Six of my favorite dresses are laid out on my bed. My duffle bag sits on the floor, open, eagerly awaiting the three that I will choose to take with me for my six weeks studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, at the Institute for American Universities. I’d like to say that I’m choosing these dresses based on their practicality: which goes with most shoes, which is most wrinkle-resistant, which is least likely to fly up with a gust of wind. But really, I’m making my selection based on which will make me look most like Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief. This last statement can tell you two things about me: I’m a proud cinephile and a deluded idealist.

You should also know that I’ve been attending college in New York City for the past four years. I’m in a dual-degree program at the New School, earning my B.F.A. in Fine Arts and my B.A. in History in five years. The pressure of my program plus the anxiety of living in a big city has been slowly building over these past years, so what I seek most in Aix is a quieter and more serene lifestyle. I want my heart-rate to slow a bit. I want to speak more calmly, to walk more calmly, and to look at my surroundings with an unfurrowed brow for a change.

Here, again, my idealism rears its pretty and [perhaps too] chipper head. Before my departure this Friday (butterflies just saying that!) I’m trying to remind myself that not everything will be fine and dandy. I’ve been practicing my French but I’m not fluent so there will be a language gap, as well as an inevitable culture gap. The airline may lose my luggage, the classes may be over my head, my host family and I may not get along (though from our emails they sound perfectly lovely), the plants there may give me allergies, I may get lost trying to go to Barcelona for the weekend. Whew. Anxiety attack narrowly averted.

I remind myself that all I can do before leaving is plan as much as possible, so that I’ll be able to enjoy my time abroad without a knot in my stomach. Also, even if all those things do go wrong, they’ll go wrong in France.

For those of you who’ve waited breathlessly on the edge of your seats while reading this: I did finally decide on three dresses, plus one. So, a cinephile, an idealist, and a hopeless over-packer.

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