As our plane curved over the tall high rises of Panama City, I felt a thrill of half excitement, half nervousness sweep over me. Here I was, about to land in a country I had never been before, where I was to spend 14 weeks of my life, more time than I had ever spent away from home. I took a deep breath.
Travel has always involved fundamentally opposite reactions for me. I love to explore – I want to see the wonders of the world, live in new cultures, try local delicacies, and experience the magic of other countries. But, at the same time, I long for the comfort and familiarity of home, in the house that I grew up, where it is easy and passive to live from one day to the next. It is a push and a pull that I am always facing when traveling, whether to my college in North Carolina or to Panama.
Working through these feelings, I have found the most important part is acknowledging my own apprehension, telling myself that I will not regret the choice I make to travel, and so far, I never have.
Coming into Panama was a whirlwind, a busy two days in Panama City full of tours, traffic, information, and confusion. It was all worth it, though, to step into the new center on Isla Colon. Looking at the shimmering water, the classroom out on the pier, the reflection of the palm trees in the pool, and tasting the delicious cooking, I knew that I had made the right choice. Not even a week in, and the place and people around me were making it feel like home. With this start, I can’t wait to see what these next three months have in store.