I was a prepping goddess when it came to studying abroad, if I do say so myself. I read and I researched and I still got it wrong. So maybe not so much on the goddess part. Well here are my top ten essential, and often forgotten, things to pack for studying abroad. Please note I will try to be general in my list, but this is based on my experiences in Palma de Mallorca, Spain and not everything may apply to your program.
- Something Personal:
This is THE biggest peice of advise that I can give. Bring something from home that makes you feel at home. It dosen´t matter how silly it is. Just do it. You are about to step into another world where nothing makes sense, bring something that reminds you you are ok and centers you. I brough pictures from home, snow ornaments, which I hung up when the first snow fell in MN, and a stuffed otter my boyfriend gave me. There have been moments when I have needed all of these things to help keep me centered and when I don´t need them, they are still nice to have around.
- A rain coat that can fit something warm underneath. I brought a great rain coat at REI (this one) Buy one if you don´t have one and buy one you like. When I have traveled there has always been rain and it is one of the most warn peices I own. Plus I have a great polarfleece that fits under it. Whit this combination I was more than warm enough when I visited Sweden in November, though if you are going where there is actual snow you may want a real winter jacket.
- House shoes. Also known as slippers. If you are living in the mediterranean, or at the very least, in Spain, your host family will expect you to wear these at all times in the house, without exception. If you are traveling any time that is not the summer the tile floors will be cold and they will be nice to have. I promise. In the summer just use your shower shoes around the house.
- Shower shoes. Also known as flip flops. Buy a pair for when you travel. It is not really every apropriate to go bear foot in a hostel and you don´t want to be without these babys in their showers, trust me. Buy a cheep pair. They are worth more than the few pennies you will spend.
- A chico bag.
These things are AMAZING! They are heavy industrial bags which hold a ton. I use mine in the states too and I can get groceries for a week for one person, with extra room, in mine at any given time. When not in use they fold up into their own little bag, which is attached to the bag so you don´t loose it. There is a little clip attached as well so I just clip it to the inside of my purse. These are especially nice for studying abroad for a million reasons, but I´ll just keep it to two. 1. They charge for bags in europe all the time. This is your cute solution, they have more manly colors too it that is an issue. 2. They are the perfect beach bag. It holds my towel, lotion, lunch and drink, often a bottle of wine or beer, without any problem. Plus I don´t have to worry about getting my nicer bag dirty or sandy. Find your bag here.
- A host gift. This you will want to have when you arrive to stay with your family. If you are not living with a family disregard. Your gift does not need to be lavish or large, it should just be a little bit of where you came from. Make sure to pack a small something that is good for all ages, just in case your family has kids. I brought: photo book of my home state, jam my aunt made, and a magic growing moose (which was the biggest hit). Tip: Make sure you know how to describe it in the language you will communicate in. I had to look up raspberry.
If you have a strong preference for school supplies bring your own. To assume that the rest of the world writes notes like where you are from is a false one. For example in Spain you are not likely to find G2 pens or refill lead for mechanical pencils, some things that irk me. Also if you like lined paper, be prepared to search, it is likely line free or gridded. Though if you choose to explore the local note taking style you just might find something you love.
- *LADIES ONLY* Bring your own supplies. You know what I mean. They don’t sell them or if they do they sell them 10 at a time at 10 times the price. Find the room, you can fill the empty space with goodies to bring home from your travels. This is NOT the area to live like the locals. Not if you don’t want weird looks when shopping or to replace your intimates all the time.
- A digital camera. You may not use it all the time, but there will be that one trip where you want it. You might be off to the amazon, or a safari, or Stonehenge. You will want pictures. If you are super into photography, bring two, your nice one and your I might not cry if I destroy it camera. For me the is a large DSLR and a small point and shoot. I can take HD when I want and I can take beach shots without worrying that I will destroy hundreds of dollars of photography equipment. If nothing else your family and friends will want to see pictures, so take a few to post to the book of faces.
- In the end bring your dreams and goals. Well duh you say, but I will add one thing to this conventional words of wisdom I will add this. Write them down. Write down these early feelings of amazement, of hope, of dreams. Keep them somewhere where you can look at them regularly. There will be times you get lost in life, writing them down helps you remember what an amazing journey you are about to embark on. Embrace it. It will change you and try you, inspire you and do to you all the things I can not put words to.
If you are studying abroad or have studied abroad do you have any other recommendations? Just packing your bags to leave? Feel free to post your packing questions and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
I hope this helps you and, as they say in Spain, buen viaje!