusting and it’s been one of the most challenging times of my life. It feels like no one understands exactly what I’m going through and what they assume is wrong, isn’t. I’m not going through a cultural adjustment or a culture shock. If anything, Spanish culture is much more similar to the Indian culture I grew up with than the U.S. culture I’ve lived in for the past 5 years. I’m not feeling ‘nervous’, I have anxiety (there’s a difference) and I’ve been dealing with the physical implications of it.

You’re probably wondering where the bright side to all this is, right? Because I’m Kenzie, the permanent optimist, the annoyingly bubbly girl who can’t help but smile and say hi to everyone she sees on the sidewalk, and that chick on Instagram who’s always preaching about positivity and self-confidence.

Looking out at Granada from El Mirador de San Cristóbal

Honestly, I’m still trying to find my way back to that girl, to the person I know I am. Because right now I’m Kenzie, the girl who cries every moment she’s alone, the permanent complainer, and that chick who can’t seem to find her place.

Maybe I’m evolving into an overall more cynical person or maybe I’ll come out bubblier than ever. I have no idea at this point and I have zero expectations.

Ah, there it is. The trigger word of this whole experience: expectations.

Because you’re probably thinking, “Kenzie, your expectations were too high, you romanticized study abroad too much.”

And you know what? You’re probably right.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize: I didn’t struggle because I had romanticized this experience, I survived because of it. If I hadn’t been as excited as I was for this program, I wouldn’t have made it through the terrible trip here or this exhausting first week. Frankly, I’m running on the fumes of my dreams right now. And I’m anchoring myself with the hopes and plans I had for this semester.

Frankly, I’m running on the fumes of my dreams right now. And I’m anchoring myself with the hopes and plans I had for this semester.

The only thing getting me through, besides my faith, family, and a few sweet friends, is the fact that I was so prepared and had so much information about Granada already stored in my head. All those vlogs I watched and all the must-visit places I read about are helping me believe that there’s still a chance for me to have a good time here.

Changing sails and moving forward (La Silla del Moro)

I boarded my boat on a bright sunny day but ended up running into a dark and dangerous storm. I’ve been drowning in the salty water of my tears and I’m still desperately searching for signs of safety. But just when the tempest rages to its most violent extreme, a peek of sunlight glints in the horizon.

So as I breathe in the briny air and steady my stance, I do what must be done: adjust my sails, pray for the best, and hope this new course leads me to safe and dry land.

Final Boarding Call for Granada, Spain

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

anonymous

I always joke that I was born on a plane. Not literally but my first ever ride in the sky was when I was just seven months old. Ever since then, I’ve considered airplanes to be a home of sorts. Odd that I find comfort in a tin box that hurtles through the sky at over 800 km/h but hey, it is what it is.

I’ve been lucky enough to see some beautiful places across the world— from the Khasi hills I grew up in to the Rappahanock river I went to school on and all the way over to the streets of Valparaíso that I had the privilege of visiting during my study abroad in Chile.

Senior year of high school on the Rappahannock River in Virginia, 2018-2019
Study abroad in Chile, Summer of 2018

Internationalism and globalism are woven into my very being. I come from a very mixed background and I was always raised to appreciate the differences we find in the world. That means it was never a question of ‘if’ when it came to studying abroad in college for me, only ‘when’. As a matter of fact, I picked Wofford because of their study abroad program. With over 60% of Wofford students studying abroad in some capacity during their college career and programs available in every single continent (yes, even Antarctica), Wofford was the logical and dream choice for my international plans. I’ve worked hard to get where I am today but Wofford made it financially realistic to take my global journey one step further.

I picked Wofford because of their study abroad program… Wofford made it financially realistic to take my global journey one step further.

I am, for all intents and purposes, a study abroad veteran. So, this time around I didn’t really have any nerves or hesitations. My main problem was simply picking where to go but even then, the choice was easy. I’ve always been a big believer in listening to your heart and trusting your instincts— they’ve gotten me this far!

Why Granada then, you ask? Well, because I knew I wanted to go see the Spain side of things after already getting a taste of the South American side (Chile, te amo siempre) and I adored my Freshman year Spanish professor who was visiting Wofford from, you guessed it, Granada, España. I never even considered anywhere else. I listened to her speak about her city and its rich history and I just knew that that was where I was meant to go. You’ll be pleased to know that I am indeed seeing her again when I get to Spain next week— ¡Hasta pronto, Pilar!

Profe. Pilar in SPAN 200, first semester Freshman year, Fall 2019

I know that there are many of you who wouldn’t be so quick to jump onboard the study abroad train and that’s okay! There are many different things that factor into the decision like your finances, your academics, your personal circumstances, etc. My advice is simply to combat your fears by arming yourself with knowledge. Talk to your International Programs office, reach out to study abroad alums, and read up about places you might be interested in going to. You can also read through other blogs right here on Wofford’s website that might resonate with you.

But I also know that there are some of you like me who know without a doubt that this is something you want to do and that is equally okay! Like I said, listening to your heart is important.

My advice is simply to combat your fears by arming yourself with knowledge.

I can vividly picture what’s about to come in my head— sitting at my gate in Newark airport, boarding pass in one hand and a hot tea in the other, my feet slightly dangling because they never reach the dang floor. I’m scoping out the other people who’ll be on my flight while planes are trailing down the tarmac outside the window in front of me.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen. Flight WC 1854 to Granada, Spain will now begin boarding.

Everyone starts fumbling about to gather up their stuff and line up. I finish my tea as fast as I can and double (okay, triple) check to make sure everything is in place to make loading onto the plane as smooth as possible. I’m thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong— did I forget my shoes, what if they don’t let me on the plane, is my visa actually valid?

I fight the urge to open my bag one last time to check that everything is in the exact same place it was five seconds ago and awkwardly smile at the person I make eye contact with as I take my place in the line. Should I call my mom now? No, I’ll just text her. Okay, quick selfie for the family group chat.

The nerves are dueling with the excitement in a final fight to the death. Was this the right decision? Am I going to fail miserably? What if this is like that Manifest show?

The line shuffles forward and my attention is pulled from my internal struggle to the scene right in front of me. Making sure my boarding pass is at the ready and blowing out a tiny breath, I decide to look outside one last time while I’m still on American soil.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the final boarding call for Granada, Spain.

Ripping my eyes away from the sheer largeness of the planes outside, I saddle up to the attendant, scan my boarding pass, and nod my head in thanks as the little ding of acceptance rings out.

Just like that, I remember that I’ve waited my whole life for this. I think about the new friends I’m going to make and the old ones I’m about to see again. I think about those delicious churros from Café Fútbol I’ve had my eye on for months and all the places I’ll get to visit with my Islamic Art and Architecture class. I remember how, despite small moments of hesitation, this has always felt so right, and crossing onto the jetbridge, I feel the excitement finally win the battle and a smile of triumph breaks free.

This is it. It’s really happening.

Welcome aboard. We hope you enjoy your flight.