December 2016 – I had just finished up my finals which meant it was Christmas break! I was ready for some time off before going back to school for the spring semester of my sophomore year. I was excited to be done with school for a bit, but I was even more excited because in January I would be going to school for a semester on the island of St. Croix.
Now, there is a bit of background information that is needed to guide you to the end of this story…
I was born in Lincoln, NE and I moved to Kearney with my father when I was in elementary school. I continued to live in Kearney throughout my graduation from high school and then began college at the University here in Kearney (where I still live). My father has always lived at least 10 minutes away from me and I see him most days. My sister moved here years ago and goes to school with me, works with me, and hangs out with me frequently.
I’ve heard that I needed to travel while I’m in college and I was all for that. Everyone said that I should do it while I had the chance. I had never seen the ocean or traveled much at all, so I thought what the heck! I decided I should just go as far away as my college’s national student exchange program would allow me to!
January 2017 – I said goodbye to my friends and family and got on my flight to St. Croix.
At this point in my life, there have been very few times that I have felt that intense of a pain.
When I got to St. Croix I had to navigate my way through to the baggage claim area, which isn’t difficult to find because they have a pretty tiny airport. After finding my bag and standing around for some time, I was greeted by a lovely lady (who’s name I no longer remember); she introduced herself to me and told me that she would basically be the travel guide for all of the students who were participating in this program.
St. Croix is the type of place that moves very slow and everyone is pretty relaxed, so we didn’t rush to get out of there or to follow any certain schedule. Being “on time” didn’t seem to be of much importance because they had a very nice and chill atmosphere. We hopped in a van and headed to campus.
The ride to the campus was terrifying in itself because they drive on the left side of the road and that was another thing that I had never experienced.
The first day consisted of meeting the other students and getting into our rooms. We came the week before school started, so no one was really on campus and I had my room to myself.
I can’t recall what the order of events were exactly because I was running on only a few hours of sleep that first day.
The second day was spent at the beach. It was incredible and we spent all day playing in the water, drinking, and laying around. My first beach experience was absolutely breathtaking.
The next day we set up everything that we needed for when school began Monday and we went to introductory meetings with different people on campus. This day was basically to explore what the school was like. Later that night we went to a festival where there was music, drinks, and most of the people that lived on the island (this was a huge event for St. Croix). I went home early because I was exhausted and hadn’t been sleeping well. After leaving that night I kept wondering if I should have just stayed.
After those first three days I stayed in my room and said no thank you to all of the other students that invited me to the beach or to play games. I spent this day in bed; I spent the whole day crying. The previous nights I had called my sister and my best friends and cried a lot while talking to them. I felt dumb because I was on this beautiful island, yet laying in bed crying.
That fourth day led me to contacting all of the staff that were involved at UNK and the St. Croix campus and asking if there was anyway that I can go home. After a full day of calls and talking to people, I bought a ticket to go home. I gave the girl in the room next to mine all of my dorm bedding and anything else I couldn’t fit in my bag and I left the next day.
A lot of people worried that I would regret coming home.
January 2017 – I took the semester off of school to figure out what I needed to do to take care of myself.
March 2018 – I’m sure that if I would have stayed and waited for more students to come onto St. Croix’s campus that I would have been okay, but I don’t regret coming home.
Everyone tells you that traveling at this point in your life is so important and I agree, but not everyone is ready for that. I thought that getting away would magically make me not be depressed anymore and I thought that it would be easy, but it isn’t always.
I went to St. Croix for 5 days and then came back. I laugh about it now and I decided that I don’t want to travel alone. Traveling is important, but not everyone needs to experience that at such a young age and alone.