“This is the final boarding call for flight 109 to JFK.”
I pass Gate 1, Gate 2. My eyes shift left in anticipation for Gate 3, but it’s nowhere to be found.
I stop in the middle of the airport terminal. People I’ve never met going to places I’ve never seen shove past me. My eyes scan across all the designer shops and fast food joints.
It’s 4:15 in Dublin and my flight is leaving and a part of me hopes it leaves without me.
It was a wish I had kept to myself amidst a group of people with the same plight as me—our flight to Dublin had been delayed for hours and we were about to miss our connecting flight to New York. I knew it was an irrational wish. I had no working phone, no euros, and the only things in my carry-on were mints and a textbook. Plus, I was expected to be at work the next morning. I had to go home today.
I finally spot Gate 3 at the far end of the commercial alley and sprint. Panting, I hand the attendants my boarding pass. I had made it.
Before I head down the jet bridge, I glance behind me and see Annie, my friend in the program with me. Her connecting flight to Chicago was doing “final boarding” as well. I give her a quick, tight smile and head down the tunnel. I knew I would see her in two weeks when classes started again at Georgetown, but there was still something final about this goodbye.
Annie was the first friend I made freshman year. We met on a camping trip for first-year students. It’s crazy to think that we were getting to know one another in a tent in Appalachia a year ago and now we’re together in Europe. It’s crazier to think that my freshman year of college is already over, that I have officially studied abroad, something I knew I wanted to do since junior high.
In a way, the end of this study abroad program marked the end of my first year of college. It marked the beginning of a lot of other things too. This year, I’ll be taking classes for and declaring a major I’m not certain I can see myself doing. This year, I’ll be turning twenty. I’m terrified of turning twenty. I know twenty is very young, but in the next decade, you’re expected to finish your degree, have a job that you can advance in, have your own place, be financially independent, and maybe even be married. I know many people don’t accomplish all of these things, but right now, it seems as though I have to start laying stones for a path towards a future I cannot fathom.
Study abroad was sort of the last moment before I was forced to lay down some stones. These five weeks have flown by. This past year has been the fastest year of my life. Has time always moved this fast? My life moves so fast now, it feels like I can’t even keep track anymore.
But it’s also the most exciting my life has been. I suddenly have friends not only from all over the country, but from all over the world. I became proficient in a language. I’ve traveled around Europe and come back with so many stories.
I know I’m not alone among my age group in this feeling of doubt about what I’m doing. But what study abroad has taught me is that the world is a lot bigger and better than I can imagine. I have to believe the future must be too.