Oh, the Places I’ll Go!
 Pre-departure Reflections.

A serendipitous fortune cookie helps make a decision.

  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral - Vienna, Austria

One book that is very near and dear to me is Dr. Seuss’s ever-popular, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”. The story centers around an unnamed protagonist who is understandably cautious and uncertain about the journey in front of him. There are incredible messages and pieces of wisdom that I have carried with me since childhood and such advice is applicable to anyone about to undergo a major life transition. As I prepare to study abroad at Georgia Tech Lorraine in Metz, France, I think back to Dr. Seuss’s words and am reminded to embrace change with open arms.

If someone told me six months ago that I’d soon be embarking on the trip of a lifetime, I would certainly express some disbelief. As much as I have wanted to travel abroad on my own, a small part of me did not believe it was a tangible reality in my near future. I must admit that it was a simple, yet moving message from a fortune cookie last semester that pushed me to follow through and make my dreams of travelling abroad come to fruition. I had just finished eating dinner at Panda Express — as was my bi-weekly ritual. That day, the fortune in my cookie read, “You will take a pleasant journey to a place far away.” For me, this message felt serendipitous and could not have arrived at a better time. I kept this fortune and it prompted me to reevaluate why I was not actively pursuing a study abroad experience while at Georgia Tech. The words were straightforward and the signs were all there — I needed to make the leap and pursue this study abroad opportunity wholeheartedly.

A few summers ago, I had the privilege of travelling to Nigeria with my family for a month-long vacation to visit friends and family we hadn’t seen in a long time. Although I was raised in a Nigerian household, it wasn’t until this trip that I was able to truly grasp and observe the cultural underpinnings of Nigerian society and traditions. Moreover, I visited major metropolitan cities including Lagos, Abuja, and Enugu as well as the ancestral villages of Nnewi and Awkuzu. My time in Nigeria certainly sparked a bit of wanderlust in me — I cannot wait to travel abroad again. As much as I am excited to go to France I, like the subject of “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”, I am also nervous for what is to come. In Nigeria, we stayed in the comfort of my grandparent’s home, surrounded by a familiar culture, food, and language. In France, I will be exploring uncharted waters.

I applied to Georgia Tech Lorraine because I knew that I wanted to grow both academically and personally. Going to France means transplanting myself to an unfamiliar part of the globe, but I am confident that taking this leap will ultimately bring self-growth. In removing myself from the comfort of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, I am challenging myself to be more vulnerable and to view the world through a new lens. I expect that there will be inevitable social and cultural differences, but I plan to wield these differences to inspire a new frame of thinking about the world.

There is much to gain from this study abroad experience. I will learn how to be a global engineer, and most importantly a global citizen. The fact that GT Lorraine is an internationally renowned program was also a major draw for me. I want to soak up as much as possible while in Metz, France. I must confess that I am the stereotypical tourist who enjoys taking pictures and visiting historic landmarks. The Gothic Saint-Stephen Cathedral and the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains are definitely on my must-see list!

Two months from now, I will be moving to GT Lorraine’s campus. I am eager to explore the beautiful city of Metz, France and I cannot wait to venture to other cities in Europe as well. I look forward to making new friends and interacting with new people. While in France, I hope to gain a basic understanding of the French language and culture. I have already downloaded a French language app on my phone for early practice! I will surely miss my friends and family while I am away, but I am excited to build new bonds and sharing new memories. My full name, Ijeabalum, translates to “my life’s journey has been worthwhile”. My name is a powerful badge that reminds me to make the most of life’s journey and to strike the balance between remaining grounded while venturing out to try something new and different.

I’ll end my first post with my favorite lines from the book:

“You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

Until next time!