‘All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go’

Daruma Doll placed on my windowsil

As the departure date for the Texas State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s upcoming expedition to Japan approaches, a sense of urgency and anticipation fills the majority of students in the program as they prepare. While some are engaging in meticulous planning and, like John Denver, are ready to leave on that jet plane, others are relinquishing control to fate.

a whiteboard with packing list written on it sits next to a cat

Regarding the physical aspects of preparation, most students feel adequately equipped. For instance, Reese Zeigler, mass communication major, who departed on Sunday ahead of the rest of the group, created a comprehensive packing list and itinerary (seen here on her whiteboard, supervised by her cat).

“I have a spreadsheet with tabs for the complete itinerary, outfit needs for each day, flight necessities, things to do and purchase before Monday, and even a list of potential outfit combos,” said Jamie Gonzalez, the group’s graduate instructional assistant.

Gonzalez is far from being alone in her meticulous planning.

“I’m slowly packing right now, but I’ve been making lists and thinking about what to pack for weeks, so it’s not super stressful for me,” said Allison Binkley, public relations major.

On the other hand, some students are procrastinating until the last minute, relying on the adrenaline rush to guide them through the packing process. One student who is taking the “fly by the seat of your pants” route is Zoe Simonovic, advertising major.

“Right now, it’s completely mental,” Simonovic said the week leading up to departure day. “I haven’t packed anything yet, but I am anticipating it because I am only bringing a carry-on, which I’m not used to.”

The two camps also exist when it comes to planning the trip’s itinerary, which includes plenty of unstructured time for students to explore on their own. Some students have specific places they want to see, while others are taking a more laid-back approach.

For instance, Sofia Psolka, digital media innovation major, packed early, but when it comes to planning activities abroad, she’s less organized.

“I haven’t done any pre-planning,” Psolka said. “Whenever I plan out trips, they never go according to plan. I get frustrated and stressed when that happens, so I try to stay away from thinking too much about a schedule.”

However, concerns linger among all the students, regardless of how well-organized their planning and packing are. One prominent issue for many is that this trip will be their first international flight. Consequently, most students are actively focused on mitigating the long travel times. Some have planned extensive entertainment options, while others hope to find solace in sleep during the journey. 

Outweighing the concerns, though, is the anticipation. Each student is teeming with excitement over trying Japanese cuisine, viewing the country’s architecture, experiencing a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, watching a Nippon Professional Baseball game, and just generally learning about the country.

Credit must be given to the incredible SJMC professors leading the trip, Gilbert D. Martinez and Jon Zmikly, who have invested a considerable amount of time in preparing the students for this adventure. Their preparations encompassed a crash course on Japanese culture via CulturaGo and the provision of daruma dolls for each participant. A daruma doll is a traditional Japanese doll that symbolizes good luck and perseverance for one’s goals, and the hope is it will bring each student good fortune on this trip abroad.

Professor Martinez has also been mentally preparing for the trip, although his focus is more on making sure the students have an excellent experience.

“I tend not to worry too much because I don’t often find it productive to do so, but I do run scenarios in my head to prepare for potential difficulties or obstacles,” Martinez said.

Without the invaluable guidance and support of Martinez and Zmikly, the SJMC students would undoubtedly feel lost – that is, even more lost than they already do, heading to a new country – before embarking on this incredible journey.

To keep up with the team’s adventures, be sure to follow this blog, as well as the official SJMC Japan Instagram!

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