“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
Traveling is not brutality! Meeting strangers with different views on the world and experiencing new things is the purpose of travel. That feeling of discomfort and confusion is what I enjoy about traveling. What made me so excited about my trip abroad was thinking about all of the new people I would meet and the places I would go.
Let me take a step back. I’ll be honest. While I was 95% full of excitement, I did have that 5% of apprehension and fear. Not really of the unknown or the idea of being in an unfamiliar area but mostly of just being alone. I’d traveled abroad on school trips before, but this is the first time I have traveled without anyone from my home university. No family in Korea. No friends in Korea. No one. That fact was daunting for about a second and then excitement took over again.
I know there are probably a lot of people who feel that way. In fact, I know people who would love to travel, but are just too afraid to take that leap due to the discomforts listed in Pavese’s quote. But when I think of Gilman Scholars, or people who apply for the Gilman Scholarship or any study abroad scholarship for that matter are different kinds of people. The initiative it takes to look for ways to go abroad and do the work obtain them prove that we have the extra drive to be in new environments. I think people who actively try to study abroad would have a tendency to deny this quote. If we really believed it, we probably would not travel. While things can get uncomfortable and awkward and nerve-racking and annoying, it all will be exciting and engaging and amazing and fantastic when we look back on it. Even while I’m here, I still am amazed at the little things that are part of day-to-day life, like my walk to class. My awkwardness at butchering the Korean language when I talk to a store owner becomes one of those amazing little moments that I completely cherish.
The point is, regardless of those fears and the new, uncomfortable situations and surroundings, they all become the trip, not just part of it. They become the things you miss.