Preparing For Your First J-Term Trip

A year ago I was hard at work fundraising for my first J-Term trip to South Africa. Although I had so much support from friends and family (and even many of my professors), it was still a very stressful time for me. Prior to my trip, I had never flown before so I had no idea what to expect or even pack. This was also my first J-Term with Carthage. So if you’re in the same boat, or you just want to know how to prepare for a future trip, I’ve got you covered!

The Cost and Gaining Support

Planning for a typical J-Term trip starts the year before. During the springtime, meetings are held for all of the different study tours available. I started fundraising the fall before my trip, but definitely don’t hesitate to start as early as possible. For my trip, I used GoFundMe, but I recommend using a platform that doesn’t take a percentage out (GoFundMe took around $300 in fees from my donations). Sharing my story all over social media helped a lot, and for those who were not on Facebook/Twitter, I sent personal emails! This is where networking really helped me out.

Plane Essentials

Prior to my trip, I had never been on a plane before, much less been to Africa. I had to do a lot of research and ask around about some of the things that I might need on my trip. As far as plane essentials, I ended up buying a neck pillow at the airport (it wasn’t cheap). If you haven’t heard it before, let me be the first to tell you: DON’T BUY THINGS AT THE AIRPORT BECAUSE THEY ARE EXTREMELY OVERPRICED. Now that we have that out of the way, a couple very other important plane essentials include warm socks, something to do, and lots of snacks. The plane was actually colder than I anticipated and with a flight lasting well over 15 hours, I didn’t want to keep my shoes on, so having an extra pair of socks really came in handy. (Editor's Note: Unless you have extra socks like Karina did, do NOT take off your shoes on a plane. The floor is disgusting. Seriously, ask any flight attendant.)

As far as having things to do on the flight, the plane came equipped with a variety of different movies, but when that got old, I played some games on my phone, read a book, and had a notebook to write in. Pro tip: Make sure to have an abundance of games pre-downloaded because although the plane might have wifi, it’s not exactly the strongest in the middle of the ocean. Lastly, most transcontinental flights have a wide variety of drinks to choose from as well as periodic meals, but bringing some of your own snacks is important. I really underestimated this, especially traveling to a foreign country. I brought a lot of candy that I didn’t end up eating and I wished I brought more filling snacks.

While You're There

After what seemed to be the longest flight of my life (around 17 hours), we finally touched down to beautiful Johannesburg, South Africa. Whether you’re going to Africa, South America, Europe, or Asia, one of my biggest tips for you on your J-Term is to be present and soak everything in. I took so many amazing pictures that I’m so grateful for because I’m able to look back at them and remember the memories I made there. I got to try so many different things and meet so many different people. I even started to learn a new language while I was there.

Whether this is your first J-Term or your third, every experience is different and taking in the moment to focus on the amazing opportunity that Carthage has given you is a great feeling. Have a great J-Term!

Don’t forget to send us your pictures and tell us a little about your experiences wherever you end up going by utilizing our new CarthageSays account on our Her Campus page!