Flight one is complete, now I’m currently sitting in the Detroit airport. I found a quiet space, pulled out my laptop, and prepared to camp out during this 6 hour layover. Then it hit me. At this time tomorrow, I’ll be in Taormina. All of my planning, hard work, and stress has now come to this moment. To be honest, my emotions have been all over the place the past few days, and I experienced feelings I’ve never felt before.

About a month before my departure, I felt excited. Italy was still a distant dream, and as far into the future as I could see, was what I wanted for dinner tomorrow. One week before departure—that’s when the fear set it. I started to worry about everything and then some. They were mainly irrational fears, such as the risk of one of my flight’s crashing. To my surprise, they actually make an app that calculates your risk of crashing. Although the purpose of the app is to demonstrate how small the likelihood of a plane accident is, it made my anxieties worse. PRO TIP: Do not download any apps to counter your fears, it just feeds into them more. Eventually, most of my fears worked themselves out. I found writing down everything I was afraid of and then reading the list out loud showed me how silly they actually were.

Then I moved on to another phase: denial. The day before I left and the morning of, I was no longer interested in studying abroad. I thought to myself, it would be so much easier to hide in my parents’ basement, snuggle my dogs, and be content. I literally worried myself sick. I seriously contemplated not going and even discussed the idea with my parents. They said they would support me in whatever I choose, but suggested I reevaluate the reason why I no longer wanted to go. The answer? It was the easy way out. It’d be easy to hide and to not pursue my dreams, because dreams are scary. It’d be easy to stay in the United States my entire life and be perfectly content.

I ultimately realized that life isn’t meant living to only be content. Life is about pushing your boundaries, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, and constantly striving to be a lifelong learner. It about living an insane, adventurous, and phenomenal life. So far, this experience has showed me emotions I didn’t know I had the capacity to feel, and that is so extraordinary. I’ve learned how much I take the comfort of my family, friends, and boyfriend for granted. I’ve learned how much I actually love the place I live, and how much I’ll miss it while I’m gone. I am not only pushing the limits of my comfort zone, I’m completely demolishing them. And things can only go up from here.

Ellen Barrett is a student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and an official API Blogger. Ellen is studying abroad with API in Taormina, Italy.

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