Tips from Xenia, an international student at UMass.
Packing for college is a funny thing. Some people move out of their homes for good, some leave it only during the academic year. Either way, most people want to make sure they take what they can in order to make their new dorms and apartments feel like home. There are a million articles out there telling you how to decorate and transform the space, but what about choosing what to take with you? It’s not that easy, and for me, it was a process limited by more than simple choice.
Right around the time I had to leave for UMass my family was preparing to move to a smaller apartment, one where, even though I would always be welcome, I wouldn't have a room of my own. Of course, I could leave a few things, but I had to take the majority of my stuff with me. It may not sound that bad but taking into account that I lived in Bolivia and everything I owned needed to fit into two suitcases (and maybe a carry on bag), the whole thing seemed a little too grand.
Try fitting your entire life in two bags. Your mementos, clothes, books, everything you've ever owned; all have to fit in two fifty-pound suitcases. What would you take with you? Aside from necessities, which items would you choose to fill those two bags?
Packing my entire life into two suitcases seemed like an impossible task. And then there was a question of my new life. If I took everything with me, there wouldn’t be a lot of space for me to build a new life. And that’s when it hit me. It’s not really about taking your whole life with you to college, it’s about choosing which parts will help build the foundation upon which you continue to build your life.
That made the whole affair a little easier, because it was no longer a matter of quantity, but rather one of quality.
Here's what I ended up choosing (aside from clothes and other shoes):
Two of my favorite books
My favorite mug
Pictures of friends and family
A Bolivian flag
A few other random items that reminded me of home
Then came round two.
Last semester I decided to do a semester abroad in Germany. Packing for that was an entirely different game. I had to strategically pack everything I needed for both Bolivia and Germany — two places with completely different climates.
Germany was going to be my home temporarily, so I needed to be practical. Something extremely hard for me, because I’m the type of person who plans three different outfits for a single day and packs extra everything in case I get invited to dinner with the Queen of England, or something completely plausible like that. So, what I pictured was going to be two very neat half-packed suitcases ended up looking more like an episode of Hoarders, except maybe a more compact version. Watching me walking around the airport was something out of a comedy. Picture a tiny 5’2" girl with a large backpack, a small duffle bag, and two gigantic, definitely overweight, suitcases.
All in all, there's an important lesson to be learned here. Packing for college for the first time is very transitional. You're preparing for the future, but don't really want to forget the past. With me, that translated into wanting to take every single one of my belongings with me, but that didn't leave a lot of space for new things, did it? It's important to remember that yes, remembering your past and your roots is imperative for growing and moving forward, but if you let your past clutter your future, you won't have a lot space to do said growing.
Sometimes practicality wins over emotion. Even if you learn how to choose those key items to remind you of home, it’s important to think about what you’ll need rather than what you want. And, if you’re lucky, there’s a fun combination hidden between those two! You’ll need a sweater, but who says you can’t take your favorite one with you?
What about you? How did you decide what to take from home and what to leave behind? Share your thoughts using the hashtag #MyHomeMyUMass