I was terrified. I don't like to fly under the best of circumstances, but my connector flight to D.C. was to be the last (tiny) plane out before the airport closed due storms from Hurricane Floyd. The turbulence from bad weather alone would have been enough to tie my stomach in knots.
But my fear of going halfway around the world to live for a year -- without my family, friends or even a passing acquaintance -- meant I hadn't eaten or slept much for the few days preceding the flight, leaving me a weak, sniffling disaster with a passport and a whole lot of luggage. If not for the support of one of my dearest friends who waited with me at the D.C. airport and another BFF who made a care package to keep me entertained on the flight to London, I might not have survived the trip.
When I arrived at my flat in Cardiff the next day, alone and exhausted, I was certain I had made the biggest mistake of my life. That night, I began my first journal entry with these words:
"I am courage. At least that's what Mom said when I called her from my host Rotarian's house sobbing at 5 p.m. She said that courage isn't being unafraid; it's being afraid, but still facing your fears. So, here I am, facing them."She was right, of course (moms usually are), although it took several weeks before I believed her. And the year, spent studying magazine journalism at Cardiff University as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, was one of the best decisions I ever made.
In celebration of that decision and in thanks to my parents for helping me find the courage I needed a decade ago, I'll be posting excepts from my year abroad over the next month -- some snippets from my journals, but also copy from feature articles I wrote while I was there. Since I wasn't tech-savvy enough to be on the forefront of blogging in 1999, I'm taking this opportunity to relive the experience now -- hope you don't mind coming along on the trip.