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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.