Packing proves difficult foe in preparations for studying abroad

Packing proves difficult foe in preparations for studying abroad
LONDON BRIDGE — Before all the fun and stress of exploring a foreign land, AU students must cram months of supplies into their luggage.

Writing my third “abroad” column while still at home in Connecticut proved to be a real challenge.

Even with my visa struggles, spending hours on the phone with my insurance company practically begging them to override my prescriptions and the ordeal of opening a United Kingdom bank account, the real challenge — the true test of my emotional sanity — is my current endeavor.

I am in the midst of packing hell.

I have always had a strained relationship with packing. I will do practically any task to procrastinate. I just volunteered to do the weekly grocery shopping. So much so that packing and I have become accustomed to meeting each other very late at night or early in the morning.

This disdain for packing escalated to such a point that last year I started packing my dorm room up at 1 a.m. My mother was coming to pick me up at 9 a.m. the next morning. Eight hours later, a hallway completely taken over and strewn with various suitcases and furniture my room could no longer contain, and a frantic last hour frenzy of stuffing bizarre combinations (rain boots, DVDs and econ books wrapped like a bizarre gift basket) in whatever bags I could find, it was done.

Packing epitomizes transition. I don’t do transitions well.

I think how this time tomorrow I will be 3,000 miles away from my home with no one that I know. I stare at my suitcases thinking how so much of what I will need in the next nine months has to be inside them. Once I am there I will be completely fine, but it’s the lead up that really gets me.

Thus I vowed not to spend my last night in the U.S. pacing around my room avoiding packing. Admirable effort has been made toward this goal. I started sorting through all my clothes deciding what to bring and what to keep at home over a week ago and have consistently been taking things out and choosing to leave them instead.

Even though every time I have walked into my room in the past three days I still cringe at the piles on the floor, something about this packing experience is different than others that have come before.

First, I have developed a passionate love affair with vacuum compression bags. Whoever invented them clearly hated packing as well. Put clothes in the bag, zip them shut and then roll or squeeze all the excess air out. Seriously miraculous.

At this point in the pre-abroad stage I have come to realize that challenges are 100 percent relative. This time next week I will have a whole other set of challenges. What’s more, study abroad is not about what you bring. It is about what you take away from it.

Whenever people find out I am going abroad for a year, sentiments like “This year will change your life,” follow. And though these sentiments can be incredibly intimidating they are also very helpful. They have helped me to realize that it doesn’t matter what you stuff your suitcases with, but rather what memories you make, new experiences you try and how you immerse yourself in your abroad journey wherever in the world you may be.

Now I must get back to my vacuum compressed bags.

UPDATE: In the words of always-quotable Kanye West, “I’ve just touched down in London town.” After all the pre-departure struggles I am moved in and could not be happier. London has lived up to its reputation: cosmopolitan, cultural and vibrant. What I expected to be challenging: navigating the tube, registering for my classes and dealing with a new currency have gone surprisingly smoothly. On the other hand, simple things such as remembering my umbrella or making sure to look (the opposite way) before crossing the street have not. But getting soaked in the rain and almost hit by cars on a regular basis has taught me a lot. As I begin my second week and start to feel more settled in I am looking forward to feeling less like a tourist, but also to making more mistakes and getting lost. If nothing else those experiences have provided the most amusing and memorable anecdotes.

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