Overseas Briefing

By Guest Contributor

I am addressing you from Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America, a gorgeous city where wine is cheaper than water, the dead get the best real estate and the national dance is sexy as hell. I could be speaking from anywhere, though. It does not matter where I am so much as that I am there.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I decided to go skydiving. Some of you may have that classic motherly reaction, that “oh-you-are-crazy-I-would-never!” grimace of envious appreciation. Others may nod and give a “right on;” perhaps you have experienced the rush of the dive or similarly seek adrenaline highs.

For those of you who have not skydived, let me tell you a little about it. First, you sit there and decide whether or not it is worth it to you to jump out of an airplane with a stranger strapped to your back who is solely responsible for making sure that you do not die. That is the hardest part. Resolved, though, you forge onward, and you arrive at a small airfield somewhere in the great wide world. You strap on a goofy suit, it squeezes you in weird places, you get in a tiny plane and you fly, up, up, up, leaving everything behind, contemplating a lot of what-ifs, but mostly enjoying an unparalleled freedom, the freedom to live, the freedom to die.

And then, with the world below reduced to a mere mosaic of farms and lakes and lives, you jump. Absolute sensory overload, louder than a thousand freight trains, 35 seconds during which nothing matters, or has ever mattered, other than your own enjoyment of and appreciation for life. The cold air refreshes your soul, and before you have time to process the fact that the plane you were just in is a tiny speck thousands of feet above your head, the parachute opens and the world becomes silently still, purely peaceful, and you float to the land below. Your senses and your understanding rush back into your body like a deluge, and you are happy, truly happy. The person who comes down is never the same as the person who goes up.

If you have never been skydiving, maybe this description has inspired you to start scrambling together a way to pitch this idea to Mom and Dad. Maybe you have a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and vertigo at the mere thought of it. Either way, think about it. No, not about skydiving. I am not here to persuade. Really think about it.

Hopefully you will discover what I discovered when my two feet touched the ground that sunny afternoon in La Tierra del Vino y Sol. That was the first time I skydived, but it was not the first time I hurled myself out of a plane into the great unknown. That is what all this is; college, growing up, studying abroad. Life is a series of skydives.

Studying abroad is a risk, just like any. The kid who goes to Buenos Aires and the kid who comes back are never the same. You never know if your language is good enough, or if your independence is strong enough, but you try. You never know if your parachute will open, either. But you jump. Never be afraid to take the leap of faith, to try something that scares you, to jump into the cold water.

Maybe you should give skydiving a shot. You will discover that the only thing worse than making a splat is being hot, anxious, cooped up and hovering over your future self from 10,000 feet.

Written by NATHAN LABARBA ’14 from Buenos Aires, Argentina