Plot Twist!

Three days ago, I received a call from my SIT admissions counselor. “AnnaLeah, I’m gonna ask you to sit down,” she instructed me over the phone. “I have some news that will shake your world.”

During my first semester at Hope I wrote the word Rwanda in my planner on days when I needed some encouragement that my hard work would pay off.

This wasn’t the first time I had talked with my admissions counselor. She had been supportive in my application and decision process, from the moment I decided I wanted to go to Rwanda in the first semester of my freshman year through the final pre-departure meetings. I was initially excited to hear her voice over the phone and assumed she would have more good news to tell me about my program, which was scheduled to start in a little over a week.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. She had some shocking news to share. It turned out that the program that I had registered for, studied for, bought my plane tickets for—the program that I had been dreaming about since freshman year—had been cancelled due to political changes in Rwanda.

The Good News

Fortunately, SIT had some options for me. They offered me several alternative programs, reimbursement for my plane tickets, and help with deciding what to do next. My admissions counselor made herself available to me and was able to answer all my questions about transferring. Hope’s Off-Campus Study office was also extremely supportive in the transition and offered to help with whatever I needed.

SIT offered transfer locations as diverse as South Africa, Nepal, and Argentina. After a night of careful deliberation and research, I decided to transfer to SIT Jordan: Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East. While Jordan is completely different from Rwanda, I knew that SIT would help to make my transition as smooth as possible, and I was hopeful that this plot twist could turn out to be an adventure—albeit a different adventure than the one I had planned.

Packing, packing, packing

My program in Rwanda had been scheduled to start on February 6, but the Jordan program starts almost an entire week earlier on February 1. This means that my time for preparation has drastically decreased, while my to-do list has exponentially expanded! Suddenly I need to find warmer and more modest clothes, different travel documents, and new plane tickets—and do it all in the span of one long weekend!

Packing prep!

In any extra minutes, I somehow also need to do some intensive research into Jordan’s politics and culture. Spending some time covering the basics of Arabic and reading newspapers from Jordan would be ideal. Will I complete everything in time? Will I achieve a super-human ability to work without sleeping for three straight days? Will I somehow forget to pack my passport, ID, and vaccination record, making it impossible for me to leave the country when (and if) I make it to the airport? Anything is possible—watch for my next blog post to find out what happens!

Mental Preparation

I won’t deny that I shed a few tears when I found out about the program change. While I’m super excited to get to go to Jordan, I’m also disappointed that I won’t be experiencing Rwanda. I’ve spent the past few months learning basic Kinyarwanda, reading books about Rwandan history and culture, and bingeing videos from youtubers who have moved to Rwanda. I’ve told pretty much everyone I know about my study abroad plans. My daily Spotify playlist is titled “Learn Kinyarwanda!” and is filled with my new favorite Rwandan artists—full disclosure, I’m listening to it as I type this blog post.

Trying to wrap my head around the fact that I won’t be able to put all my preparation to use is difficult. Coupled with the stress of changing programs and trying to prepare within a very short time, I can end up stuck in spiraling negative thoughts.

Growth does not happen without struggle. My goal for this semester is to grow, so I guess I’m already getting what I asked for! Hopefully this will help me to become more adaptable and willing to adjust plans on the fly. I’m already gearing up for my “Learn Arabic!” playlist—it’s going to be epic.

Before I found out about the program cancellation, I attended an SIT webinar about mental health abroad. SIT encouraged students to identify their mental health triggers and coping mechanisms before we leave, and I used my weeks at home to practice coping strategies. Journaling, cooking healthy food, and going for long walks and runs were all life-giving for me as I prepared to go to Rwanda. In the frenzied pace of switching countries, I continue to seek out moments of calm so that the stress doesn’t become overwhelming. Hopefully all this practice in dealing with stress will come in handy once I make it to my program!

The view on a peaceful snowy run

If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, thanks so much for coming along with me! I’m excited to share my journey with you. Here’s to embracing all the plot twists to come!

Published by AnnaLeah Lacoss

Class of 2025 Major | English Minor | Peace and Justice Studies Program | Oregon Extension Location | Oregon, U.S.A.

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