Torero Life Abroad

From Inside USD -- Torero Life Abroad chronicles the life of a University of San Diego student as they participate in the study abroad experience. Follow Taylor Milam’s real-life adventures, anticipation, and experiences as she studies abroad in London for the fall semester. She is a junior at USD majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing. USD ranks 1st in the nation for undergraduate study abroad participation, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2011 Report. This is the first installment of the series.

The trip I’ve been planning for the past year is here: suitcases line the wall of my bedroom, rain jackets have been purchased, my passport is ready, and my boarding pass is sitting in the kitchen. I’m going to London.

The truth of that last statement hasn’t truly set in yet. Intellectually, I understand that I’m leaving, but emotionally I’m not sure I grasp the enormity of the journey that looms ahead of me. I’ve always known that I wanted to study abroad; in fact, I’ve looked forward to it since I began college.

I grew up a military child, and traveling was as standard for me as “hometowns” are for most kids. While moving every two years certainly had its challenges (the gut-wrenching dread of eating lunch alone on the first day at a new school will probably never fully go away), it also instilled an exceptional sense of adventure in me. I’m the first person to say yes to an outlandish scheme or lead a new expedition. And while this has occasionally landed me in trouble — there was that memorable incident of the police escorting us down from the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles — being adventurous is a trait I’d never trade.

But as I think about my latest and greatest adventure, I feel … nervous. Everyone who hears I’m going to London for a semester squeals with excitement. They are so unbelievably excited for me that I almost feel anxious. As they continue on about the wonderful experiences that await me, I can’t help thinking, What if it isn’t so wonderful? What if I’m scared or alone … or even hate it? What then? I keep these reservations to myself and smile politely as they continue to gush, but the truth is that I’m scared. Sure, there’s this giddy feeling of excitement, but I’d be lying if I said the excitement outweighs the fear.

When I decided that I wanted to study abroad, it became apparent that I needed to work the year leading up to my departure in order to afford these travels. I struggled through the overwhelming experience of attempting to balance schoolwork and a 30-hour workweek at my restaurant job by remembering the bigger picture.

That make-believe image of myself wandering the streets of London is about to become reality. I made the decision not to research the sights of London or England in general, and while part of me is slightly regretting that decision as my departure date nears, it’s delightful to face my new experience without any cumbersome checklists or unrealistic expectations. Of course I’m expecting to have a magical, life-altering experience full of dazzling adventures and memories that last a lifetime, but those expectations are totally reasonable … right?

— Taylor Milam