I’m assuming the majority of people who read this have had to do some form of packing, whether its moving from one house to another, an overnight trip for school, or even a family vacation. It’s something that happens, whether its for a vacation, camping, school trip, or even just a much necessary spring break from school. But packing for a study abroad is a little more extensive than your average packing.
When preparing to study abroad, its obviously important to keep in mind exactly how long you are intending to stay in your host country…. for me, it will be roughly 4 1/2 months. Now, to some, that doesn’t seem like the longest amount of time, but it can be. And while it is wholly possible to have family and friends mail you things when your away from home, international mail can get a little pricey… so its always important to pack as much necessary things as possible. This prevents you from A) Having to waste money on international mail and B) Having to spend money unnecessarily when you arrive at your host country.
The exact details might differ according to your study abroad location and studies, but for my study abroad, we are allowed two checked bags weighing up to 50 pounds, one carry on bag and one smaller bag, such as a laptop bag or briefcase or something of the nature. Obviously, if your packing for a long time overseas, you will want to get some rather large luggage pieces to pack, yes? Well, that is not necessarily true. The weight of the luggage itself can sometimes be up to 5 lbs or more. And, if you are like me and intend to bring home a LOT of souvenirs that are entirely justified (and not at all unnecessary), then you will try to pack a little more light so you have room in your bags on the way back.
One very important thing I did to help me pack is make a list of the absolute vital things I would need while I was overseas. Of course, being the computer geek that I am, obviously packing a laptop was a must (I think I could quite literally die without internet… true story). But I also wear glasses, and anyone else who wears glasses knows JUST how painful it can be to have them break with no backups…. it sucks when your away from home. Imagine if your in another country, and don’t speak the language? Trying to find a place to get new classes could be something of a nightmare. So glasses obviously went on the list.
Yes, I know. It seems like a pretty basic thing, and something you think any idiot should know. But it gets really easy to overlook things if you don’t have them written down. For instance, I nearly forgot some paperwork necessary for using my military student aid before I packed up… and if not for me having written it down, I wouldn’t have packed it before I left, meaning I’d have a lot of hoops to jump through with getting enrolled for classes next semester. It’s just one example. But below I will list out out a bunch of the things I personally packed, and my reasoning for them… obviously your own packing will differ based on your own desires and needs.
Some of the main things I packed, and why:
- Spare Glasses – Because being near-sighted and nearly blind sucks. How can I enjoy the Japanese scenery if I can’t even see?
- Laptop – For updating blog, keeping in touch with friends and family… and Twitch. (Japanese TV is difficult to understand…. cause it’s not english.) 😛
- Clothes – Pretty obvious. But I’m also a little heftier than the average japanese person. Finding shoes above size 10, or a shirt that is XL in Japan? A very difficult thing. So if your a bigger person, you definitely need to pack clothing, since it will be hard to find things your size. Personally, I packed about 2 weeks worth of clothes, with some extra socks and underwear… cause you never know, right?
- Hygiene Products – Some people have those favorite brands of tooth paste, or shampoo that they cannot live without. Well, there are many things in the US you buy that you may find difficulty finding overseas. So if you absolutely cannot live without your salon-brand conditioner, you might want to invest in space and pack three or four bottles of it.
- Games/Book/Ipod – For me, it was a REALLY long flight from the States to Japan. And in Japan, you can spend a bit of time on trains or buses. So its always good to have something to occupy yourself with while you wait. (It’s also good to have something to do while your sitting at your gate in the airport, waiting for the plane to show up).
- Chargers/Converters – Always remember the cords to your electronics! And if the country you go to has different plugs than where you live, ensure you get a converter so you can still charge your phone or laptop while your away. I would recommend getting one off Amazon, though you can get them in the airports as well (if you want to pay an extra 5 or 15 dollars).
- Snacks – Everyone has that one guilty pleasure, that one junk food you always turn to. Well, it may be impossible to find in the states. So it never hurts to pack a can of Pringles, or a bag of Hershey’s kisses, or even Funyuns. While you might not want them on the flight, or within a week of being there, after a bit of time (and perhaps even that homesickness kicks in) you will like having a little taste of home to temporarily ease the ache.
- Copies of Paperwork – Having a passport, visa, drivers license… its all well and good, until you lose them (heaven forbid!). But if you have copies, even if its a picture on your phone, it will go a long way in helping you out during the time of trying to get replacements. And even if not, paper doesn’t take up very much room…. better safe than sorry, yes?
- Medicine – I have no clue how pricey aspirin or ibuprofin can be in airports, or even how I might find them in a japenese grocery store. I personally packed a bottle of ibuprofin, as well as a bottle of nyquil nighttime, just in case I happen to get sick. They don’t take up a lot of space, and again, better safe than sorry. (ibuprofin was a godsend on the flight though!)
- Money – Pretty obvious. For my study abroad, we had to set up bank accounts in Japan for them to give us our scholarships from the Japan University, as well as for them to withdraw rent and utilities. But its always good to have a bit of cash on hand until this is done (especially if you don’t have a credit card!) And Japan is a very cash-based society, so paper money is always the best way to go.
For the most part, that is a rough idea of how my packing looked. I honestly didn’t think I was packing all that much, yet I found that my bags were fairly full (not PACKED, but not a lot of empty space, either). Of course I packed some things that I wouldn’t mind ‘losing’ on the trip to make space for souvenirs. So always keep in mind how you might intend to get stuff you buy in your host country home. You can always mail them, if you don’t mind spending the money… or pack things you wouldn’t mind leaving in your home country (such as clothes that can easily be replaced).
Also, for weight restrictions, it would often be a good idea to invest in a scale, either a normal one for personal use, or one intended for luggage. I happened to have an actual scale, and all I did was weight myself, then hold a bag and weight myself again. My scale requires a certain amount of weight to activate, so that is why I had to do it in that manner. But I know Walmart specifically sells luggage scales that you hook onto a handle of the bag and lift, and it gives you a rough idea of its weight… dunno how effective they are though.
PS – Luggage bags with wheels = awesome! Lots of walking in airports, and having wheels makes it so much easier. I actually had a backpack for my carry-on, as well as a larger backpack for one of my checked bags. But my other checked bag had wheels, so I simply put my checked backpack on top of it and carted it around…. saved a lot of effort!