So, I’m not actually abroad yet but I figured that in order to share my summer experience with you all, I have to include one of the most crucial parts— the planning process. My mother is a notorious planner. I can’t remember a family vacation when every minute of every day wasn’t mapped out ahead of time, but she always said that the planning process was the best part. You get to imagine it over and over again, living the experience out a thousand times before the plane even takes off. So here I am, still in Tacoma, living out my summer from the comfort of an off-campus house across the street from the SUB.
Perhaps I should explain what it is exactly that I’ll be doing. From June 4th to July 5th I will be studying abroad with the School for Field Studies (SFS) in northern Tanzania. Then, after a brief trip home to Minnesota, I’ll be heading out to Norway for a 30-day backpacking trip across Scandinavia with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) before coming back to campus to be a Passages leader. Yikes. That’s a lot of flying. As it gets closer to the day I leave for Tanzania, I wonder more and more what I was thinking when I planned this crazy adventure (or I guess set of adventures). Actually, it all started when I was looking at a study abroad program for next spring. There was really only one program that I wanted to give up a semester at UPS for. One of my senior friends last year told me about her semester in the Turks and Caicos with SFS. I’m a Biology major interested in marine biology and conservation research so this program sounded perfect to me. As I was looking at their website, I saw the Tanzania/Kenya program and that they had a summer session for it. That was it. Any plans I had for staying in Tacoma this summer to do research went right out the window. I think the fact that my parents really didn’t want me to go to East Africa probably had some influence as well… sorry, Mom.
About two weeks after I applied to both programs, I was informed that the Kenya portion of the summer Tanzania/Kenya session had been canceled. This meant that I had to find something to fill the remaining month and a half of summer left after the end of the Tanzania portion. I had always wanted to go on a NOLS trip but I kept putting it off for other things. When they cancelled the second half of my Africa trip, I thought I’d see if the timing matched up with any of the 2011 NOLS courses. And that’s what led me to plan a summer spent on three different continents, in three different time zones. It wasn’t until I paid the deposits and booked the airline tickets that it even began to feel real.