“First Time Abroad” Apprehensions

by Kristen Bridgford

I still remember sitting in that little empty lounge at my university when I did my Skype interview with Becca and Lindsay. I remember I was transported to a different world with them where the palm trees swayed in the background and what seemed like wild dogs ran freely behind them as they explained a little about Abriendo Mentes.

And then the question came up that I feared but knew would most likely be asked: “What is your international experience?”, to which I responded with an awkward, “Um, well actually I have never traveled abroad, but I feel like I’m ready to!”

They definitely looked a little shocked, and I felt for just a moment in time that I was cut from the list right then and there – because how could I really acclimate to living in rural Costa Rica for five weeks when I had never even stepped foot out the U.S., not even to Canada?

But regardless of my thoughts, I was on a plane headed to San Jose 36 hours after my last final exam at school. It wasn’t that easy though; I had a lot of apprehensions about the trip. I had a constant fear that something would go terribly wrong while I was here, like I would get dengue fever or get lost in San Jose while trying to find my shuttle. And after all of those fears I felt like I was constantly trying to rationalize why I was coming here to my family that was nervous about it being my first time traveling abroad, and then to my professors and mentors who were genuinely confused why I was choosing to teach ESL instead of getting an accounting internship for the summer. Basically I felt like I had a million and one reasons not to come and only one real reason to actually go through with it. And that one reason I couldn’t really explain to people in logical words: it was more of a feeling that I needed to do something different with my life.

But as I said I was on a plane to San Jose 36 hours after my last final and I wasn’t turning back. My first day traveling abroad was long, and honestly it was a little hairy in a couple places, but at the end of it I had this super weird feeling of achievement and vigor for what else Costa Rica would bring.

I haven’t been disappointed since that first day. If you have never traveled abroad and you think it might be too scary or is not the right time in your life or might be too expensive, DON’T let that hold you back. I had a lot holding me back from coming to Potrero, but looking back it all seems very small in and insignificant now that I’m here.

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