Monday, January 30, 2017


By Arlinda Fasliu*

Welcome to my first blog! Hopefully that doesn’t scare you away -- we are, after all, just amateurs. As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t be concerned about it. If being an amateur, poet, singer, songwriter, actress, writer, and human has taught me anything, it’s that we must all go through this stage on our path to greatness. Or, in my case, heightened mediocrity.

My name is Arlinda and I’m going on a study abroad trip to Morocco. The program I’m doing focuses on journalism and new media. My goal is to work on a mini doc during the independent project and hug as many people that I can.

Break Down:

Week 1: Big group meeting in a hotel. Not sure what we’re doing yet besides basic training for the days to come. How to fend off stray cats that come looking for a fight, how to tell if a cappuccino is made right??? Little do these people know, I’ve been trained in these dark arts. This ain't my first rodeo!

First half: Chill with a host family and go to school. I’ll be taking more Arabic classes in MSA and Daraja ( the Moroccan dialect).

Second half: I get to focus on my own wonderfully amazing groundbreaking undercover story. Don’t ask me what it is- it’s top secret. By that I mean I have no idea what it will be.

Last week: Showcase and wrap up.

4 is the number of times I packed in case you were wondering. Why did I pack four times? Well, friend, as I laid on my couch, arms stretched out, screaming:

“I don’t know what I’m doing! Take me now god, I’m ready to go! Beam me up Scotty I ain't for this world baby!”

It dawned on me that the world wide Web could probably help. After Googling my little fingers to the bone, I ultimately found a packing break down list my program e-mailed me weeks ago. I got to work.

4 Pairs of shoes: cute and wearable, hiking/sports, sandals, old lady chic flats, and flip flops

Tops: 4 onesies (2 long, 2 short) 2 lightish sweaters, 3 blouses, 2 tank tops, a blazer, 4 dresses, 10 socks, 10 undies, 3 super light crop tops (for when I go to Spain, Italy, and Albania), 3 short sleeved shirts

Bottoms: 2 long skirts (1 patterned & 1 black), 2 shorts (one jeans, one comfy and light), puma sweatpants, 1 pair black leggings, 1 nice black pants, 2 long jeans, 1 PJ

Jackets: black zip up, red pea coat Columbia down feather jacket

packed suitcase


I know when people are going abroad they want to buy all these new things. In my case, I bought a solar powered backpack. Did I think I would need one on a trip to the Sahara or if my plane crashed on a deserted island and I needed Netflix? Yes. Is that the only reason I got it? No.

Go To A Thrift Store

When I was packing I first went to thrift stores for stuff I may need. Here’s stuff I got for free or got at the thrift store:

Luggage: $20 and fit 48 lbs of stuff

Shoes: old lady flats $15, sandals $15 at Payless

Other: belts, shirts, skirt, dresses,

puma pants from friend

Columbia jacket, clothing swap

Coordinate a Clothing Swap with Friends!

If you haven’t cried at least once, you are probably not ready, dude! You’ll probably still over pack, don’t worry.PACK PACK AND PACK AGAIN!

“Do I need 6 different lipsticks?”

No. no I do not, but that’s how life works out sometimes. You spend 3 days packing and you still take 6 lipsticks. Makeup: I took a compact powder, an old liquid Bb cream I haven’t used since summer, mascara, liquid eye liner, cream stick eyeliner, blush, and an old compact eyeshadow palette that’s almost gone.

Bath: Took 3 hotel sample shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, you can buy the rest there!

Hair: comb, mini hair spray, hair pins, hair elastics (thick and clear)

Face: grab some old bottles or jars from old make up or lotion and fill 'em up, you won’t need much

Other: razor, tweezers, lena cup (the best thing you can ever buy as a traveling female!!) , a few panty liners, a bunch of Advil and Midol in a little old bottle, converters, battery pack


* Passport

* Folder with printed out letter explaining where you’re going, a printed out piece of paper of your itinerary/ directions once you get there/ list of phone numbers in case you need to call someone

* Small bag with basics like Chapstick, lotion, nail file, liners, Advil,

* Go-pro, laptop, misc. cords (2 iPhone cords in case one breaks, hard drive cords, mini usb), usb port extension, 7D EOS, 50mm lens

* Little notebook, 2 pens, 2 pencils,

Ask yourself these questions with your host country in mind:

What will people around me be wearing?

What do I feel comfortable in?

Will I really need 10 dresses, 6 pairs of jeans, a shower radio, and my stuffed panda bear?

Or… can I just use one of these things to satisfy all three needs?

Do I feel prepared?

I just got my typhoid fever vaccine in a Walgreens yesterday because I realized my insurance covered it and I wouldn’t have to risk my life. I spent this past year contemplating what I really wanna do with my life. These past few months I’ve been grappling with scholarships. I haven’t finished the recommended readings and I’ve hugged my panda bear more times than I can count this past year. So basically, I’ve been playing sudoku: guessing, getting lucky, and rearranging. Have I finished the game yet? No. But I’ve picked up the pencil.

So this is me, on a plane, writing to you as the outside roars like 90’s static on the TV screen too loud for comfort. Fair warning, I’m not very good at sudoku.

*Disclaimer: It takes time to sit down and research what program you want to do. Take the time to ask yourself what you want out of this experience. You are, after all, paying for it. Are you looking to have something to show for your resume? Are you looking to eat pasta and party? Are you looking to volunteer? Sit down and ask yourself these hard questions. Write them down. Circle one.


*Arlina Fasliu is a junior at the University of Iowa studying journalism and international studies. She will be spending her semester on the SIT Morocco Field Studies in Journalism and New Media program.