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Packing Reflections

Time July 3rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | No Comments by

So here I am again, alone with my suitcase.

Except this time I’ve got no qualms about what to pack. I basically just have to gather everything in my room, stuff it into this bag and hope that it weighs less than 23 kg.

Looking at this job ahead of me I’ve realized two things:

1. I should have less stuff.
2. I’m just as unprepared to go home as I was to come here.

For all the weekend trips we went on I lived out of a small backpack filled with only what I needed for a day – that was usually an extra shirt and a whole bunch of snacks. Even when I spent three weeks travelling around the south island, I only brought a very small bag in addition to the backpack. Granted, I wore the same pair of pants for about a week straight, but I promise my standards of hygiene only go that low when I’m on the road.

And now I’m looking at all the crap that I brought over here and I realized that I only needed about a third of it. Something warm, something waterproof, and a good pair of shoes would have gotten me through this semester just fine. Why I thought it was a good idea to bring three sweatshirts and two pairs of heels remains a complete and total mystery.

Packing “stuff” isn’t the hard part of preparing to go home. For about a week now I’ve been struggling to come to terms with the fact that this semester-long adventure is actually coming to an end. I’ve come to love Auckland and New Zealand, and even though I want to see my family and friends back home I’m really not ready to leave. If it weren’t for my home school’s darn liberal arts requirements then I would be back here next semester in a heartbeat.

But my ticket is paid for and my dog is waiting, so I guess I’m getting on a plane whether I’m ready or not.

Cheers to a wonderful five months, New Zealand.


Flights, Trips, and Over Preparing

Time May 17th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

The title is actually a misnomer. I’ll give you a hint: there’s no such thing as over-preparing for a trip that involves needing your passport and leaving the country you’ve been given temporary permission to stay in. I’m a fairly laid-back person, and even I get that forgetting a detail here is a terrible idea.  I’m leaving to go on a nice, not-quite-two-weeks trip through Europe on Friday, and the only reason I’m not panicking right now (or possibly being dangerously oblivious) is because I’ve done a fair amount of plane travel before this. If you’re interested, I have a few tips and reminders to share. After all, it seems a shame not to make at least one big trip while traveling abroad – there’s so much that’s usually far away now just right next door.

First things to remember is the most important: your passport. Everything else you can usually find a way to print out, show an email of, or otherwise replace so long as you have enough time to do so. Passports aren’t replaceable, and they’re you’re only ticket into and out of any country you choose to visit. So remember to bring it with you, put it in a place that you’re sure you won’t forget about and you’re sure it won’t fall out from, and most definitely somewhere on your person that someone’s not going to just reach in and steal it from. Buy one of those stupid-looking necklace pocket things if you have to. Yes, you’ll look like a tourist, but I have news for you: you’re a tourist. Better to look stupid than to be stranded.

Second is the other important, can’t do without stuff. Boarding passes are next on the list. Different airports allow you to check in before your flight at different times, and only give you a boarding pass once you’ve done so. Figure out when you can check in, do so at the earliest opportunity, and then print out a couple copies of your boarding pass: one for your backpack, one for your bag, maybe even a carefully-folded one for your pocket or wallet or something. Make sure you have something to show to security when you arrive, is what I’m saying. After that, email records for where you’re staying. If you’re hopping from one hostel to the next on a daily basis like I am, this can get overwhelming, but their records aren’t perfect. Keep track of that confirmation email that says you’ve checked in, just in case their computer goofed and lost it. Train and bus tickets should also be printed when you can, and easy to pull up on your phone fast as well. Itineraries, meds, personal requirements, enough clothes for the right weather…. beyond that it’s a little more like the usual preparations. It should be fun, and well worth the effort.

See you in a couple weeks.


Warm Climate Conundrum

Time February 27th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Argentina | No Comments by

“Should I bring three dresses?”

“What about another pair of sandals?”

“Will I really need a sweater?”

These are the questions I ask myself as I pack to live in a warm climate for the first time in my life. I’m Lily Frenette, a girl from Minnesota, who goes to school in New York. While both places have their warm seasons, most of the time it’s cold, bordering on Arctic. But this semester I’ll be living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying with the Argentine Universities Program. While I’m very excited to be studying Spanish in a Spanish speaking country, I have no idea what I’ll wear on a regular basis in a place that averages between 76 and 53 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.

I end up keeping the dresses and a sweater, but leave out the sandals. I have a pair of flats and hiking sandals, as well as hiking boots and my trusty pair of converse high tops – that should get me through the semester. I have other packing issues though. I’m unsure of how much of my hiking gear and clothes I need to bring. Hiking is a passion of mine, but I currently have no idea of my schedule and so don’t know how much time I’ll have to go explore. I’m also unsure if I’m bringing too many notebooks and cameras. At school I concentrate in writing and photography, which means I always have four different notebooks and three cameras on me at all times. Even though I know I would regret it if I leave one at home, I still worry that I won’t end up using them.

My flight leaves in two days. I believe I’m as ready as I can be, but with a new place there’s no way to be sure. It’s almost guaranteed that once I get settled into Buenos Aires, I’ll realize I left something important behind. As awful as that feeling is, I just have to accept it. Once I’m in Argentina, I can’t have my parent mail me items like they used to bring me my gym clothes when I accidentally left them at home. Plus, there’s an upside to this. If I find I’ve left something in the US, maybe I’ll realize it’s not necessary at all.

When I write next, I’ll be in Argentina – wish me luck!

— Lily Frenette


Ready for take-off?

Time February 17th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | 1 Comment by

My plane leaves for Auckland, New Zealand in less than 24 hours.

Am I finished packing? Nope.

Do I have all the documents I need in a neat little pile? Of course not.

Do I know what to do with my phone when I get there? Not really.

Honestly, the only thing I really have going for me in terms of preparedness is that my Chacos just arrived in the mail. And you know what? I’m not worried about it.

One of my closest friends spent last semester studying in Wollongong, Australia, and she’s been my go-to girl for study-abroad related questions. Earlier this week I texted her in a moment of panic, convinced that I am going to show up to New Zealand and be totally lost, lugging around two suitcases full of nothing that I actually need. And the only piece of advice she had for me was,

“That’s part of the adventure. It’s no fun to be over-prepared.”

So I’m sitting here in my chaotically messy bedroom with a half-full suitcase and I know that if I left right now, I would be laughably under-prepared for a semester abroad. Not just because all my socks are still in the laundry, or because I can’t find an umbrella in the house to save my life, but also because I have no idea what to expect out of the next five months. And when Ellen told me that it’s not the end of the world to show up to a new country unprepared – that it may actually make my experience more memorable – I embraced my nerves and my anticipation for the upcoming semester. As far as “stuff” goes, I can always find a Target (or whatever the New Zealand equivalent of a Target is) and pick up what I need. But for me, the most important thing is to be mentally prepared to show up unprepared and take on the adventure of studying abroad.


Tick- tock…is it time yet?

Time November 30th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

The countdown has begun! In less than a month, I will be back home, home to the peach state of good ol’ Georgia. I can’t believe time has flown as fast as it has. I’m so excited to be home. The other day as I was cleaning my room, I got inspired and I started to pack. I packed all the winter clothes that I had brought to Peru (there is really no need for them now that it is spring time here). I also packed some of the souvenirs that I have bought from when I went to Iquitos and Cusco. I have yet to be close to finishing with my souvenir shopping, but for now, I’ll pack everything that isn’t breakable into my massive pink and black suitcase. I’m hoping mom will take it back home when she comes to visit me for Thanksgiving break…

In preparation to my leave, I plan to exercise as much as I can because I’m going to be eating as much Peruvian food as I can, because truthfully I will miss it. Peru has a huge variety of fruits and potatoes. My host family is not much of vegetable eaters, so getting back to the U.S. will be good for that reason. The main reason though that I want to be home is that I miss people. Peru is a very (VERY) affectionate country. You are greeted with a hug and a cheek kiss, but it doesn’t fully make me not want to be hugged and kissed by my family and friends. *cough, cough, and boyfriend.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day I go home. It’ll be a good change of things. I’ve gotten used to having my breakfast waiting for me in the mornings, and I need to do my bed more than I should. I also need to eat better. Having a sweet tooth is not good when you are staying in Peru for 6 months. There’s delicious mouthwatering sweets at every corner. Peru is too good for my own good. Haha. I just hope time flies and that final exams are not too stressful! Smooth sailing is the plan. Let’s hope it happens that way. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying Peru.


Five Ways To Pack A Semester’s Worth of Stuff into One Suitecase

Time September 29th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

As someone who actually enjoys packing and overpacking, I could not even begin to fathom how I would pack for an entire term at Oxford with a single suitcase. I can pack that much for a week vacation; however, as I’m currently sitting at the airport having already checked my single piece of luggage (coming to 49.5 lbs), I am proof that what seems impossible can be done. Here are 5 tips for how I made it happen:

  1. Plan and Place: When I overpack it’s usually because I bring an article of clothing or a pair of shoes that I really like but never end up wearing because it didn’t coordinate with the rest of what I brought. To make sure that I made the most of my suitcase, I planned each one of my outfits and placed them on the ground. If a pair of shoes was only really fit for two outfits, I decided to leave them and go with a different option of footwear. Additionally, by folding them and placing them on the ground I created an estimate of how much space everything would need. This allowed me to make reductions earlier rather than later as it was much easier to take things from my floor back to my closet than from the bottom of my suitcase back to my closet.
  2. Mix and Match: Now this applies to clothes, but what I mean is to mix and match packing styles. There are a couple different packing styles: folding into neat squares, laying flat with minimal folding, rolling, etc (maybe you’re none of these and prefer to toss things into your suitcase and however they land is how it travels). I found to make the most of my suitcase, I had to do a little bit of everything. If you only use one method,  you have a lot of unused space. I rolled thing t-shirts to put inbetween and around larger sweaters that I folded. Doing this allowed me to fill every inch of the suitcase.
  3. Pack Weird Shapes First: For me this meant my shoes. Then follow tip 2 and add materials to fill in the gaps. It was much easier to pack around my shoes then to try and fit them in on top of everything else.
  4. Rule of 1: I have a lot of clothes and I have a lot of clothes that look alike but are slightly different enough that I will try justify why I need both. Having only one suitcase really knocked this habit out from me. My rule was that I could only bring one of something. One vest, one pair of gym shoes, one navy blouse, etc. However, I did make one exception to this rule. If I could see myself needing the item a couple times a week, I allowed myself two, so a few things that made this cut: leggings, plaid shirts, and jeans.
  5. Avoid Memorable Patterns/Pieces: Some of my favorite pieces of clothing are super unique and as a result pretty memorable. If you’re like me and you’re going to have to a Lizzie McGuire outfit repeater, you might have to leave some of your favorite pieces behind. A plain t-shirt can look entirely different if you throw on a scarf or a necklace; however, there is not much you can do to a brightly patterned shirt with distinct cutouts. I invested in some high-quality basic pieces. It was much easier to fit more necklaces than to fit more cardigans.

So with those five rules and some time spent sitting on my suitcase to flatten everything out, I managed to pack a semester’s worth of clothing into one suitcase. Stay tuned to hear about my adventures when I actually get to London.


Till then, happy packing!





Pre-Departure Jitters!

Time September 1st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Ireland | No Comments by

It’s still a little hard to imagine that at this time in a month, I will be settled in a foreign country, where I expect to spend the entire semester!!

These past few days have been filled with pandemonium than the typical doldrums of summer, and I am both terrified and excited as I hope to begin this next chapter in my life.

Read More »


Chicago to Dublin!

Time August 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Ireland | No Comments by

Lesson #1: Trying to fit all of your clothes into two suitcases takes (1) a lot of patience and (2) doesn’t work.

On my way to orientation! Trinity College here I come.


Coming to a Close

Time May 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

As I’m sitting here writing this blog, I’m eating the last of my groceries, sitting in a room that’s in the chaotic state between settled and packed, with my notes from my entire year stacked on either side of my laptop. Tomorrow I have my last two finals (Digital Electronics and Early Irish Spirituality), and eleven hours afterwards, I leave for the bus that takes me to the Dublin airport. Read More »


Packing Advice: Leave the Guitar, Bring the Song

Time February 24th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

With less than 24 hours until my flight, I am still not worrying about what to bring to Santiago. Having already lived there for a semester makes packing more of a chore than a stressor.

Instead, I’m thinking about what to bring from Chile (as well as what I will leave behind) once I finish my second and final semester of study abroad in July.

The first one ended in December with tearful farewells to my Chilean friends, teachers and family. I left behind thank-you gifts, wrecked boots, an alternate personality specific to Santiago, and much more. I brought back a bottle of wine, two notebooks full of field notes, enough motivation to attend the Minneapolis Board of Education’s public meetings and much, much more.

There are plenty of lists telling travelers what to leave and what to bring, so I have a different kind of answer to the packing question. I want to explain the there-and-back-again story of study abroad via guitars. Yes, guitars — you know, the things that I strum to seem more creative and deep.

We’ll start with this one.

Like most acoustic guitars in Chile, this fine specimen is a Spanish guitar. It has six nylon strings, twelve frets that clear the body and no strap — typical for guitars of the modern classical build. Let’s call it Ramírez.

I first met Ramírez in September. One day I came home from a comparative education seminar at Universidad Alberto Hurtado to find him sitting in my spot at the kitchen table next to my host mother and brother. Knowing I write songs (and overestimating my skill), they had asked a friend to lend us her dust-collector of a guitar.

Or at least that was their story. Little did I know they had bought Ramírez used. (And that’s just one of many times my host family went out of their way to make me feel at home.)

Though my host mother had hoped for living room serenades on par with her Whitney Houston CDs, I could only stumble through chord progressions and hum half-forgotten melodies in my off-pitch, nasally voice. What else would you expect from a shoddy musician playing an unfamiliar instrument?

The frets had no markers, so my eyes learned to recognize chord shapes on their own. The string tension was low, so my muscles learned to press hard without bending notes. The neck was wide, so my pinky learned to stretch into what used to be an easy position.

Despite all of Ramírez’ idiosyncrasies, I adapted. Come December, my repertoire included several classic Chilean songs, including “Paramar” by Los Prisioneros. That particular song took a week to learn — a week of morning bus rides spent listening to the track on repeat, memorizing the melody, mouthing the lyrics with just enough restraint to not make my fellow passengers uncomfortable, plus a week of evening “study breaks” spent studying the song, first playing along with the recording, then by myself with the guitar. Mimicking the song forms and rhyme schemes of Chilean artists, I even drafted a few ditties of my own in Spanish.

And somewhere along the way — somewhere between acquiring the Victor Jara songbook and finishing “Choca Puño” (my first Spanish-language song) — I started to forget, at least sometimes, about my other guitar in Minnesota.

Sure, it has six strings and a soundhole just like Ramírez, but the similarities end there. The frets are marked, the strings are tight and the neck is half as wide. What’s more, as each guitar should, it has its own name: Martin.

When Martin and I were reunited during winter break, we played the songs I had learned with Ramírez, but it took a bit of practice first. Just as I had adapted to Ramírez’s idiosyncrasies, I  adjusted my technique according to the particular contours of Martin’s fourteen-fret, non-cutaway, Sitka spruce body. Of course some songs sounded hollow without that original Ramírez flair, but others came alive thanks to Martin’s unique twang.

Last semester I learned so many songs while sitting in my spot at the kitchen table (not to mention while interviewing teachers in the schoolyard and marching in the streets of Santiago) that it would be a shame to not bring them back stateside. “Paramar” by Los Prisioneros is just one example. Other “songs” of mine include Chilean idioms and a critical analysis of free market education reforms. Sure, I change the tune to suit a U.S. audience, but the songs are still worth singing.

So, if you’re a study abroad student or a traveler of any stripe willing to listen to a guitar noob like me, here’s my advice: When you must leave the guitar, remember to bring the songs.


Just a Backpack and a Suitcase

Time January 5th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

It hasn’t hit me yet that I’m studying abroad.

Nearly three months ago I got my acceptance from University College Cork.

Two weeks ago I packed up my entire dorm room and said goodbye to all my friends.

Yesterday I got my euros, bought my suitcase, and double-checked my flight.

I remember a very similar feeling—a concern that I wasn’t more concerned about such a big change—when I first left for my home college, Harvey Mudd. I packed up everything I needed to survive college into a car in order to start a new life somewhere else. If you’re a college student, it’s likely you’ve experienced the same thing; maybe instead of a car you had a moving van, or maybe you had just a suitcase.

For all you “just a suitcase” people, all of you that moved from your hometown to your college via plane, I salute you. Because my dear transnational and international friends, I am currently feeling your pain.

Suitcases aren’t very big. But our lives are huge!

As I mentioned, I just packed up my college dorm room—that took twenty boxes. And then I packed my bags for coming home for the holidays—that took a box, two backpacks, and one giant suitcase. Now I have to pack one backpack and one medium suitcase (both according to strict international flight size restrictions) that will sustain me for the next five months of my life.

My life has gone from twenty-boxes-sized to one-backpack-and-one-suitcase-sized.

And I’m terrified that I’m not more terrified.

I am one week away from studying abroad.

I am one week away from flying across the world to a country I’ve never visited, to live with people I’ve never met, in a culture I’ve never experienced.

I am one week away from the inevitable culture shock and missing my friends and family, armed with only my backpack and suitcase.

I’m also just one week away from the most amazing experience of my life.

I do get excited for my trip when I consider all of the adventures I’ll be going on, ranging from hostel-hopping to finding the nearest grocery store; from flying across Europe to figuring out how to be a vegetarian in Ireland.

And I hope this blog will be an opportunity for you to follow right along with me!

To give you some background, I am an industrial engineer from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. In my spare time, I enjoy costume design and construction and late night hot cocoa and boba runs. It was important when choosing my abroad college that it was English-speaking, offered certain technical courses, and was populated with friendly, fun people. Everywhere I looked, everyone I talked to, Ireland came up as the country with the loveliest people I could ask for. I’m going to be honest: that was about the extent of the research I did before making my decision. I chose University College Cork over University College Dublin because, coming from a very small school already, I wanted to stay at a relatively small college. The more I learn about Cork, the more and more happy I am about my (nearly blind) decision (Are you ready for culture shock to hit me like a brick in the face? Because I sure am!).

Even though I have yet to process this adventure that’s occurring in my very near future, I know it will be the adventure of a lifetime. I’m excited to have you along for the ride!


Advice for future students- Part 1 (Orientation 1)

Time March 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | No Comments by

Hey everyone this is my first post that I am doing for future students of IFSA of things I think would have been helpful to know during my experience.  I am hoping on doing a few of these posts through my time here, hope you find them helpful! Read More »


5 Months & 50 Pounds: Packing for London and the UAE

Time January 26th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

5, the amount of months I’ll be away from home.

50, the amount in pounds I’m allowed to pack in my checked bag.

It’s midnight Monday morning and I have finally finished packing. It took me and my mom a few tries and a break for dinner to finally fit everything thing I think I need for five months in to 3 bags. Pictures are in the gallery! (I need to figure out how to add to post!) Over the past few days the realization of my decision to study in the UAE has really sunk in.

A few things about myself before I begin my adventure

  • My name is Tom Fisher, I’m from Bettendorf, Iowa (part of the Quad Cities, right on the Mississippi River).
  • I go to Drake University, a small (4,000 undergrad) liberal arts  school in Des Moines, IA.
  • Hobbies are soccer, cycling, watching documentaries and eating.

More to come when I can intertwine them with what I am doing during the semester.

The adventure will begin in London. I will be staying with a friend until Saturday when I fly to Dubai! I will have another post before that adventure comes to an end

I hope to keep you entertained and coming back for more. I look forward to sharing my experiences and thoughts during this semester.




Packing: An audiovisual interpretative documentation

Time July 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University


Packing: A comprehensive logodocumentation

Time July 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The measure of a man is his material possessions.”  Instead of wasting time studying grammar, expanding my vocabulary, or reading about Costa Rican culture, I spent much of my pre-departure weeks writing packing lists, buying things missing from those lists, and, finally, packing.

This is what I came up with:

  • Footwear:
    • Sneakers
    • Hiking boots
    • Tevas
    • Socks:
      • Black ankle socks (9 pair)
      • Hiking socks (2 pair)
      • Dress socks (1 pair)
  • Legwear:
    • Pants:
      • Jeans (2)
      • Casual khakis
      • Lightweight synthetic khakis (outdoor or formal)
      • Lightweight synthetic cargo zip-off
      • Canvas pants
    • Shorts:
      • Dark green cargo
      • Khaki non cargo
    • Athletic shorts (running, swimming, pajamas) (2)
    • Rain pants
  • Hipwear:
    • Boxer briefs (9)
    • Belts:
      • Leather belt
      • Synthetic belt
  • Torsowear:
    • White short-sleeved dress shirt
    • Short-sleeved casual button-down shirts (4)
    • Cotton T-shirts without words written on them (4)
    • Synth athletic shirts:
      • Short-sleeved
      • Long-sleeved
    • Long-sleeved outdoor work shirt
    • Fleece
    • Sweater
    • Raincoat
  • Headwear:
    • Hair ties (2)
    • Goggles (1)
    • Bandanas (2)
  • Toiletries:
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Deodorant
    • Wash cloth
    • Nail clippers
    • Small roll of toilet paper in a ziploc bag
  • Medical:
    • Prescriptions for everything
    • Epilepsy:
      • Divalproex
      • Atavan
      • Medical ID bracelet
    • Asthma:
      • Flovent
      • Albeuterol
    • Eyes:
      • Glasses and case
      • Backup glasses and case
      • Contacts
        • Lenses
        • Cases (3)
        • Storage solution
          • Regular
          • Eye drops
      • Prescriptions
    • Retainers
    • Other:
      • Little swiss army knife
      • Wound dressing
      • Gauze
      • Daytime cold medicine
      • Nighttime cold medicine
      • Cough medicine
      • Sleeping medicine
      • Ibuprofen
      • Anti-diarrheal
      • Cortizone
      • Moleskin
      • Medical tape
      • Mouthwash
      • Water-based lubricant
      • Condoms
  • Electrical
    • Watch
    • Headlamp with batteries
    • iPhone
      • Case
      • Charger
    • Earbuds (2)
      • Carrying pouch
    • Laptop
      • Charger
    • USB flash drives (2)
    • Camera
      • Extra memory cards (2)
      • Carrying case
  • Books:
    • Langenscheidt Universal Dictionary Spanish (2011)
    • Manual de gramática (Iguina and Dozier, 2013)
    • Rough Guide to Costa Rica (Drew and McNeil, 2011)
    • Birds of Costa Rica (Garrigues and Dean, 2007)
    • Mammals of Costa Rica (Waindwright, 2007)
    • Naturalist (Wilson, 1994)
  • Beaded headband for keychain
  • Money belt
  • Hand scale for weighing baggage
  • Documents:
    • Passport
    • Passport card
    • Copies of passport (2)
    • e-ticket confirmations
    • Hard copy of contact info: physician, college advisors, IFSA program advisor, IFSA resident director
    • Details of your insurance coverage
      • Call United Healthcare to ask.  Or just go online.
  • Wallet
    • ATM card
    • Credit card
    • Cash
    • Driver’s license
    • Insurance cards
  • Journal
  • Pens (7)
  • Binoculars
  • Geologist’s loupe
  • Towel
  • Plug adapter
  • Pocket knife
  • Cheap Leatherman-like multitool
  • Groundcloth
  • Pocket journal
  • Specimen tags
  • “Princess Mononoke” and “Last of the Mohicans” DVDs (to be used only in cases of extreme homesickness)
  • Present for family: Goofily colored handbag with cheesy decorative dishcloth painted with historic images of Concord

The above fit into three bags: my school backpack (carried on as a “personal item”), my 30L Gregory “weekend pack” (carried on as my “carry-on bag”), and my 80L Gregory trekking pack (checked).  It weighed in at a total of 65 pounds, of which I was insanely proud, as I often have trouble making the 50 pound limit for each checked bag.


Preparation, flexibility keys to beginning journey

Time July 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Preparation, flexibility keys to beginning journey by

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

– Lao-tzu

Studying abroad was always something I knew I needed to do, but I never thought it would be this hard.

Final stages of packing, less than 36 hours before takeoff

Final stages of packing, less than 36 hours before takeoff

Take packing, by far the hardest part of predeparture shenanigans. It’s not just the logistics of fitting everything needed (and nothing more) for five months in two suitcases and a backpack.

But there’s also emotional baggage to unpack.

Read More »



Time March 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I promised that I would share my insight into packing and since this is my last pre-departure post I figured this would be the time.


The important thing to consider when packing is the climate you’re going to, especially when that climate is on the other side of the equator. Taking that into account is very important, it could mean the difference between packing 4 pairs of pants when in reality it’s going to be Summer there. Another thing I found helpful is to set everything outside of your suitcase at first so that you have a rather rough visual of how much stuff you have.  I found it useful to start with about 10 days worth of clothes and then add or subtract as needed. I also suggest packing shoes with purpose. This meaning only pack shoes that 1. You know you will use and 2. serve a specific purpose (ie. Normal everyday shoes, sturdy shoes, etc.). This way you are cutting down on extraneous bulk in your luggage, which is important to take into account because you are more likely to have more stuff coming back then going there. So remember to keep as much space left. It’s also a good idea to try and pack anything in your checked luggage that might be searched on the top of your bag so that airline security doesn’t have to destroy your perfectly packed bag. Another good piece of advice is to listen to your study abroad program when they tell you what should go where, whether x item goes in y bag. That’s really all I can think of to help pack. It’s an odd experience packing up all of your clothes and knowing that the next time they are getting worn is in a different country.

The next post will be once I’ve arrived in Peru. I will also try to get some pictures to go along with it.


“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”- Henry Miller ~ Some helpful tips for being abroad!

Time October 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


I know that for all of my posts so far I have talked about traveling, minor mishaps, spontaneous adventures…you know, all the fun stuff you do when you are abroad. But yes, I do have classes. And I do have essays and tests, and now and then yes, yes I do get homesick. Even when I am surrounded by palm trees, sunny warm days and am a fifteen-minute bike ride from three different beaches, I still can’t help but miss the comforts of home. I’ve only been here close to 4 months, but I honestly feel like I have been here my entire life. A lot of Australia seems like a new home to me now.

Yes, classes are different here. And although there isn’t much work (at least, compared to the tremendous amount of work I tend to get at home), they have challenges in their own ways. One of the main suggestions I can tell you is take classes when you’re abroad that you normally wouldn’t take at home and are unique to the area you are studying in. You’re probably never going to have the opportunity to gain that type of knowledge again. I am a biology/pre-med major, and this semester I am only taking one biology course (Biodiversity of Tropical Australia) and the rest of my courses meet general liberal arts requirements at my home university (Ecology & Australian Indigenous Cultures, Anthropology, and Human Rights and Social Issues). At home, I am used to being able to check my grades every week and see where I am at and how I need to do on last minute assignments and exams. However, here, I only have one week left of the semester and I still have no clue as to what my combined grade is in any of the four classes I am taking. Plus, the finals I have to take are worth close to fifty percent of the overall grade…yikes!

Our IFSA advisor joked with us before we came to Cairns that everyone tended to run a little…late. That is, being prompt wasn’t really that important. So, throughout the course of the semester, I have seen this first hand. The buses hardly EVER run on time. Normally, they are about five to ten minutes late. That is, if they decide to show up. Classes never start on time. If the professors aren’t late, about more than half the class always is. At home, it is frowned upon to walk in late on a class. Here, people walk in late all the time. Or just don’t come to class at all. My one professor here didn’t have mandatory attendance, so we literally had maybe five people in class every week. She would always simply say “Oh, they must have that stomach flu that’s going around” or “They must be enjoying the lovely weather outside.” Completely non-chalant haha.

At home, I’m used to having classes with everyone being around my age. Here, I have classes with people ranging from teenagers to people in their sixties. Also, people don’t wear shoes here. And it’s completely acceptable haha! But, in general, the people here that I have had class with have been extremely nice and helpful. The professors aren’t always as helpful. They grade really strict here. The grading system generally goes as follows: HD (high distinction), D (distinction), C (credit), P (pass) and F (fail). Hahaha way more different than the grading system I am used to at home! In most of my classes, the only tests I have are finals (and I have yet to find out how hard those actually are). But, I have had a lot of essays. And I have found that in some classes, it is very, very hard to get an HD. Australian writing is more simplistic than American writing (at least in the class setting here), so if you are used to using complex sentences then you need to be careful. Otherwise, if you work hard and put the time, effort, and research into all of your papers, you will be successful. However, you may feel you deserve a higher grade than you receive. I have observed that professors here have a tendency to not explain what they want you to do and expect something on an assignment that you wouldn’t have even thought of (which is very frustrating). It will be interesting at the end of the semester to see how Australian grades transfer to American grades.

So. Lets talk about homesickness. Yes, it does happen. And depending on the person, you’re going to have different levels of it. For me, I actually didn’t get severely homesick during the course of the trip. Sure, I have missed a lot of things. I miss my family and friends at home. I miss my dogs. I miss the fall weather that I love every year. I miss homecoming at my school, my sorority, and all the clubs I participate in. I miss familiar places. And driving. But….more importantly…FOOD. GOOD food. Because, in all reality, the dining hall is a hit or miss here. And I am kind of getting sick of supplementing my meals with ramen every night. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am that I will be home for Thanksgiving! However, homesickness is very, very manageable. For me, it was very easy to get rid of. Sometimes, I would just go and workout for a few hours, or phone or skype a friend or family member for a bit. I think my biggest coping method was writing postcards to friends and family back home. Don’t get sucked into things that can spike homesickness though- spending hours on facebook seeing what everyone at home is up to is not the best thing to do, in addition to skyping people for hours on end during the day. You’re only abroad once, so make sure to live up every second of it!

Also, while we’re at it, let’s talk about good things to pack/bring with you. Looking back on it, I packed WAY too many nice clothes and not enough workout clothes. I am in workout clothes the majority of the time here. I only have classes three times a week, and besides that and going out, I literally am in shorts and t-shirts 24/7. Bring a long Ethernet cord if you’re used to doing homework in bed and don’t want to deal with the wifi going on and off every 5 minutes. Hats are a GREAT thing to bring- it gets super hot and chances are your scalp will get sunburnt if you are at the beach or pool all day. If you like to run or hike a lot, I would suggest bringing a head lamp. I know it sounds ridiculous, but a number of my friends have them here and we use them all the time. Plus, it gets ridiculously hot during the day, so running in the evening may be your best option. Pack a really nice water bottle and a great backpack because you will have those items with you the majority of the time. I basically live out of my backpack. A waterproof/shockproof camera is a good idea- I destroyed my camera within the first month of being here because it got a little wet on a trip. Also- don’t forget extra memory cards because you will be taking tons of pictures. I know my school told me not to bring my iphone abroad- if they tell you that don’t listen to it. I just shut off the data and use the wifi so I can text me friends and family, which is a lifesaver! If you have certain medicines or toiletries from home that you love- bring them! More than likely you can find them here, but they will be way more expensive. Plus, pack some things that remind you of home to put in your room. I packed a lot of pictures that I put on my wall, in addition to a pillow, blanket, and a huge stuffed dog from home. Some of the little things like that will mean the most to you in times you just want something from home. 

Lets also talk about the change in environment. Yes, it is gorgeous. Beaches, palm trees- it’s literally out of a magazine! But, there are also scorching hot days, torrential rain showers, and bugs…bugs everywhere! Sunscreen and bug spray will be two of your best friends. You will never be able to thank yourself enough for packing a great rain jacket and umbrella. Also, extra pairs of good flip flops is always a great thing because they tend to wear out fast. And just remember- never EVER leave food sitting around your room. Unless you want to be subjected to hundreds of fruit flies swarming around. Some of my friends have learned that the hard way.

Being abroad for a long period of time is a really great experience! You just have to recognize that it’s not going to be all smooth sailing, and you will have some stressful times. However, I am convinced that this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And you just have to remember that if you ever get stuck with something, you have a lot of people in your life who can help you.

Also! The highlights of this past week included:

My last biodiversity class consisted of a field trip into Cairns to the Red Ochre Grill. There, we sampled a bunch of different bush foods. My favorites were the kangaroo and crocodile meat, in addition to the pavlova dessert. 

We also had our farewell dinner with our IFSA advisor. We ate at the Cock n’ Bull, which gives HUGE portions of really amazing food! It’s crazy to think I only have 18 days left here. I will be posting soon on the roadtrip I took to Townsville this past weekend! Cheers :)


Let Me Introduce Myself

Time September 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone!!

After what seems like the longest summer of my life, I present you all with my pre-departure blog! I’m so excited to go on this journey and have the opportunity to share it. So please watch and enjoy!

One thing I would like to add is in the video you’ll hear me talk about bringing ONE suitcase. You may ask how I can fit everything I need in one suitcase, my friends are still baffled by this as well, but I am doing Project333. Project333 is a minimalism challenge that only allows 33 pieces of clothing in 3 months!! I am only taking 23 over there initially because I’m bound to find 10 pieces over there that I want. The reason I wanted to share this is because I know when people travel for long amounts of time and only one suitcase, “they think how am I going to pack?” I wanted to see if I could do it so I’ll also keep you updated on how this project works out because where there’s a will there’s a way HA!

Best wishes,


(PS. sorry for the glitch in the video…you know, technology isn’t perfect!)

Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University


“All adventures,especially into new territory,are scary.”

Time August 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am officially freaking out. I leave for the airport in less than 5 hours. I don’t think I’ve really taken the time to mentally prepare myself for this trip. I have been so absorbed in planning  and figuring out the logistics of how everything will work (which even now I am still in the process of doing- how am I getting my laptop to Ireland?!). My advice for people planning a trip before studying abroad: think of every little tiny hiccup two months in advance and find a solution for it a month before you leave, not the day you leave…

Luckily though, the fantastic IFSA-Butler staff has been extraordinarily helpful. They email me back within hours when I ask really silly questions that have already been explained in prior emails. Or when I ask about things that I don’t need to worry about they are quick to assure me they will take care of things. They are literally life savers.

Even so, my stress continues to sky rocket. But maybe it’s not stress. Maybe it’s a combination of nerves, excitement, stress, and the fact that I have a bit of a cold that is making my stomach roll. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am about to have the best 4 months of my life; but try to tell the butterflies in my stomach that fact and I begin to feel even more sick.

My one probably overweight suitcase that I have yet to try and close, and my tiny backpack that holds 2 weeks worth of my life. Now where does the laptop go…

Once I am finally on the plane and there is nothing more I can physically do to prepare, I will somewhat settle down and enjoy the moment. Until then I will continue to cram things into my suitcase, freak out about how much money this endeavor will be, and chug some Airborne to try and bump my immune system for the 9 hour flight tonight.


Getting to Know Me

Time January 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s five days before I leave for England, and obviously a lot is on my mind. Before I share some of my preparations and excitement, I thought I would give a brief introduction to who I am.

I am the third child of six. Being a part of a large family has been so much fun. My two older brothers are married and I found out this Christmas that I’m going to be an aunt for the first time. Thankfully, the baby isn’t due until I get back from being abroad, but I am a little sad that I will miss the months of preparation. We are all very close and being the first grandchild, I’m sure the whole family will want to be a part. I am a Junior at Butler University and I’m studying mathematics to become a college professor. That means I’ll be in college for the rest of my life. At least it feels that way some times…yet I love it! I’ve been looking at graduate schools recently, but mainly I’m enjoying my time at Butler.

Besides school, I’m really involved in both the churches I attend (one at home and one at school). I teach 4-6 year old’s during Children’s Church, help out with the youth occasionally, sing on the praise team and in the choir, and help out in any other ways needed. I’m also part of several clubs on campus that are focused on volunteering or mathematics. I work on campus during the school year in a department that helps staff and students learn how to use technology. If you haven’t guessed, I’m a bit of a nerd and geek…and my mom can receive all the credit for that.

While I’m abroad, I will still be studying mathematics at Leeds University and working on my thesis. As part of the honor program at Butler, I am writing a thesis on cubic graphs and their important applications. I’ve been in contact with a professor in London who wrote several papers on cubic graphs, so hopefully I will be visiting him later this semester for an interview. I will definitely share that experience on here!

My mom and I are arriving in England a few days before the official start of the IFSA-Butler program. We are arriving in Leeds Friday morning, then she will be flying out of Heathrow Monday morning. We are hoping to get to know Leeds a little the day and a half we are there, then exploring London for a day before she goes back home. I’m really excited that she gets to share part of this experience with me.

Am I ready to leave? Ummm…that is a resounding no. I haven’t packed anything yet, although there is a pile that’s been growing in my room of things I might want to take. Now whether or not it will all fit in my suitcase, that’s a problem I don’t want to think about yet. I’ve been going through all my emails and newsletters to make sure I have all the paperwork and information I need. I’m still putting together a packet of all the important documents and papers that I will need with me abroad. I’m a bit of an organization freak, if you can’t tell.

Sometimes I get nervous when I think about being away from my family for so long. Being so close to them, I know it’s going to be hard at times. I also know that we will keep in contact as much as we can, so that will really help. I go to school three hours away from home, which is far enough to limit my trips home to at most every other weekend. But I’ve never been away from home for longer than a month at a time. Right now, I’m not really worried about all that. The excitement of actually being in England is a little overwhelming! I’ve dreamed of going to England since I was in middle school. I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, the 2005 movie. I mapped out the houses used to film the movie and I cannot wait to visit. Not to mention Jane Austen’s house just outside of greater London. Aaaahhhhh! It’s hard to believe that it’s actually happening! Sounds so cliche…but it’s true. When you think about and dream of doing something for such a long time, your brain doesn’t always catch up when it all starts to come true.

I’m going to start packing Monday, so once I have everything put together and ready to go, I’ll try to remember to write up another post before I leave.

Until then…


“You is kind. You is smart. You is important”
Aibileen Clark, The Help


Excitement! Nervousness! I don’t know what to title my pre-departure post!

Time September 19th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Written Thursday, September 15th, 2011: 11:45 pm


I suppose as I am leaving in a mere two and a half days, now is the time for me to write a pre-departure blog post and get the proverbial ball rolling!


Hello! For anyone reading this who does not know me personally (Hi, Mom & Dad!), I’m currently 21 years old and a senior Classics major at Gettysburg College, which you may have missed (or not) over in the left side-bar of this page. I really wanted to write a blog for IFSA Butler not only to document my own journey, but hopefully to give anyone interested in studying abroad, particularly in Wales, a real idea of what it’s like to attend Cardiff University and live in Wales as an IFSA Butler study abroad student. I stalked read a number of study abroad blogs when I was planning my semester abroad, but found many of them disappointing because I wanted to know so much and they shared much less than I expected. Perhaps I will have to eat my words later when I discover that I am much busier/distracted than anticipated, but right now I plan to post blog entries as often as I can once I have reliable internet access.


And now, on to the pre-departure thoughts of the evening– 


It’s been a very disjointed few weeks leading up to departure. I feel as though I’ve been in an odd sort of limbo because all my friends are at school working away, my job ended in August, and I’ve just been in in-between land! Not at school, not working, not yet finished with my undergraduate career…so it’s nice to feel as though I have some purpose again in going to school soon, but at the same time I feel oddly disconnected from what is going on. I remember writing a blog post ages ago back at the beginning of February when I was just starting my study abroad applications about how much I wanted to go to Cardiff and how exciting it all was to think about it, but I really am having a hard time digesting the fact that it is here! I’m going! I suppose it will all hit me on Sunday afternoon when I am at the airport…


…most likely when I am attempting to navigate the security line and manage the bins I will have to fill with my carry-on bag, laptop, boots, and my long wool coat (I don’t want to waste space in my checked luggage packing them!) whilst feeling rushed and trying not to hold the line up too much. Oh, the joys of air travel.


Until next time!


*UPDATE: Sunday September 18, 2011: 12:24am* 


Well, nearly everything is packed, and many thanks to my mother, who rather expertly manage to fit all my things in my case, whilst I generally stood next to it moaning, “Oh, I don’t think this will all fit. How can this possibly all fit in there? You know, that suitcase looks a lot bigger from the outside…“. I have ended up requiring two suitcases, one big one and one medium sized one. I have just accepted the fact that “pack light” isn’t really in my personal vocabulary and excess baggage fees will just be a part of my life. Granted, the bags are maybe 55lbs total; so theoretically I probably could’ve gotten away with one really big 50lb suitcase, as that’s the weight limit, but I thought it would be too difficult to manage a single suitcase with that much stuff in it. I certainly could have packed much more than I did; the problem I’ve run into really is, of course, the fact that the fall and winter generally involve tricky seasonal transitions clothes-wise; this is made doubly difficult when one is traveling to a foreign country and unsure of the weather.

We’ll see how it goes–I am fully aware that I may encounter staircases and need to lug my bags up and down, but I will do so for the sake of my horseback riding apparel and various types of shoes!


On the brink of a great adventure

Time July 18th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I will be waking up in four hours to leave the country, and I am in packing frenzy mode right now.

A quick introduction: Hi, my name’s Callie, I go to the University of Pennsylvania, where I’m majoring in Hispanic Studies and English. I grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and I usually return in the summers to visit my mom, dad, two younger brothers, and our dog. Carson is a city of about 50,000…big enough to have six Starbucks, but small enough to not be able to go anywhere without running into somebody I know. Having already moved 3,000 miles away from home to live in Philadelphia for the past two years, I feel ready to spend the next six months in Buenos Aires. I have never traveled outside of the United States, so studying abroad has been something I’ve wanted to do for most of my life.

Getting ready to leave has been a flurry of shopping for luggage, clothes, and toiletries. Saying goodbyes, sending emails, making phone calls, lists, multiple trips to the doctor, dentist, bank, figuring out insurance, prescriptions for allergy medication, and on and on. I still don’t have a clear idea as to how I’ll be making phone calls from abroad, how I’ll find adapters for portable electronics so that my laptop/camera charger/hairdryer doesn’t explode, how I’ll sign up for classes, or how I’ll adapt to a new city, culture, and family. I have no idea how I will manage to do all of this (and so much more!) in Spanish.

And yet, I feel calm. Giddy with excitement, but with an underlying sense of calm. I know this will be a venture into the unknown, and I will have to learn as I go. But that, to me, is immensely liberating.


The Final Countdown

Time February 7th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As of today, I have officially begun the one week countdown until I leave for Australia! None of this has felt real until today, and I have to say I’m experiencing a lot of emotions. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

This past week I went on what I liked to a call a “Tour De College”. I escaped work early due to the Snowpocalypse on Tuesday, and headed down to Lehigh when the coast was clear. It was a perfect visit. I stayed with my best friend for a few days, which was great since she’s graduating after this semester. While I was there I got to see almost everyone I wanted to. The highlight: we built an igloo. Literally. It was awesome. I came home on Thursday night, took a breather, and then headed up to SUNY Albany. Two of my best friends from home go there, so I wanted to stay with them before I left. We had a nice get-together at their house last night, which was really fun. All in all, it was a really fun week. I’m so happy I got to visit my friends, but at the same time it’s bittersweet. I’m going to miss them all so much!

Today I came home from SUNY Albany because my mom insisted on having a going-away party. I really didn’t want to have such a production all for me, and I was really hesitant, but it ended up being just fine. So many people came – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, friends! – and it just made me feel so loved. To top off the day, I got an awesome cake and a ton of early birthday money!

Now that I’m in the home stretch, I am feeling stressed. I feel as if I’ve been shopping forever, but still don’t have all that I need. I feel as if I am never going to be able to fit everything I need in 106 inches of suitcase. I feel as if my mom may never stop nagging me about how my clothing is all over the living. I feel anxious because I am a terrible flyer, and I feel badly for my friend Sarah who has to sit next to me during the flight.

But most importantly? I feel excited. See you in seven days, Oz!


A Packing Extravaganza

Time January 3rd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In 5 days I will be getting on a plane and flying to London. Even as I type that sentence I can hardly believe it. Disbelief aside, there is a lot to do to get ready to get on that plane. The past couple of days have been full of list-making, cleaning, organizing, and packing. The nice thing about leaving after Christmas is that I got lots of nice gifts to bring with me on my trip. The down-side to leaving after Christmas is that I got lots of nice gifts to bring with me on my trip; it’s really hard to fit everything into one suitcase and a carry-on. Luckily my very sweet boyfriend volunteered to help. This is very much a necessity, especially if you’re someone like me who likes to plan for any and all situations and therefore likes to bring a lot of stuff. Though I will say that that stuff is not usually clothes. In fact after we finished packing my clothes my boyfriend mentioned how surprised he was that he didn’t have to tell me not to bring certain things. However I think he may have changed his mind after we packed my shoes etc.

Despite my choice of the word “extravaganza”, the packing actually went pretty smoothly and not particularly lavishly. Mostly extravaganza is just fun to say and tends to grab people’s attention (otherwise why would all those companies use it when they have sales?). I was surprised that I was able to condense my wardrobe into so few bags and that it took only a few hours. Granted, it helped that Andrew did all the folding and all I really had to do was pick things out to bring. The hardest part was choosing items that I could layer together and mix and match to make lots of different outfits. Hopefully I wont be disappointed once I arrive and start to wear the clothes I packed.

Now that the packing is done the next step is to prep all the documents I’ll need for the airport and getting into the country. I will be printing out all those emails and documents that I have received as well as making copies of my debit card and passport. Hopefully I wont need the copies, but it’s better to have them then not and need them later. Overall I’m really starting to get nervous, but I’m still really excited. It’ll be hard I’m sure, but I’m always up for a challenge. That’s what study abroad is all about, right? New challenges for a new me. I can’t wait!

Edit: This would have been posted closer to on time if my hard drive hadn’t crashed while I was trying to upload photos. What a NIGHTMARE. Luckily it worked out and I will have a laptop for London. Yay!