Julianne - outbound to Turkey

My final week in the Florida for this year!

It is less than a week until my departure date! I have actually had quite a few new experiences while still being in the US. I have gotten my first credit and debit card in the mail, which is very exciting, but also terrifying because I’ve never used one before! Both of the cards have chips in them, which I was told will be different than using a regular credit card. Because of the fact that I don’t know how to use a “Signature” credit card either, I actually might be at an advantage to use this new version called “Chip and Pin”.

I have been taught to iron, which after almost my shirts in the learning curve, I think I have gotten pretty good at. I have had my first ever going away party, which I would like to say should not be under the category of “party” because it was actually pretty depressing. I also had to say (a long) goodbye to my sister for the next eleven months because she couldn't make it home from FSU on my actual departure date. To make matters worse the day we had to say goodbye, turned out to be her birthday; September 2nd. Although it was sad I know that exchange goes by fast so it won’t feel like as long as it is.

A rather unexpected and difficult part of pre-departure is finding gifts for your host parents. The actual shopping part is fun, but trying to think of ideas of what they would like is where it gets tricky. The whole point is to give your host parents things that represent your country and where you live, but also be something that they will keep and treasure as a memory of you. It is supposed to last; not be used and discarded like a candle. Finding a gift like this would seem easy, but in my case I do not want to give my host parents some tacky tourist junk that says Florida on it. So to find something genuinely Floridian and nice, takes time. Luckily for me, I waited until the last week to find great gifts, so I was running around everywhere I could think of and still coming up empty handed. Eventually I stumbled into a boutique in Sawgrass Village with my mom and found the perfect gifts! I ended up purchasing a starfish plate, a turtle plate set, and a coffee mug that are all beautiful and undeniably Floridian. After finding these gifts I am glad I maintained my high standards throughout my shopping ventures because I found exactly what I was searching for.

Packing on the other hand has been a nightmare. I have been traveling the world since I was three; packing a suitcase should be a snap for me, right? It turns out I was dead wrong. I can’t pack for my life. First of all, I am terrible at folding, so trying to save space by being very precise in the placement of each item is basically impossible for me. And second of all, I’m a girl and this entails the fact that I have options in my wardrobe. Now I don’t mean to sound like I am trying to pack everything I own, but you cannot imagine the frustration that comes with having to pack your life up in one teeny box. How can I pack necessities when I have 40 pounds of room, not only for clothes, but shoes, gifts, makeup, and pins (which weigh like 5 pounds on there own)?

The other problem is that although Izmir is less conservative than most of Turkey, I still have to have appropriate clothing for when/if I travel to a more conservative area of the country. I also have to pack for multiple contingencies in terms of weather because it fluctuates from 100 degrees to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. I understand you don’t need to pack your entire wardrobe (which believe me I’m not even packing half), but how do you decide what stays and what goes! The same not only goes for clothes, but shoes as well! Do I need flip-flops, boots, sandals, flats, heels, sneakers, running shoes, and rain boots?

No guidebook ever really explains what is appropriate, all they give is some watered down generic response of “ be conservative if you feel you need to be” and “dress for the weather”. Both of these responses are also just a way of saying that the situation in Turkey varies so much we cannot give you a direct answer for fear of being wrong. Finally after packing and taking things out and repacking and taking more things out, I have fit everything into one bag. However upon further inspection the bag weighed almost 70 pounds. After all the drama of packing eventually I have just decided to take two suitcases; one of which holds mostly gifts and pins and the other holds my regular items. This will also come in handy when I am coming home and have all the extra room for things I buy while over in Turkey.

I attended my last Rotary meeting in Ponte Vedra this Thursday, September 4th and although it was a tad bitter sweet, they gave me such a great send off, that I know they have confidence in me and my ability to succeed in Turkey. I feel like I have been attending meetings at the Ponte Vedra Sunrise club for such a long time! I really am going to miss some of the amazing Rotarians I have met that have encouraged me throughout this entire process to try my best and to live up to Rotary standards. To my entire club and the entire Rotary organization in Florida and the world, I would like to say thank you.

I know it is a tad unorthodox to post journals before one actually departs for exchange, but I feel the exchange starts the day you find out you are accepted into the program. You do not start to change when you step on your plane; you start to change during the preparation for your journey, when you truly understand you are a part of something more and are making an impact. None of the changes you develop would be possible without Rotary and this is why I am so grateful to be given this wonderful opportunity.