I’m sitting on a bed staring at my closet, willing the appropriate clothes to jump off the hangers and neatly arrange themselves in my open suitcase.
I’m a little under two weeks from departure to Berlin, Germany, where I will spend the next year studying through IES Abroad. I’ve been dreaming of living in Berlin since I was 16, and yet I feel like all those dreams may well be thwarted by my wardrobe.
It’s no secret that I really have too many clothes and it’s painfully obvious that I won’t need all these in Berlin so what should I bring?
Should I bring my favorite floor-length green dress? Or is my mini tennis skirt more appropriate? Will I need my business slacks for my internship? What about that “Happy Fits” band t-shirt that I’m 99% sure no one in Berlin will recognize? And which jeans are going to seem less boorishly ‘American’ to my future European classmates?
Of course, I’m not really struggling with what I’ll be wearing. I’m struggling with who I’ll be while abroad. That’s one of the most exciting and terrifying things about living abroad: this is a chance to completely start over. You are going where you potentially don’t know anyone. There is no precedent for who you could be, no expectations. Maybe for the very first time in your life, everything will be entirely new, even the language.
That’s all terrifying to be sure, but it’s also so incredibly exciting. It’s part of what drew me to study abroad in the first place.
This is my advice for studying abroad that isn’t neat enough to be turned into a list of things to pack or an instruction manual on Visas (there are plenty of online resources for those things): let yourself have room to grow.
You’re going to discover so much about yourself that you never knew. Like how to navigate the bus system in another language or what you’re favorite german cake is. But you’re also going to learn how much of who you were was based on what you thought people expected of you and how much of that you actually liked about yourself.
You’re going to learn that you’re more adventurous than you ever thought possible, after decades of people telling you you were such a quiet kid. You’re going to learn how good you are at planning when you take a bus to the other end of the city for that concert you never thought you’d get to see. You’re going to learn how well you do on your own, even when you always thought you needed to be hanging out with people to be happy.
No amount of planning is going to prepare you for all that growth. Not even those super specifically titled travel books can really prepare you for all that. So, it's okay not to have everything mapped out for your arrival, not to know what exactly is going to look best on the new you.
For now, I’ve started to select things that I can mix and match. I’ll skip my green dress but my black turtleneck will go nicely with these business slacks and my mini skirt. I can be professional or I can be fun. There’s room for both versions of myself.
And I can’t wait to see which ones I’ll get.
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Hello everyone! My name is Eliza DuBose and I'm from the area surrounding Boulder, Colorado. I'm a junior at American University studying Foreign Language and Communication Media, which is (very) basically a Journalism and German double major. This is my second time living in Germany and I am so thrilled to be studying in Berlin for the year. In my free time, I spend most of my time hiking, reading, writing, or consuming an inordinate amount of media.