So there I was standing behind the vinyl rope waiting to go through security at JFK Airport. Since February I was eagerly anticipating this moment; counting down the days before departure and shopping for the essentials like laundry bags, bed linens and toothpaste. But somehow despite all the preparation, this moment felt particularly surreal. My parents were on one side of the gate and I on the other and we both knew that the time had come for us to part for almost four months.
It had been a long journey from the application process to boarding Delta Airlines Flight 96 to Edinburgh Airport. Who would think that a suggestion from a Professor would lead me down this road; something as simple as “If you’re pursuing History, you should consider University of Dundee” leading to a three and a half month long odyssey of adventure and intellectual and social growth an ocean away from home. After visiting a Study Abroad Fair in the fall of 2008, I picked up a packet of the various programs New Paltz had overseas. University of Limerick in Ireland and Middlesex in England both stuck out as strong front runners but never Dundee. When I told one of my professors about my choices, he began asking if I thought of Dundee; one of his colleagues was teaching there and working in tandem, both established the Study Abroad Program there for New Paltz. I told him that I would think about it, and went home to do some research on the university.
Never was I so impressed with the amount and variety of programs they had to offer. Everything from the history of Medieval Russia to Early America and contemporary British issues were on hand for me to explore! As a keen student who is passionate about learning about the people and events that shaped the world we now live in; I knew this was the school for me! The extra-curricular activities such as “The History Society” and “Rucksacking Club” also appealed to me because I wished to not only study History from the classroom but fully immerse myself in it by talking about it with other students from Scotland and around the world and also travel through it physically on hikes and day trips. After this my mind was settled; Dundee in the Fall of 2009 semester was going to be the journey of a lifetime and nothing was going to keep me from this majestic place steeped in history and a vibrant culture.
What was more was I wasn’t doing this alone. I had met another history student earlier that year who was planning to go to Dundee as well. Jen and I hit it off automatically and it was good to know someone who was planning to go to the same location as me in addition to seeing some of the same places I wanted to go to. Laura; an Art major, was also going to Dundee to round off her education as well. Together we had shared experiences of New Paltz and abroad we would share experiences of Dundee.
Once all the paperwork was handed in, the waiting began. I was always nervouse that an important document had been filed wrong or that I had misplaced a document that could single handedly undo all of those trips to the International Programs Office and my dreams of hiking across the highlands and visiting centuries old ruins and castles that have stood the test of a millennia. However by April I received the confirmation I was waiting for; I was approved to go overseas and study at the University of Dundee along with Jen and Laura! All of us had to prepare for what was to come next.
Several months of hard preparation were to follow where I got the essential items needed to survive the first few weeks: a microwaveable bowl, sheets and comforter, a week’s worth of pants, two weeks’ worth of shirts, medicine, several hoodies, tooth brush, soap and more were stuffed into two large rolling suitcases, a smaller carryon and a laptop bag. I couldn’t imagine fitting three and a half months of my life into three suitcases but somehow I managed!
Then the day finally came for my flight. At around 1:00 PM I said a fond good-bye to my grandparents, my younger brother and baby sister before my parents drove me to JFK to see me finally off. When we reached the airport I was nervous but at the same time eager to start my journey. I had never been to a foreign country before; led alone on a plane, so everything seemed new and exciting to me. It was by the bag check that I met one of my travelling partners and we both went on our way to the security line. My parents stood at one end, me on the other, and we both knew that it was time that we part ways. Behind the rope where my parents stood was my past and all the two people who meant the most to me, and on the other my future; where my destiny awaited, to take me on a trip that would change my life forever and bring me closer to my dreams of discovery! We embraced each other for one last time and I and my companion went on our way, full of excitement and a shared goal in completing what we had set out to accomplish several months before!