I haven’t pulled the suitcases out of the closet yet, but I’ve been mentally ‘packing’ for months—debating what to bring, what to leave, and how to make it all fit. Salamanca, where I’ll be studying, will have temperatures from 50-70 during my time there, and I want to travel other places on the weekends. My packing also has to accommodate my eclectic style, which ranges from floor length floral dresses to leather jackets and Dr. Martens. And who knows what clothes and souvenirs I’ll find abroad that will need a way to come home with me! As I make packing decisions and wrap up the last bits of bureaucracy, I have to consider all the possibilities for my time abroad; the range of possibilities that make packing so hard is the same as the possibilities that have me excited to leave in two weeks!
In addition to bringing clothes and linens, I’ll also have worries and hopes in tow. My worries and hopes are two-sided coins. I’m sad to leave my friends in Chicago and St. Louis for so long, but I’m also excited about making new friends in Salamanca! I don’t want to choose between my favorite clothes, but leaving things behind makes room for new styles—and easier weekend traveling! I’ll be without the phone data that enables me to share my life with friends on Instagram and Snapchat, but as a result, I will be more focused on enjoying my time in Spain. Remembering the upside of every concern I have about going abroad has helped me to stay relatively anxiety-free in the weeks leading up to departure. I also have hopes without downsides attached, like improving my Spanish and traveling to Amsterdam, Berlin, Lisbon, and beyond!
In the meantime, I still have to pack. Although many decisions are still up in the air, there are a few things I just can’t leave behind. My watercolors, paintbrushes, favorite pens, and a brand-new journal will all be making the trip across the Atlantic with me. I have been keeping a journal for years, and I don’t intend to pause while abroad. Writing and painting is a great way for me to remember and reflect on my experiences, and I will have so many new ones while abroad! My Dr. Martens are another essential—whether going to class, going out downtown, or going on a hike, those grey boots are perfect for the job. I’ll wear them with anything, making them a practical and versatile packing choice. My backpack is another thing I can’t leave behind. It’s full of pins and patches that make it my own, and it’s a necessity for going to class and weekend travels! The hardest things to leave behind are all of my houseplants—I’ve been tracking down foster-parents for each and every one, because my parents and I know they wouldn’t survive five months at home without me! In comparison, choosing between pairs of shoes is a piece of cake!
Another hard choice that’s been on my mind before I depart is how to introduce myself to new friends and classmates. At home, I prefer to go by my last name, Colvin, with friends. But Colvin isn’t easy to pronounce in Spanish, and I’d rather not go by Claire—it feels too formal and feminine, and I usually save it for professors and paperwork. Will I settle for Claire or Clara, or will I introduce myself as Colvin, and hope for the best with pronunciation? I still haven’t decided, but I have two more weeks before I have to.
Packing for five months with only two suitcases is hard to do, but it’ll get done—even if I have to sit on my suitcases to zip them closed. Right now, choosing clothes and shoes seems important, but I know that once I arrive, it won’t matter as much as I think it does, and I’ll have so many other amazing things to focus on. I can’t wait to get to Spain and see what I inevitably forget to bring!
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Whenever I have access to a kitchen, my hobby of baking and decorating cakes, cupcakes, and countless other sweets gets out of hand! Not even a tiny dorm kitchen can stop me from making enough cake to last my entire hall a week. A fun fact is that I have only been to Taco Bell once in my life.