Travelling and the State of the World

By Emma Wijers | March 6, 2022

In a couple of months I’ll be boarding a plane headed for New York, and I’ll go to the United States for the first time in my life. For an American Studies program, surprisingly few people have been to the US in their lives, including me. And suddenly, I’ll be living there for nearly half a year. I often have dreams that I’m going to the university there and I get lost or I don’t feel I belong. It seems like homesickness is already starting. Above that, I notice that my classmates and I have an underlying fear of the uncertainty of it all, with Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine lurking in the background. Luckily, we have each other to get rid of that fear and try and make the best of our time there.

I realize there’s a trend forming in my pieces. I seem to be scared about a lot of things, whether that is taking tests in an exam hall or living in a country across the ocean for five months. However, that fear is not unjustified. The arranging of it all is what causes my classmates and I the most stress. Firstly, we’ll have to save up enough money to go. The estimated total comes to about 10.000 euros, which can be more if you want to travel as well. Secondly, we are anxious  about where we are going. Some of my friends have visited  or even lived in the United States before, and are a bit more certain about their travels. However, even they will likely be nervous about having to discover a brand new university and area. Luckily, most of us won’t be going alone. For me, personally, that takes away a lot of the nervousness.

So I’ve researched  a little about the university and the area I’m going to, which is the State University of New York, at Geneseo. I attended a zoom meeting in which  a representative of the university told me it was a really big dedication of me to join the call all the way from the Netherlands. I appreciate the compliment, but an online information session is the least of my concern. All jokes aside, it really did help me to hear from the university and be reassured that international students will be guided through the entire process. For example, on our orientation day, all students will be taken shopping for linens and other things for our dorms. Such an information session gives me some assurance and also makes me more excited to have a more clear idea of where I’m going to live.

Of course, there is the uncertainty I mentioned earlier. For the past two years, only a few students went  abroad because of the pandemic. This  year that scenario is a little less likely, because the measures have almost been  completely lifted. However, there are a lot of things going on in the world that give many people stress in general. Among my friends, colleagues, and family, I notice an underlying stress about the war in Ukraine. Besides that the war might ruin our chances of traveling to America in a few months, that is less to my concern than what is going on there right now, and how many people have to suffer and flee their country, as it hits close to home to see so many people in distress in an unthinkable situation. I do have the concern that this war might stand in the way of my minor in the United States, but above all I hope the war stops and everyone in Ukraine is safe and able to go back to their homes.

The most important thing, I think, is to check on each other and help others when needed. Whether it’s stress about traveling abroad, or feeling scared about a war in Europe, ask people  how they feel,  if they need help or just want to talk. For almost two years, we have lived in a strange and uncertain time that has changed the way we live completely. In such circumstances, it’s easy for one’s mental health to deteriorate. So be kind to one another.