I can still vividly remember 2 years ago, when I first walked into Alumni Hall to browse the Study Abroad Fair as a freshman. Lots of free pens, lots of thick program guides.
I returned to the same fair one year later as a sophomore. More books, more pens, but a closer look at certain countries and programs. I narrowed it down to London and Sydney -- the inevitably safe choices.
I initially planned on applying to UCL (University College London) until I discovered that they have no direct exchange deal with Penn State. "I can still do it," I thought. "I don't need Penn State or some middle-man brokerage to hold my hand through this process."
Then I saw the price.
After meetings with my academic advisor, a study abroad advisor, and one useless information session save free pizza, I ultimately settled on the University of Westminster around April. I put off the application until mid-summer, which was a mistake, remembering the agony of of applying to colleges during my senior year of high school.
Then there was a long wait. Absolutely nothing from July through early October.
Then came the "home" orientation for a program nobody had yet been accepted to. Slideshows of London, stories from past participants, explanation of what "culture shock" really is. All of this for a room full of people who's next 5 months was still undetermined. Nevertheless, my excitement was re-kindled.
I received an email shortly after midnight on October 22nd during my trip to New York for the CMJ Music Marathon. CIEE told me I had been "Conditionally Accepted." Penn State said "WAITLIST." I flipped.
The tangled bureaucracy of three institutions (Penn State, CIEE, and Westminster) neglected to inform its applicants that this was standard procedure. I later found out that I was not alone in my instantaneous outrage.
So I began to send emails, then waited some more.
Today - November 12th - less than two months before I'm supposed to arrive on the other side of the ocean, I, and almost everyone else, received a formal acceptance.
Other students studying in other countries have known for months. What makes Westminster so complicated? Why do they cut it down to the wire ?
It's a relief, yes, but now I begin a sprint to turn in all of the necessary paperwork, medical forms, a second "home orientation," make travel plans, and find someone to take a parking space off my hands.
I feel like a douche lamenting over the struggles of trying to study abroad, seeing as only a small percentage of American college students are academically and financially able to do so. But c'mon, fix this bureaucratic bullshit.
Nevertheless, the real stress, for the time being, is over.
Now everything can start moving forward. Step 1: Plane ticket.
I'm going to London.