/ The Daily OrangeAbroad
Packing bags for semester in Istanbul requires weighing practicality against nostalgia
Four months, 50 pounds. Are you kidding?
When beginning the packing process last week, I glanced incredulously between the one bag I was allowed to bring and a closet bursting with clothes. “How is this ever going to work?” I thought, while simultaneously trying to calculate how much begging it would require for me to convince Mom to split the cost of checking an extra bag.
Fast-forward: I leave for Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday and, miraculously, I’ve pretty much made my weight limit. Although, being that girl walking around the airport wearing 75 percent of the jewelry she owns will definitely help.
Though the winnowing process was intense and yes, at times painful, recognizing the difference between certain articles’ metaphysical and physical weights helped me let go.
Packing the heavy, barf-colored sweater I’ve insisted on wearing to family holiday parties for the last few years may have knocked out about six different T-shirt options, but at least I’ll have something to curl up in on Thanksgiving or Christmas when I’m missing my family. Bringing the pair of bright yellow sneakers that carried me all over New York City might mean I don’t have room for my gold sequined skirt, yet every time I look down at my feet, I’ll see not just where I’m going, but everywhere I’ve been.
Of course, there were also more practical packing decisions.
Goodbye, five-inch wedges, which wouldn’t fare well on Istanbul’s hilly streets. Hello, chunky, short boots, ideal for mosque visits, ruin explorations and hiking the ancient footpath, the Lycian Way. Out go the short dresses and neon tops in favor of longer skirts and a rainbow of cardigans. Not only will dressing more conservatively show respect for the fact that I’ll be studying in a predominantly Muslim country, but I also hope to avoid looking so blatantly foreign, even though my mangled pronunciation of the Turkish word for thank you — “tesekkur ederim” — will probably give me away.
Replaying the same disc of “Teach Yourself Turkish” ad nauseam while stuffing belongings into a suitcase brought back a rush of memories. I remembered preparing for family vacations and weeklong excursions with friends, the thrice-consulted checklists and the last second scramble to squeeze in one more pair of flip-flops. I recalled the times I’d seen my friends packing their bags to go abroad — their giddy excitement now my own.
I remember some of the unpacking, as well, and how almost everyone has told me how four months end up going by too fast. I pictured myself three years ago, packing for Syracuse for the first time; how then, like now, I was launching myself into a grand adventure with no real idea of what to expect.
Packing up inevitably means leaving certain things behind, and as I plant my last goodbye kisses on cheeks and lips, and dole out my final hugs, I wish that certain people could scrunch up and hop in my suitcase to come with me, although that would mean chucking out a few more dresses. At least stamps and postcards are light, and Skype doesn’t weigh a thing, thankfully. And, I have room to slip in that friendship bracelet, this birthday gift and one borrowed T-shirt I “forgot” to return.
Much like John Denver, all my bags are packed and I’m ready to go. Unlike Mr. Denver, I do know when I’ll be back again: In January, I’ll be leaving on a jet plane on my way home. However, I have a feeling I won’t be exactly the same person when I return as I am now, as I prepare to leave. Who knows what else I may have packed with and within me by the time I return?
Four months, 50 pounds: Let’s do this.
Jillian D’Onfro is a senior magazine journalism and information management and technology dual major. Her column appears every Tuesday. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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