It was the summer of 2004. I had just turned 21 a month earlier, and had just arrived from Germany to be an exchange student at the University of Oklahoma for a year. After attending a wedding in Kansas City, I found myself having to drive 370 miles in the August heat all the way from Kansas City to Norman, Oklahoma.
I was nervous. I had gotten my driving license a couple years earlier, but never having owned a car back home, I didn’t have much practice driving. I picked up my rental car at the airport in Kansas City and made my way down toward Oklahoma.
It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I hadn’t expected to do this drive on my own, but changed circumstances forced me to. I had to get to Norman, and in the midwest, driving is really your only option. So I drove. Once I had left the busy roads of the city, I started enjoying my little road trip.
I was listening to country music as I made my way down the interstate, across the plains of Kansas. America was so much different to where I was from. So empty, so big. At times I didn’t see any other cars on the road, and felt like the only person on the road.
Once I was past Wichita and had crossed into Oklahoma, it was all wide open spaces, and the empty road stretching all the way into the distance eventually disappearing into the horizon. Time seemed to stretch into eternity with nothing to see but the road ahead of you.
A country album by Lonestar and the soundtrack to Spider-Man 2 were all the music I listened to on this six-hour road trip. I had just bought them, and it seemed just the right music for my trip down I-35. I listened to the albums many times – six hours are a long time.
Eventually Oklahoma City came into sight, and I knew I was nearly there. I had finally made it to Norman.
I parked at the hotel and unloaded all the belongings I had brought with me to the US from Germany. Later that evening, I got back into my car and went for a drive on the streets of this new town that would be my home for the next year. I ended up at Walmart where I picked up some things and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Weird how that is the only thing I remember now.
My year in the US had been off to a rough start but once I arrived in Oklahoma, it only got better. Looking back, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.
This post is part of a writing project called The Scintilla Project.