Finally being able to travel abroad has been surreal. Whenever I remind myself that I'm in Asia (!!!), it doesn't seem real, but instead like I'm in a dream.
Being here has been a nonstop, 24/7 mental workout. I definitely want to write about culture shock and the experience of traveling internationally for the first time, but I'll save that for another post or seven. Instead, enjoy this unnecessarily melodramatic shpeal about nothing relevant whatsoever!
I have always been especially interested in other cultures and traveling, but I found out that studying abroad was a thing when I was in 6th grade. My mom and I were making one of our library runs, and I stumbled upon a series entitled S.A.S.S., or Students Across the Seven Seas in the Young Adults section. Each book followed a different high school girl on her year (or semester or summer or whatever) abroad. I loved them, and I actually still have The Finnish Line. It was ruled un-returnable and hopelessly ruined after I spilled water on it during a road trip to Albuquerque.
Since I was 15, up until a few months ago, I had tirelessly pursued studying abroad in high school. I had my heart set on France initially; I've been in love with the French culture since the 5th grade, so, naturally, it was my first priority. However, my depression was deemed too severe for me to handle going abroad for a year, so it didn't work out. I was sad, of course, but I knew there was still time for it to become a reality, so I was still hopeful.
I tried again, with the goal of going abroad for my senior year of high school. It's most common for kids to study abroad their junior year of high school, so I kind of felt like I was struggling to catch up, if that makes sense. Which is kind of ironically hilarious, considering how much more I felt like that later. After all I would still be going abroad in high school at this point.
Spoiler alert: I didn't go abroad my senior year.
Again, I felt disappointed. But there was still the opportunity to go abroad for a gap year. I knew I would be the odd one out if I went abroad for a gap year; I'd be the high school graduate among 16 and 17 year olds. Feeling "behind" or "struggling to catch up" if I studied abroad my senior year would be nothing compared to going abroad for a gap year. But I pursued it anyway. This time, I was accepted by AFS USA (the study abroad program), but was rejected by four countries because my antidepressants/anti-crazy medications hadn't stayed the same for long enough. Four countries. Four.
This time, there was no Plan B to count on, besides studying abroad in college. I was already planning on doing that. But everyone I had talked to who had studied abroad in high school and college said that studying abroad in college doesn't even compare to high school. Studying abroad in high school is worlds better than college. So I really felt like I had blown it; I had failed at something that was so much easier for other kids to do. Thousands of people have studied abroad in high school, but I couldn't manage it. Having this dream crushed was a loss that I'm still grieving.
I didn't realize when I planned this trip to Thailand how much it would resemble a study abroad experience. I'm staying with a family, just like you do when you study abroad (granted they are my own family, but shut your mouth this is my blog anyway). I'm not really 'vacationing' here, and am instead experiencing what real life in Thailand is like. I'm picking up bits of the language (which, by the way, has surprised even me, as Thai initially looked and sounded like gibberish [is that super racist?]. It's been really bizarre and interesting seeing/hearing a language that isn't rooted in Latin, and is instead it's completely own thing).
And this whole realization, among other things such as looking/feeling like a gorilla and being lonely, has made me feel every negative emotion in existence. And feeling every negative emotion in existence, even though I'm in an awesome place with so much to look at and focus on and absorb, has made me realize something else: your problems, no matter where you go or what you do, will follow you. You can't escape them by ignoring them, and can only achieve relief if you deal with them head on. You can run, but you can't hide. Literally.
To be honest, I don't really know what I'll do with this information. As with most everything else, I'll probably acknowledge it and ignore it, and go back to being a cynical, pessimistic piece of trash. But lol what can ya do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Wat Thepthidaram & yours truly
Thanks for reading, no one!