I’ve never felt super materialistic, but now, packing up what I use on a daily basis and need to live comfortably, I feel like I own so much. I’ve always considered myself a person who could choose their most personal belongings and be totally content living out of a suitcase. But now faced with the challenge I find it more difficult than anticipated. I completely forgot about necessities like bed sheets, for example. Do I pack that in my suitcase? Should I just buy them in New Zealand? If I pack them, how in the world do I fit my clothes? My favorite sweater seems to take up all the room anyways. And a 50-pound max on my suitcase? WHAT? My hiking boots seem to weigh that much. And although I don’t frequently use makeup, the list of contour, mascara, highlighter, etcetera, quickly lengthens my packing list.
I also underestimated the emotional blow of saying goodbye to friends and family. As this first semester at UW ended I was too engaged in the stress of finals and packing my room to stress about leaving friends. My February departure date seemed so far away. But as one of my best friends left to go back to Berkeley the 15th, and my Madison friends have just begun school again, the date is sneaking up on me, all too quickly.
Having a boyfriend has brought on new conversations about what happens when I’m abroad, and even what happens when I come back. Knowing I’ll have to say goodbye to him hurts so badly, even though I know we’re strong enough to make it. I’ll miss his smile and our inside jokes. On the other hand, my other best friend and I do everything together. But now she could go into the journalism school without me, and I won’t hear about her daily stories as they’re happening. It’ll be weird to not come home to be greeted by my dog, and I won’t get visits from my parents.
Don’t get me wrong-my desire for an academic adventure still burns strongly, but its reality was overlooked. My visa hasn’t been approved yet and I don’t have a place to live in Wellington. I’m not sure how I’m getting from the airport to this mystery housing, and I don’t even know the classes I’ll be enrolled in.
As I’m caught up in a tornado of emotions and stress, I hear about my classmates and friends readjusting to their normal routines. Their homework-laden nights and afternoons spent at College Library, and mornings filled with Pete’s coffee from the Union. I see them fall back into the routine of part-time jobs and club meetings, and I begin to see myself craving that routine too. I want to experience that all with them.
I guess what you could call a pre-culture shock, is my acceptance to having a completely new experience, alone.
Looking back to December, I wish I had planned more and been more proactive in getting things done for this study abroad. I still have time to sort through all my “Wellington to-do’s,” but they were easily muffled with the strain of saying goodbye. I’ve left it all till now.
What I’ve realized, however, is there would always be an excuse for why I didn’t do this earlier or start that sooner. I’ve been working two jobs over break to save money for New Zealand and I think along with other things, I’ve put what I’ve really wanted to do aside. I thought I’d be spending so much time with my family during break, and that I’d have the ability to drive to Madison whenever it fit my friends’ schedules. I still haven’t had that movie night with my mom, or the day visit to the local museum.
Although I dread my February 6th departure for goodbye purposes, it couldn’t get here sooner. I’ve been reading books on New Zealand culture and studying its customs and traditions. I’m leaving early to visit my “sister” in Japan, who our family hosted during my senior year in high school. I couldn’t be more excited! I’ll be meeting new people in Wellington and sharing similar new experiences with those who are traveling from Madison to Massey. I’ll finally be getting a new perspective towards my anthropology degree by studying in a foreign land.
In retrospect, this will be some of the best months of my life. And that’s all it is: a few months. Just how my time together with friends and family has flown by, so will my time away from them. In that light, I’m looking forward to what I can do with my time abroad, and how I can utilize the information in my classes to the knowledge I have from the States. Although I’m scared now, I’ll be alright. I’m glad I’m thinking about the baggage that comes with going away as it will help me plan for the best time abroad.