In the final week of Spring semester of my Freshmen year at Michigan State University, I made a decision that would forever change my life. Trying to find a cure for my boredom during exam week, I logged on the study abroad website and started browsing around. On a whim, I signed up for a 3 week, 21 day, environmental science and geology course in New Zealand. I didn't place much emphasis on it because I figured I didn't have the qualifications for the program. Just did it as a joke. During the first couple of weeks of my Sophomore year, I received the acceptance letter for the program. I was completely blown away. After giving the proposition some thought, I signed up and this is the result of that fateful decision.
Part 1: Can't wait to get out of this hellhole...
Waking up at 5 AM was not my idea of starting a vacation. Somehow I was able to drag my sleepy, exhausted butt out of my warm and enticing bed and into crisp clothes. I dressed warmly to fend off the chilly weather. I located a few of the items that I forgot to pack and shoved them into my overfilling suitcase. Hopefully, I don't go over the weight limit for the bags. Packing has always been a tough thing for me. Trying to find space for all the things that I need to bring and cramming it into a 2 x 3 container just doesn't strike me as a good usage of my Friday night. I run through the list, double checking that I have everything I need. Toiletries, check. Towel, check. Clothes, check. Camera, check. Etc. The list is rather comprehensive, outlining the essentials and the practical. There are a few random items such as moleskin; what the flip is moleskin for? When am I ever going to need moleskin? I cannot recall a single instance in my past when someone has said to me, "If only I had moleskin..." Needless to say I didn't pack moleskin or other "useless" space consuming items like sunblock or bandages. My philosophy is don't bring something you don't need or something that someone else is bound to have.
It's still dark outside as I tossed my gear into the trunk of the car and took off for Metro Airport. The freeway was sparsely populated that morning and we made good time getting to the airport. I was nervous as I stepped out of the vehicle, and looked around the bustling terminal hoping to see a familiar face. Stood off to the side as I waited with my parents for the professor to arrive. The terminal was alive with passengers headed off to exotic and sunny locations, most likely to escape the city before the first major snow storm hits. This would be the first time I've spent Christmas away from home, not to mention being out of the country. Here I was waiting to catch a plane that would take me halfway across the globe and dump me with 20 other strangers in a foreign country. I could only imagine how that'll turn out.
I spotted some travelers sporting State sweatshirts and unconsciously gravitate toward them. I didn't quite join them in case I mistook them for fans instead of my classmates. It's way too early in the morning for me to recover smoothly from an embarrassing moment. I can just imagine it now... [In hushed tones while stealing furtive looks at my general direction] "Who is that guy? Do you guys know him? Why is he standing near us? He kind of looks Japanese. What if he's some sort of Asian terrorist? Someone should get rid of him" How can I recover from that? Graciously slip away pretending that my presence is a coincidence? It's hard to look smooth with bed hair and droopy eyes.
I nervously checked the time on my phone. It read a little past 7 AM. Finally it dawned on me that I might actually be in the wrong area. As the fruits of this horrid discovery started to sink in, I was saved at the last moment by a familiar face. Amidst the crowds, I spotted one of guys who lived on my floor Freshmen year. We had actually gone to high school together and coincidentally ended up living on the same floor along with two other guys from high school. I said goodbye to my parents. Short and sweet. We're not much on sappy goodbyes and affections. They told me to spend the money wisely and to not be stupid. That's love I guess. I met up with my friend Dave and both he and I are surprised to see that we both enrolled in the same program. "This is going to be a hell of a time." You have no idea, buddy.
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