Connecting Across the Chapters

Hello everyone! My name is Elizabeth Shaver, and today is May 26, which means I have barely a week before I will find myself on a plan to the Philippines and begin a new chapter in my life. I will be working with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in project management. I intend to let this chapter be informed by my past, not dictated by it. Let me explain. 

I’ve been abroad twice before, once with my high school German language class, and then later in the Summer to visit a friend in the Czech Republic. These experiences are enough to tell me that spending some time outside your own country can be incredible, awe inspiring, and terrifying all at once. In Germany, I loved the scenery, the mountains, the long road trips through forests, the incredible meals and architecture. I had a few conversations with locals as well, and it was so exhilarating to see that my studying had yielded results. But what I did not have while I was there was connections. I had a few conversations, yes, but my classmates were on a completely different page than I was. I wanted to connect with them but didn’t know how and felt alienated by their confidence and their wealth. I ended up spending a lot of my time texting friends about what I was doing instead of experiencing it myself because I had no one with whom to spend. My trip to the Czech Republic was much different. I was with my friend, and I was able to experience everything with him. However, unlike with Germany, I had not taken the time to study specific culture-based things and stuck with him the entire time. I want to take a page from both of these books this time. I want to experience the culture as well as make connections. I don’t know anyone in the Philippines. I currently don’t know any of my classmates going to the Philippines either. However, this time I want to make friends and have people with me to experience life itself there. 

I think it’s fair to say that as I sit here in front of the computer tower that I am leaving behind that I am scared. If you’re a traveler or will be, maybe my fears will be different from what you expect or maybe they will be a little bit like yours. I am wary of the typical dangers and precautions to take, such as making sure to never travel alone, keep your belongings close, be aware of crime and all that, but I am confident that I will take the steps necessary in order to keep myself safe. What I am afraid of is making my hope come true– to find that human connection in an unfamiliar place. To me, the thought of failing to make any connections is terrifying. But I believe that it will happen.

I admit it, I have done a little tripping up in the pre-travel requirements, my own fears and struggles holding me back. But I am excited to become the best intern that I can be. I have always wanted to study abroad, and I am so thrilled that it is finally happening.