The last time I was preparing for an extended stay journey was in 1981 at the start of my junior year of college. Rather than Kenyatta University in Kenya I was preparing to study for a year abroad as an English and Drama major at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
I had never before been on an airplane; my first flight was across the Atlantic Ocean alone. I communicated with my family by writing letters; a phone call was an extravagance I couldn’t afford. I learned about unprepared cultural immersion, loneliness, making new friends, growing up, independence and resourcefulness. It was a glorious year. I was in love with Glasgow and all things Scottish.
Friends from the State University of New York College at Fredonia took a theatre trip to London for the Christmas holiday and I took the train down to spend the week with them. I’m sorry, I can longer explain my Parka with the large pockets; I still wear fingerless gloves.
Scotland, Ireland, and England were exotic to me. The food was different, the energy was slower, and the people sounded strange. I learned to see events in the United States through a world lens, and it was sobering. We had just elected Ronald Reagan as President. I was so innocent I did not know how to be afraid.
The world has changed, and I have changed. I am asked almost daily if I am ready to go to Africa in a month. I say that I am, and that I am not.
It is a good feeling.