This fall semester was a sort of strange one for me. I’ve always lived on campus, but after discovering how expensive a semester abroad can be, I decided to commute to school to save up for my time in China. Adjusting to the commuter life definitely took some time. For example, I discovered (the hard way) that six minutes isn’t really a reasonable amount of time to make it to the train station from the computer lab on campus. I learned that when you’ve only got six minutes, your inner Olympic track star awakens, allowing you to sprint to the station at record speeds. And those 50-ish steps up to the platform never got any easier. No matter how many times I’d walked them, I never failed to reach the top of the stairwell slightly hunched over and gasping for air, appearing as though I’d just finished a marathon.
I also learned that sometimes, you have to sacrifice eating real food if you want to get home before it’s dark outside and too cold to move. Fellow food lovers will understand how hard that was for me.
After adjusting to life as a commuter, though, I’ve realized that these were only small sacrifices in exchange for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A forty-minute train ride to and from school each day for a semester doesn’t mean much when I remember why I’m really doing it. There’s only a few days left now before I leave for Kunming, and I’m pretty sure I’d be willing to do that semester over again, no differently than before, if it meant having the opportunity to go on the journey that’s ahead of me.
With less than a week’s time left before departure, I’m beginning to realize how much I still need to accomplish before I can leave. There’s a large empty duffle bag and an even larger empty suitcase laying on my bedroom floor, and I know neither of them will fill themselves. I also know that, despite how much I wish I could, I can’t bring relatives and friends on this journey with me, so I’ll have to say my goodbyes to each of them before I leave. I’ve managed to squeeze in all of my appointments this week, including those with the doctor, the dentist, and the hair salon. Yet, even after taking care of every appointment and saying every goodbye, there’s a challenge that still remains for me. The largest obstacle in preparing to leave has been mentally readying myself for what’s to come. There’s no way I can possibly foresee what the next four months will be like, so how can I really prepare? The best I can do is remind myself why all of this preparation is needed, think of what the rewards will be, and keep an open mind throughout it all.
Oh, and watch Mulan repeatedly, because what more effective way is there to get excited about China?