Map on My Wall

I’ve had a map on the wall of my room for as long as I could remember. As I glance at it now, I can’t help but trace my finger from where I am in New York to where I’ll be spending the next four months of my life in Prague. But the map is just a picture, a depiction of the world, a vast planet I have yet to explore. It’s just a flat, dull surface painted with fading colors. I look at all the lines, all the serrated shapes. I look at the distance, only a representation of what actually might be.

As I think about actually traveling and being in a bizarre, new, and exciting place, it feels overwhelming but essential. Ultimately, I’m in denial about this journey though and it doesn’t feel real. I’m going to be living in EUROPE!? WHAT!? It’s a dream. I can’t imagine my body actually being moved across the earth as simply as my finger glides across surface of my bedroom wall. As life is going on as normal at home, it really does hit me sometimes though, only in brief little bursts. (These flashes of feelings are mirrored in the random piles of stuff that are invading my floor that won’t fit my suitcase anyways; they are sudden and all over the place.) Reality is getting stronger as the days straggle on. I only have two days until lift off but somehow it feels like the day won’t ever come.

But I am in search of adventure. I crave it. I’ve lived the entirety of my life in Upstate New York and I feel like I’ve been in a droplet of protection, sheltered from the unknown, and unable to make fast, hard decisions for myself. I’ve never really traveled anywhere by myself before, so going across the map is going to fill my hunger and longing for independence. It will definitely be challenging, but definitely fulfilling!

As I think about leaving, the hardest part is saying goodbye. My friends and family keep looking at me like they’ll never see me again. In the back of my mind, I keep wondering if this is the right time to go and to leave everything to do something tremendously different. However, I know that if I don’t go now then I’ll just keep pushing it off or never do it and always think of what would have been. I’m glad I made the choice and committed to a life changing journey. Right now, it feels like perfect timing although it is hard letting go and saying goodbye to the people who mean the most to me. However, I’m hopeful that I’ll meet extraordinary people who will make me feel like I’m home away from home.

In an attempt to get prepared, I’ve been busy during winter break. I’ve been collecting all the important necessities like documentation and making copies. Many, many copies. Additionally, packing is something I’ve been working on but haven’t had the chance to conquer. It looks like my room exploded but I’m almost there. I just need to remember that I can’t bring my whole closet.

But in addition, there have been appealing aspects. I’m excited to learn the Czech language, so I downloaded an app to help with my Czech language. So far, I certainly know ‘grandfather’ (dědeček) and ‘pub’ (hospoda), so if anyone needs help with either, I’d at least be able to recognize what they’re talking about. But I don’t think that’s going to help me survive, so I’m going to be taking a 2-week introductory course and then I’ll continue on to take an intensive course with my other classes. I can’t wait to dive right in and start learning a new language!

In just two days, I’ll be waiting in the airport, trying to hold myself together while my heart is pounding crazy. As I get closer and closer to the beginning my journey, and as I get on the plane and take off, I feel like the map will become more and more vivid. Then, I might actually see myself floating across the ocean and finding land on the other side to the beginning of my electrifying and memorable journey.

Alyssa, a psychology major with a concentration in psychobiology, is excited to spend the semester in Prague, Czech Republic. In the hopes of adventure, she wants to meet new people, learn a new language, try new foods, and travel whenever she gets the chance. She can’t wait to experience the culture of a different place!

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