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Preparing to pack. Packing to prepare

September 10, 2018

Packing for my first study abroad experience was definitely overwhelming. Hours of YouTube videos ran in the background while I stuffed clothes into two large suitcases. I was hoping to obtain a comically large suitcase, the type that could fit a full person inside of it.

Before studying abroad I had never heard of a travel backpack. All I could think of was a backpacking pack that hikers use. I hoped I wouldn’t have to lug one of those through the streets of Rabat, mostly because it would be heavy and ruin the aesthetic.

After a recommendation from a friend, I found the perfect case from eBags. This was like a zip-top suitcase that I could wear on my back. It was also maroon, which is one of my favorite colors! I decided that I could use this bag for weekend travel trips.

I had a lot of help from my mom to organize my suitcase and managed to fit in about 15 outfits. I was sad to say goodbye to many of my favorite clothes left in the States, but I managed to create variety by choosing pieces that were neutral and easy to match. Essentially I made a rule that every item in my suitcase had to be multipurpose. The only exception was formal clothing.

It was a long and tedious process, but once I had completed my packing, the mental preparation portion began.

I could have spent all day practicing my French, memorizing Darija phrases, or researching endlessly about Moroccan culture, but it still wasn’t hitting me that I was going to be living in a new place for four whole months. I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I also felt pure excitement as I counted down the days to my departure.

An endless flow of forms allowed me to pass the time and to think about what life in Morocco would be like. The closer I got, the more my anxiety grew. I thought about how I might fit into life within the country, and what new things I would learn. It felt like I couldn’t truly grasp what was about to happen to me. Besides the natural curiosity, I also didn’t know anyone else who had done the IES Abroad program.

Despite my cluelessness, I was ready. I posted an introduction on the group Facebook page, said my goodbyes to my close friends, and checked my luggage one last time. As I drove from my house to the airport, I took in the streets of my Minnesota neighborhood one last time. I wondered if I would view them differently upon my return.

Three airports and two flights later, I found myself setting my foot down in Morocco. I immediately breathed in the smell of my surroundings and felt as if I was being hugged by the entire country. I was in my new home and equipped for the journey of a lifetime.

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