I’ve planned to study abroad for as long as I’ve understood what studying abroad was.

I’ve planned to go to North Africa or the Middle East for almost two years.

I’ve hoped I could go to Dubai for over a year.

I’ve known I’d be going to Dubai for a month and a half.

But it didn’t really hit me until I got off the plane in New York what I was really embarking on.

Sunrise on my red-eye from San Francisco to New York City.

I traversed JFK airport in New York City with trepidation, searching for the baggage storage area before I embarked on public transit. I’ve been interning remotely with a literary agency all summer, and decided to take a layover in order to visit them. I clutched a printout of the stops I’d pass and the transfers I needed to make to get there, but felt relatively calm–public transit is a fond friend of mine.

But then I realized that, in less than 36 hours, I’d be travelling similarly in a different country.

In a country where Arabic is the primary language.

In a country where women are more commonly seen than heard.

In a country where no, I couldn’t just take off my jacket and wear a spaghetti-strap dress.

That was when it hit me.

Am I scared? No. I feel intrepid, though I do have a little trepidation.

I don’t know what I’m expecting. But I’m expecting something different, and I’m ready to explore.

The same sun setting over my plane to Saudi Arabia.