Leaving on a Jet Plane

By Jessica Burkard — For about a month now, my friends and family have asked me on a regular basis one of two questions: “Have you started packing yet?” or “Are you ready?”

I wish I could say all my bags are packed and I’m ready to go to South Africa, but the truth is I haven’t even begun to start packing (I actually still have some laundry to do), and I am absolutely not ready to leave quite yet. Even though I am a huge procrastinator and I am a bit afraid of the culture shock in store for me in the next few days, those aren’t the reasons for my lack of preparation. So if that’s not it, then what is?

I hate saying goodbye. I think I simply associate packing with anxiety, and in this past week, I knew I wanted to spend my goodbyes wisely and without worry. Some would argue that I could have packed earlier and still enjoyed everything, but for me, doing so would have spoiled a week full of fun.

Instead of packing, I had an absolute blast going to Summerfest to see artists like David Gray or Young the Giant, playing volleyball with friends, and eating dinner with family. I don’t think I could have asked for a better last week in the United States.

However, I found out this week that one of the hardest things about saying goodbye is that it’s not just my approach or reaction but also the other person’s. As a future teacher, it is in my character to take into account other’s feelings, and yet, I somehow forgot that not everyone says goodbye like I do. Some people can just run up, wish me luck, and give me a hug, whereas I know others refuse to directly say “goodbye.” It’s a hard realization to make, but it’s important to keep in mind to remain at ease.

Anyways, I am officially down to less than 24 hours before I leave for the airport, so I should really start packing. But, I think it’s a good idea to remind myself, as well as others, that these goodbyes are not final. Five months will fly by like a dream and I will be back before you and I know it! These aren’t goodbyes, they are “until we meet agains”, “see you soons”, or “see you laters.”

So, with the time I have left in the US, I’ll remember stop saying “goodbye” and instead say, “see you later, alligator.”  That should at least crack a smile, and maybe I’ll get an “after while, crocodile” in return.


Jessica Burkard is a senior majoring in Elementary Education and Psychology. This summer she will be sharing stories from her study abroad experience in Capetown, South Africa! Although she was born in New York, she considers herself a Wisconsinite after growing up in Mequon, WI. Jessica is the eldest of three siblings and at Marquette, she lives with a total of 8 roommates. In her freetime she enjoys painting, baking, and singing in the shower.

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