My flight is 10 hours. At the time of writing this, it is 12:52am. I’ve completed packing all my belongings and am now staying up for a while as a premeditated maneuver against the impending jet lag (I will be ahead 13 hours upon arrival). It feels like this has been a long time coming, but at the same time, I’m still having trouble believing this is all actually… real. Even now, with my planned departure in the very near future, it still feels like there is a mountain of unknowns lying in front of me. That said, if there is one thing I’ve come to expect from all of this, it’s that I will undoubtedly feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants for the next 121 days.
In my previous blog of this series, I essentially detailed my mid-semester crisis as it pertained to my study abroad pursuits. If this is the first time you are tuning in, I'll summarize my experience until this point as such: I spent the first year of my time at Oberlin dawdling around the idea of studying abroad and the second year navigating how I was going to make it a reality. Now, at long last, I am beginning this journey once and for all. I can’t say that it was necessarily “easy” to get to this point (which means there are definitely more blogs to be written on the matter), it's just that managing all the logistics of this experience was definitely... an undertaking. I don’t currntly possess the mental wherewithal to delve into all the details, but there were indeed some difficulties I encountered along the way. And, well, I’m sure I will face more when I arrive. The challenges are equal parts in making this adventure what it is: an experience can’t be life-changing unless my life goes through some changes, right? It also helps that at this point, I have come way too far to let little things get in the way of me enjoying this experience. From here on out, my primary goal is to be fully present and make the most of each and every moment.
Amidst all the uncertainties, I’ve found solace in a few things that I do know! For example, I know that the weather forecast predicts it will rain the morning of the day I arrive in Seoul. My flight is scheduled to land at 3:50pm, so my first encounter in Korea may well be with rain. Another thing I know is that I am not alone in this experience. I joined a Facebook group and a few group chats with all the other exchange students who will be attending my university. There is definitely a collective jitteriness, so I know I’m not the only one on this crazy ride. I also know that, ultimately, this experience is more than just an academic endeavor. Not to get too sappy, but this is the most personally fulfilling adventure I have ever embarked on.
I remember in eighth grade I decided to make a bucket list. Going into high school made me feel like life was getting serious, so I needed to have a plan for what I wanted to accomplish with my existence on this planet. While I wish I could tell my past self to just… chill, the first goal on my bucket list was actually to study abroad. It was the whole reason I made the list to begin with. The concept was just completely fascinating. I grew up in a small town, a place that was perfectly comfortable and curated by my parents to provide me with complete security. Community, friends, safety: I was priviledged to grow up in a place where these things were well-established. That said, it was a bit of a bubble–a bubble that instilled a desire within me to see more. Unbeknownst to my parents, I used to sit on the roof of our house at sunset and daydream about what it was like on the other side of the world. As I am getting ready to sleep, the other side of the world is just waking up–that idea was always so intriguing to me. Honestly, it still is. I guess I’m not too different from my eighth grade self.
AUGUST 25, 2022 (2022년 08월 25일)
It is now 6:24pm (or 7:24am in KST). Thankfully, I made it onto my flight without any issues and have 7 hours and 52 minutes remaining until arrival. I slept for the first 6.5 hours of the flight and am trying to throw the whole idea of jet lag out the window beside me. It still is surreal. When checking in for the flight, I met a man who was also in line for the same flight, same final destination. We had a small conversation and he became the first new person who I explained my exchange program to. He gave me some recommendations of his favorite places to visit and, before we boarded the flight, he looked back at me and smiled, “So… see you in Seoul!”
And with that, I guess I will bid the same to you. Maybe by the time I land, I will actually believe that this is not just a simulation.
AUGUST 26, 2022 (2022년 08월 26일)
Post-arrival Ben reporting: it is real, after all.