Since moving to Manhattan last summer, I've learned that there are two things you must have to survive the big city. The first, of course, is an apartment. The second (which is of equal importance but slightly difficult to define) is opportunity. So when I heard the buzz about a study-abroad program in my journalism department at New York University, I was immediately interested in the details. For one month, a graduate student could travel to Africa, be housed by an NYU facility, and learn how to conduct international reporting. Seeing as I didn't study abroad during undergrad and I had always wanted to visit Africa, I thought it would be an adventure I could not miss. Not to mention my growing curiosity about international freelancing. So at the beginning of the spring semester, I signed up for the course and began to prepare for the trip.
As I waited for the airport shuttle van to pick me up for the airport, a slew of thoughts rushed through my mind. I started to go over the items I had packed in my luggage — passport, laptop, travel guide, pens. I felt warm with anxiety, but I knew the humidity wasn't all to blame — sunblock, Band-Aids, antibiotics. I wiped my palms against my shorts — malaria medication, mosquito repellent. I could feel a nervous knot in my stomach as the trip weighed on my mind.
I'm on my way to Africa, I thought. How did I expect to feel? Yet, when I saw the airport shuttle approach, two feelings helped the knot begin to unwind: courage and curiosity. I added them to my packing list and climbed into the van.
The next morning I awoke as the window shades on my flight to Ghana were lifted one by one. The airport had a feeling of calm reticence. No buildings towered in the distance. No planes circled overhead. I waited for the bus to take me to the terminal as I watched men with automatic rifles walk the grounds. It was strange to see the rifles hang from a strap on their shoulders with the same nonchalance of a purse. I had arrived in a new city with a foreign landscape and a new set of cultural norms, but at least the humidity was familiar.