Hello readers and study abroad hopefuls!
This is Ashley Haugland, a current senior at our very own beloved Bama. I’m majoring in International Relations (relations track) with a minor in Japanese and in an astounding, anxiety-inducing time frame of 1o days I will be departing the good ol’ US of A for Tokyo, Japan. This is my first excursion abroad so I’m not exactly a fount of wisdom, but I wanted to lay out some of the more….errr…interesting predicaments I’ve had to deal with in the process of preparing for a year abroad.
Just to preface, if you’re an individual who’s seriously considering studying abroad, Google (or the search engine of your preference, this is a democracy not a dictatorship) is your best friend. Research like you were born to research. Research like you are a plant who photosynthesizes information just to live. The more you know, the more you can navigate hurdles like a pro and save yourself a lot of headaches. Each country presents a unique set of problems to face which can dictate how and what you pack.
For example, let me insert a little anecdotal, comedic relief. I have had to pack a years supply of deodorant. Now, just as your mind is abuzz with horror that I’m some weird, abnormally smelly individual, let me assure you that that is not the case. I’m your average, if not better smelling human being than the average Joe. I sort of pride myself on that. Hygiene and I are pretty great pals, but just to infuse a little Bill Nye-esque science factoid for all us 90’s kids, humans have both eccrine and apocrine glands which produce sweat. The placement and amount of these glands depends on a lot of evolutionary blah blah and really, you can research this stuff if you want exact details. Eccrine glands excrete sweat to the skin and are generally just benign little glands trying to cool you off. Apocrine glands are attached to hair follicles and are responsible for the smells we all detest. Because nature is a cruel, cruel mistress, some people have less apocrine glands than others, and thus smell less. Japanese people on the whole, have less apocrine glands than say me, with my smelly, hairy Norwegian and Scottish ancestors, and as we all know, Capitalism functions on the directive that they cater their products to the markets available. Japanese people just don’t need the strong deodorants we have in America…meaning, to save the noses and sensibilities of those innocent Tokyo-ites, I need to bring enough American-power deodorant. (**fun fact: If you have waxy earwax you are an individual with more apocrine glands, and if you have dry, brittle earwax you have fewer!)
For a breakdown of the deodorant options in Japan, see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvLBb7qWu8Q
What you pack is going to differ depending on the length of your stay, so always take that into consideration. Do everything essential WAY ahead of time. There is never an instance where you should think, “I’m doing this too early.” Get on top of immunizations, eye examinations, the works. Look into regulations on medicines if you need to take medicine with you, check it all out thoroughly. What may fly in America may not in another country (pun intended for all the intense flight regulations). In fact, I recommend getting a special folder or some organizational device just to keep papers specific to your study abroad trip. If you can, even try to budget ahead of time. No one in the history of mankind was like, “Oh drats, I’m just too darn prepared!” Procrastination can be deadly when it comes to studying abroad, it can even keep you from going in extreme cases.
Now, according to my title I’ve promised you pros as well as cons. The pro is this: You now know what is important to you. It’s like that old fire scenario, “When your house is on fire, whatever you grab first is what is essential to you.” Take this opportunity to downsize all that clutter you have. All those clothes you’ve had since high school because it may fit you again one day, that cocktail dress you’re just waiting to have an occasion for, donate it. Do a little spring cleaning, de-clutter your life. Downsizing my life to a suitcase and a carry-on has really opened my eyes to the boundless crap just occupying space in my life, and I must say, it was a little refreshing to clean out some stuff.
I hope this has been helpful…or at least…mildly distracting for those procrastinating on the first paper of the semester. To all my fellow students trudging along, good luck and godspeed!
Your friendly neighborhood Bama blogger.
Ashley Haugland (A seriously un-smelly individual)