When anyone starts to plan ahead for the six months that he or she will be studying abroad in a foreign country, a lot of thoughts can go through his or her head: will I adjust to a new culture? How will I cook food for myself every night? Did I really sign up to have class at 4 p.m. on a Friday? However, one important thought that we oftentimes underestimate is how important packing is in preparation for our time abroad. Here are some tips that will not only prepare you for your time in your new country, but also ones that will make your life easier when your program finishes.
- Pack for the weather – I can only speak from experience, so if you’re going somewhere like London, make sure you have the appropriate gear for rain. That being said, you can get around rain gear if you pack smartly. Rather than filling your suitcase with rain boots and an umbrella like I did, bring a good pair of waterproof sneakers. I have not worn my rain boots once, opting for my sneakers instead and the only time I have an issue is if I am not paying attention and step in a puddle. Also, if you are going to bring a raincoat, make sure that it is warm enough. You will not want to pack too many coats or you will be facing a hefty charge at the airport in a couple of months when your luggage is overweight.
- Condense your shoes – Ladies, I’m looking especially at you. You may think that you need five different pairs of “going-out” shoes, in addition to a pair of running shoes and boots for chillier days. Spoiler alert: you’re going to hate yourself. Bring one or two pairs of nice shoes, a pair of running shoes and leave the boots at home. Depending on where you are, I doubt that you will need them. Besides, if you are anything like my roommate, you will end up buying more shoes when you arrive even though your luggage was overweight before leaving the U.S.
- Only pack the essentials – There will inevitably be some things that you need to buy once you arrive in your host country. Thankfully, bedding was provided by my program, but towels and washcloths were not. If yours is similar, do yourself a favor and pack the minimal amount that will get you through the first week, then go shopping at your local store on the weekend once you are settled. It is also important to note that you will need to go to the store anyway because you will likely not have hangers, which you should not even bother attempting to pack.
- Review travel size guidelines – My last point is possibly the most important one to keep in mind when preparing for your study abroad experience. Although your toiletries will be in your checked suitcase on your initial trip from home, you will likely be traveling throughout your stay. Since these trips will be brief, ranging from two to four days, you will just want to use a carry-on rather than checking your luggage. If you do opt for a carry-on during these trips, you will need to ensure that your toiletries are the correct travel size or you will run into trouble at security in the airport. Do not be the person that holds up security because they have to do tests on your bag after you tried to smuggle in too many hair or makeup products.