Older Study Abroad Students

This life you take for granted, others wait a lifetime for, often dying battling for the dream they never achieve.
I tend to not think of myself as very old, until I find myself in a group of 17-20 year old "adult" students from the U.S. wandering around Belgium. You see, it's been bugging me for a few days: what dynamic is different in being here in Brussels with Vesalius College than my school back at home. I've been trying to figure it out, because there's been a "wall" with my co-students I don't quite have back at home. The ages are the same in comparison to UNCG, and though I likely realize a good Dicken's read is better than dub-step, I'm equally capable of rocking out to Scooter as much of the rest of them. I am, what I'd call and experienced-immature person. Not that these individuals are immature, but clearly I've been sniffing some glue if I'm having the adventure they're having and it took ten extra years of beating my head against the wall before putting the helmet on. Or is it more?

...and I'm really trying. Some students have introduced themselves to me, and I've done the random rounds of introductions and socialization. I'm not a troglodyte, nor a recluse. I'm also quite comfortable vagabonding around Brussels just for the fun of it by myself, so in the spectrum of emotional discourse, this is merely a nagging WTF rolling around in my brain.

I probably wouldn't have mentioned it, but today when one of the students introduced themselves to me, after on a "field trip" for 9 hours, he asked "do you go to school here?" Uh no, I'm just the creepy lady following you.

This combined with a orange headed man who demanded a picture with me in Grand Place wearing a soccer outfit, (totally unrelated) stuck in my head as I boarded the Metro back to Shuman. When I got back to the apartment, I looked into the mirror and tried to determine how old I'm looking this week. I've had a cold, and yes I look a bit haggard. "But a Crazy lady?"

You see though, I don't think it's my age, I think, and not to offend anyone here, is that we're of different social-economic classes. I'm not rich, I've never even been middle-class.... and to be quite honest, I applied, and was accepted to Vesalius in the past- but couldn't go because I couldn't get a grant. So this, what I'm here for has been a dream for years, and I had no one but myself to bring it to reality. My spouse even admits to hoping for my failure (rightfully) though she's always been supportive. I feel somehow it's bigger than just saying "I did it". It's about doing something I doubt very many people do: fix their regrets. More importantly, I hope that someone out there my age, or with my financial status- reads what I write and is encouraged to go abroad. It is despite breaking social norms and taboos,  likely- other than having children and falling in love, the the single greatest thing I will ever do as a person- and I'm so grateful destiny has dealt me this amazing life.

You never really want to be too honest, especially on a blog where my new social and professional life could indeed cause offense (like that's ever stopped me). What's more is I like each every one of them I've met. Personally I don't blame them, I am weird. Name one person who lives in Belgium, studies abroad, has a mortgage, two cats, a dog, two children, and a spouse. All of which I'm paying for while here. Every time I go to use my credit-card abroad, I've got to consider the repercussions of what I'm doing, I have responsibility.Spend too much, and my family goes hungry at home. I also am paying entirely for this adventure on my own and all with loans, and grants. (I'm certain some of them are too.) Much of which I'd gladly do a million times over, because despite all this, this is the most amazing time of my life. Indeed my worst fear right now is that day where I must depart Belgium, knowing I'd stay if I could afford it- in the end being exiled back to where I belong rather than where I want to be.

I can only support my claim to our differences by the few conversations I hear from fellow students. Conversations like spending 40 Euro on cab rides after a night of drinking. I gasped at paying 1.50 for a bottle of soda the other day, my only splurge since arriving, and forced myself to get the cheaper Mobib card  immediately because I was doing painful math converting the 2 Euros into US dollars every time I rode the Metro.. These are I-phone carrying, brand name wearing, just out of high-school students who no doubt are smarter, and come from far better backgrounds than I. Back at home, I go to one of the cheapest schools in the state, I buy my clothes at Wal-Mart and I, everyday up to departure worried about having money to even come.

My roommate, who I met for the first time briefly the other day, made me question my own self-worth as she promptly walked into the apartment, turned to me said "hell no" and walked out. It was, if truthful, a bit more detailed, where she tried to convince me what we were paying to study here was worth more than our very broken, yet character infused abode. Most of which I failed to notice till she brought it to my attention. We were from two different worlds, mine much like the apartment in which I remain has cracks in the floor, the paint chipping, and mysteriously trips the electricity breaker off in the middle of the night. I'll never be new and shiny again, but I refuse to let my shortcomings keep me from opening the doors that often are held open  for others. I am, like my apartment: broken- and this my journey, hopefully my cure.


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