Welcome to the Study (Abroad) Guide, an amateur handbook for all things study abroad from traveling to food and nightlife. For the next 15 weeks, I will be studying and living at Regent’s University in London, England. After being in London for one week, I still know so little — aside from the location of every American food chain in the city (Hi, Starbucks!). Hopefully, as the weeks go on and I see more of England and the rest of Europe, these guides will be able to serve as both a place for advice and an inspiration for your own adventures abroad.
In my experience, packing is one of those universally-hated tasks that everyone tries to avoid for as long as possible. There’s really no perfect time to start packing — a week before your trip is too early and makes you feel like an over-achiever while starting the night before is chaotic and usually ends in a) tears b) a nest-like pile of clothes or c) crying while laying on top of a nest-like pile of clothes.
After attempting to fit four months of my life into one suitcase, one of my most important pieces of advice is to continuously weigh your suitcase as you pack. You may be able to stuff your bag to the brim, but keeping everything under 50 pounds is more challenging than you would imagine. Secondly, learn from my mistake and buy a carry-on bag that has wheels. There are few things more miserable than lugging an L.L. Bean duffle bag through the airport along with your backpack and suitcase after a full day of travel.
When packing your in-flight essentials, leave behind the stack of magazines and books that you think you’ll be reading, especially if you’re taking a red-eye, or overnight, flight. It’s too dark to read and you’ll probably be too tired to do much of anything. We all know that the second the plane takes off you’ll be watching one of the free movies instead of starting that novel you’ve been meaning to read for the past year.
Have a plan for arrival set ahead of time. Do you need a cab? A bus? A train? And how much does everything cost? Speaking of cost, be sure to exchange as much money as you think you’ll need into the local currency before leaving home. When you exchange money in another country, they add on other fees that you wouldn’t have had to pay at home, and believe me, those fees add up. You’ll want to save as much as you can, especially if you’re in England where the dollar is much weaker than the pound.
Stay tuned for more guides to London and Europe — Cheers! Cheerio! And other clichés!