Little known fact about me. My last big hurrah in life before entering the fine world of migraines rule all was an amazing semester in the most amazing place on the face of the planet…Tanzania. I decided I was going there when I was about 4 years old watching PBS in my living room, staring in awe at the Serengeti and pointing at the giant 70s- style floor-sitting television, saying when I’m bigger, I’m gonna go there! Dismissed, of course. I was four and pointing at a television.
The funny part was, when I was in high school and planning WAY ahead (OK, I was a sophomore and planning which study abroad program to choose for my junior year of college at the school I’d already picked out) I was still dismissed. I knew in my heart as strongly then as I had at age 4 that I was meant to go to Tanzania. Something inside me ached for it in a way I don’t quite know how to put into words. It’s as if a part of me had been born on the wrong side of the planet. I hadn’t a clue yet what that meant, but boy was I in for a surprise.
Fast forward a few years. I got in early admission to Bucknell University. Freshman and sophomore years were fantastic. It was an incredible place to learn, not just the subject matter, but HOW TO THINK CRITICALLY. Incredible professors. It was the kind of education every parent dreams their child will have. I was so lucky and so privileged. I majored in animal behavior (incidentally not part of my parents’ dream for my education, but very much my passion and absolutely no regrets).
Junior year came around. I had submitted all of my applications for study abroad. I got my acceptance letter and called home…well, ecstatic really doesn’t come close, but it’ll have to do. Silence. Then, “you’re not ACTUALLY going to Africa.” Confusion. Had I not been talking about this since age 4? Had I not selected this very program and been showing brochures to everyone for the last FIVE years? Hadn’t I gotten parental signatures for all the applications materials? How could any of this be a surprise?
As it turns out, it could because I wasn’t the parent hearing for the first time with certainty that her child not only intended to but actually had a way to get on a plane and leave the country to run off to Tanzania to God knows what for how long was it again? I hadn’t stopped to think about how scary this might be for my parents. This had been a reality for me forever. An inevitability, more to the point. But no matter how many years I’d been saying I was going to do this, this was the first moment it was real for them. I was so off the charts, unbelievably excited that all I could do was say SIGN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SIGN IT NOWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And all my mother could do was imagine the unimaginable.
We worked it out. I explained all the ways I’d be safe and mom explained all the ways those ways were insufficient and eventually my logic and her inability to stand in the way of this life-long dream gave way in the face of even her greatest maternal fears. I promised to be safe and not to take any unnecessary risks (a promise which I sort of but not really at all lived up to). The ball was rolling. I got all my shots. We had lots of talks. We did a LOT of shopping for my gear. I packed and repacked and repacked. Before we knew it, we were off for Newark airport where I would meet the people with whom I would spend the next chapter, and the greatest experience of my life. Stay tuned for the Tanzanian Adventure of a lifetime!