From the blog

The Study Abroad Chronicles

“Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.”

Disclaimer: This post isn’t entirely about studying abroad. Just a little bit. But like, also not really. Before I start recording my study abroad adventures on this blog, I felt compelled to first share a bit of a backstory.

Every once and awhile, when it comes up in conversation, I’ll tell someone that I’m pretty sure I want to adopt children when I’m older. They almost always ask why, and I always tell them the same thing: In the grand scheme of things, there aren’t many people who have it better than I do. I mean,  yeah – there are people like the Kardashians and Oprah, who have a lot more money than I do. You could argue that all those rich people out there have better lives than you or me. But when I really think about the entire planet and consider all 7 billion+ of us, my life is about as good as it gets. I have an amazing family, I’m pretty healthy, and I’m on my way to earning my Bachelor’s degree at an amazing private university (thanks, mom and dad).

And I want to be able to give that to someone else. That’s why I want to adopt. I want to help someone who was already born into this world and was never given the chance to have all the amazing things that I have.

However, I can assure you that I’m not that selfless. I also really, really do not want to give birth. So there’s that too.

So why am I telling you this? Because before I go on, I want to acknowledge how fortunate I am. I’m so incredibly privileged and I know it.

I spent this past summer at home working 3 jobs. Almost all of my hometown friends were at their respective universities for the summer, so my social life was basically nonexistent. As a result, I spent a lot of time with my family, who I’ve always been very close with. But this past summer just reminded me of how amazing my family really is, and it was pretty great.

Then, as I was preparing to depart for Germany for the semester, my parents informed me that my mom was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.

For as long as I can remember, my biggest fear has been my parents getting sick. To be honest, at first it didn’t seem real. I chose not to see the situation for what it was: something that could possibly ruin my perfect little world. Then I felt very, very scared. More than anything, I just wanted my mom to be okay.

Most of the time, my mom is my best friend. We went through a rough patch in my early teens where I made her life a living hell. I refused to treat her with respect.

Then, as I grew older, I stopped being a jerk and I admitted to myself (and, every once and awhile, to her) that she’s right most of the time. She has taught me so much. When I moved to Indy for school when I was 17, I finally understood what an amazing person she is.

She’s also the woman I look up to the most. I am so thankful to have inherited her passion and strength. But as much as I have already learned from her, I still need her. I’m nowhere near ready to live a life without my mother in it – and I don’t think I’ll ever be.

Anyway, despite this Earth-shattering news, my mom still insisted that I spend the semester abroad. So I packed my massive suitcase and headed to the airport, where I sobbed as my family hugged me goodbye.

A few days after arriving in Germany, I got a text from my dad that read, “Mom got some good news today. Act surprised when she tells you.”

This is a classic Ray Blessman text.

At this point, I was pretty miserable. I had only spent a few days in my new city but I was already emailing my dad, making him promise that if I wasn’t happy within a month I could fly home. I was homesick beyond belief, and my anxiety was off the charts. All I wanted was to be back home, watching Gilmore Girls with my mom and answering all of her annoying questions about how the show ends.

When my mom finally told me the good news, I did feel a small sense of relief.

Initially my parents had told us that my mom was going to need surgery. First, the doctor would need to run some more in-depth tests to better understand the aneurysm; then, they would go in and basically remove the aneurysm. The surgery was supposed to be very low-risk, with only about a 1-2% chance of “complications.” But I looked it up, and in this case, “complications” basically means a stroke or death.

My parents said they asked the doctor, and he said there was no risk in waiting until I returned from Germany in January to do the surgery. My parents know me, and they know that if I was 4,000 miles away while some guy was operating on my mom, I wouldn’t eat, sleep, or breathe until I found out she was okay.

Now for the good news part.

My mom informed me that instead of having one aneurysm, she actually had two. You’re probably thinking (as was I), how the hell does this qualify as “good news”? Well, as it turns out, the two aneurysms are smaller and have pretty thick walls, which means there’s an even smaller chance of them rupturing on their own. In light of this new information, both of the doctors my mom saw said they would not recommend surgery at this point.

Essentially, I took this news to mean one thing: my mom is okayer than previously thought.

I still force her to text me every night before she goes to bed, though. And I know I’m not going to stop worrying about her anytime soon.

I’m trying this new thing where I turn everything into a learning experience. So here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Life can be a fucking bitch. Finding out that your worst fear in the world is coming true right before you leave the country sucks – especially when you already suffer from severe anxiety like I do.
  2. I have some really amazing people in my life. Before my mom started openly talking about her aneurysm, I only talked to five of my friends about it. Each one of them had something different to say to me, and they each helped me in their own way. I know that any of them would’ve dropped anything to help me through this – and they still would.
  3. If anything, I’ll come out of this awful experience a little bit stronger than I was before.

Trust me, I wish I could’ve started my first study abroad blog post off by posting pictures of the city I’m living in and writing a few sentences about how I like my school and the food here is great. But to do that would ignore an entire section of my journey: the beginning.

My adventure here in Germany is just beginning, and I know it will be nothing short of amazing. But I wanted to acknowledge that the events that occurred this summer will have an impact on my semester abroad, because they surely have had an impact on me as a person.

I’ve officially been in Friedrichshafen, Germany for two weeks now. I’m finally settled in my flat, and I’ve even made some really awesome friends. I’m starting to really like it here.

Stay tuned, because there will be some fun, purely travel-related updates hitting the blog very soon.

xoxo Ann

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