When I was in Seoul, Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma. 3.8 million people were told to not only to evacuate their homes but to leave the state entirely and so while in South Korea, there was not much I could do to help my loved ones stay safe back in Florida. The only consolation I could confide in was that my parents lived in North Florida while the area that the hurricane was expected to make most of the damage in was South Florida. They would be as safe as they could be within the state. My friends from South Florida drove up to Georgia, and my extended family living in South Florida went up to stay with my mom and dad. Of course, everything turned out fine after the hurricane –minus the occasional missing shingle and lack of
electricity, but the days leading up to the hurricane wreaked havoc on my nerves. My anxiety was heightened because my classes at Korea University had just started and I could not focus on my classes when I all my attention was directed towards what was going on at the opposite side of the world. The 14-hour difference kept me up all night, which made me call my family 3-4 times a day just to make sure they were preparing diligently for the storm.
Now, although I am a terrible example of a calm person during an event as big as this, I now know what you can do to help yourself remain calm during a possibly life-changing/ threatening situation. What helped me the most the two days before the hurricane was that I could rely on my religious faith. I can’t and won’t pretend that everyone will find their religion (or lack thereof) to be ameliorating towards the stress. For that reason, I also want to advise that you talk to those around you. Just being able to share my worries with people who cared about me was therapeutic on its own and it made the situation sit much lighter on my shoulders.
I couldn’t help but watch the news during every free second I had; every update made me worry less as I found out the hurricane would be a category 2 (in comparison to a 5) when it reached my house. Although it is not the most calming experience, I recommend staying updated as often as possible. Knowing what’s going on will just make you feel like the distance between point A and point B is closer together and therefore will ease the feeling of helplessness.
Although I had no idea whether or not my family and friends would be okay, I did know one thing. I was too far to make a physical difference. I think it’s important to remember that you cannot just get on the next plane at any moment. This is, sadly, a part of the study abroad experience – dealing with problems as they come and using your distance to help calm your family members. I used my distance to remind my parents of things they could forget. For example, I told them to ensure that the outside cameras would not fly off. I could also guilt my family members into putting shutters on the windows to make me feel convinced of their safety.
Overall, I don’t know how far you are in your study abroad process. Maybe you are still not sure if you want to go abroad, or maybe you are already abroad but looking for some advice on how to stay level-headed during something as worrisome as this. However, fear of something like this happening was one of my biggest concerns as I began planning my study abroad. Maybe you are having the same thoughts. If so, then I just want you to keep this in mind:
Simply applying to go abroad was a huge feat for me. Not only am I extremely close with family, but I could not have imagined living miles away from my biggest support system. Putting all my fears aside – from homesickness to having limited finances, to something happening while I’m gone (like the hurricane) – I applied. I pushed past the fear and was able to get accepted into one of the prestigious S.K.Y. universities (Seoul Nat’l, Korea, Yonsei).
The best advice I can give you is to be confident and to ignore the fear. Now, this is not to be confused with fear in the sense of “should I cross the road while it’s busy”, but fear in the sense of maybe speaking in a language you’re not familiar with, or asking questions when you are unsure. This is the kind of fear that holds us all back from life’s greatest possibilities.
At any given time, you will get the chance to stop where you’re at. Maybe it’s someone inviting you to lunch or maybe it’s a job offer. Whatever it is, I ask that you take the chance. It might not seem well-planned or it might seem like a dead end, but these are the chances in life that can show you how wonderful this world we live in actually is.
While I was in South Korea, I learned that the alleyways we might be scared to venture into are actually the places that lead you to the hidden treasures the city offers. Metaphorically, I would say that the idea that the road less traveled is the one holding the world’s best-kept secrets for you, so take that leap of faith.
As always, feel free to comment down below with any thoughts, questions, and/or suggestions. Safe travels!