By Deborah Vieyra
Who would have thought that one of the most daunting parts of this process would have been deciding what to pack? Your suitcase is open on the floor, seeming as though it is somehow shrinking every time you look at it. All the objects in your room seem to be vying for a position inside it. Every item of clothing, every book, every photograph begins to look like something you could just never do without. How on earth does anyone pack a bag for a whole year or more, especially for a place that they have never been to?
Take a deep breath. Like putting together your resume and personal statement, the task of appropriate packing can be accomplished in a strategic pain-free manner. Here are four things that you should consider taking with you on your beckoning voyage.
#1 Small gifts from your home country
Doing a fellowship abroad invites many social engagements that you can’t always pre-plan. A professor may have you and your cohort over for dinner. A colleague may invite you to their family home. A local family may throw a dinner party for international visitors. Whatever the specific situation may be, offering a gift that has been brought specially from your home country is an ideal way to show your appreciation for their hospitality. These gifts do not have to be extravagant by any means. The simplest of tokens can go a long way in showing your appreciation, as well as give your hosts a flavourful insight into where you come from.
#2 At least one formal outfit
It is highly likely that you will find yourself attending at least one conference or formal affair during your time abroad. Events ranging from enrichment seminars to awards ceremonies to networking functions will spring up on you. Make sure that you are prepared to put your smartest foot forward when called upon to do so.
#3 Weather-appropriate clothing
If the climate of your destination differs vastly from that of your home country, it may be difficult to find the correct clothing in your wardrobe for the conditions you are about to face. Do as much research as you can before leaving. If you are traveling from blistering desert to icy tundra, it will probably be necessary to purchase suitable items when you touch down in your destination. After all, you do not want to spend the entire period of your fellowship focussed on trying to keep the icicles that your fingers have turned into from falling off your hands.
#4 A folder of copies of your documents
The logistical part of your trip will no doubt proceed without any hiccups. On the off chance that you lose any of your important travel documents, it is much easier to recover them if you are in possession of copies. You can either store these digitally or, if it makes you feel more at ease, you can keep hard copies in a file folder. Remember to keep these copies in a place separate from the documents themselves, or you might find yourself in the frustrating position of being without both the documents and their back-ups.
I would like to think that you’re all set now, but if you are anything like me, I am sure you are still deliberating over various personal items. The truth is, when it comes down to it, you will miss people more than you do objects. The things that you crave from home will be the smells of a certain type of cooking or a particular shade of green in the local foliage. You will miss the things that cannot travel with you in any bag. But this can be a gift. Sometimes you only realize how much you appreciate something when you are given the opportunity to miss it.
Deborah Vieyra is a Fulbright alumna from South Africa who completed her MA in Applied Theatre Arts at the University of Southern California. She now works as a writer, proofreader and performer in Vancouver, Canada.
© Victoria Johnson 2018, all rights reserved.