Packing (especially for us girls) can be a very long, frustrating process. Since you’re not going on a short vacation, but actually LIVING in this place for 3+ months, most likely you’ll desperately try to fit your entire wardrobe into your suitcase (heaven forbid you might leave the US without your hot pink pumps, right? They are TOTALLY essential!)
Here’s some packing tips I have for all you style conscious ladies going abroad – you only have so much space to pack your stuff, so let’s try to keep the tears and frantic jumping-on –the-suitcase-I-SWEAR-IT-WILL-CLOSE!!!! to a minimum. Guys, these tips might be useful for you too, if you can get past all the girly humor and take away just the main point of each tip.
2 Suitcases, a carry on, and a purse if you need one. That’s it. Don’t try to ship anything over – it’s expensive, and it only means you’re going to ship stuff back, right? (Let’s not lie about it… you’re going to go shopping while you’re there, which = more stuff coming back than going over). Make sure that your carry on is light (your flight might be 10+ hours, don’t torture yourself) and your bags have wheels. Good luck trying to carry it all yourself if they don’t – especially if you’re finding your own way to your program site from the airport. No wheels + heavy carry on = cranky American.
Less shoes, more practicals. When my mom came over to London to see me, I sent her back to the US with 5 pairs of shoes (and let’s be honest – they were all sandals and heels). Depending on where you go abroad, you’ll need to bring weather appropriate shoes. Chances are you’ll be doing a lot of walking, but don’t take that to mean bring only your beat up tennies, because… ick. If you’re in Europe, beware of cobblestone streets – they are absolute death traps for stilettos. I bought a pair of flat ankle boots (my British flatmate may or may not have had the same pair in a different color) a few weeks after I got to London for 15 pounds (about $25), and I laughed my face off as my girl friends would take off their 4 inch heels to walk barefoot to the night bus at 2AM, nursing their blistered, swollen feet, while I happily trotted along in my boots. Lesson learned: bring a pair of heels that’s comfortable and will go with most of your going out clothes (2 if you must). Leave your hot pink pumps at home … the 1 time you might wear them isn’t worth the space in your suitcase.
Practicals for me were WARM CLOTHES!!!! I had my mom (what a great lady) bring me my winter jacket, a hat, and mittens, which for some reason I thought I wouldn’t need. For a period of time, the heat in my room was broken, so I actually slept in said winter jacket for about a month. Obviously, your practicals will depend on the weather wherever you are for that time of year, so CHECK THE WEATHER BEFORE YOU LEAVE and pack accordingly. I bought another winter coat while I was there because it was really that cold in London every day, and I wanted to switch it up a bit. Tank tops? Forget it. Shorts? You’re so funny.
Bring things you can throw away. If you plan on doing some shopping while you’re abroad (and most of you probably will), tip # 3 is a major space saver that you’ll be glad you did by the time it comes around to packing to go home. Many people might advise against this tip, but it worked wonders for me and I had zero headaches while packing for my trip home. Things that you can throw away might include: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hairspray, razors, deodorant, pictures from home, etc. If you take up space with things that you will eventually throw away, 2 good things will happen. 1 – You won’t have to go out and find all your favorite beauty products abroad, or freak out when you discover they don’t actually sell your favorite hairspray in that country. 2 – You’ll have made room in your suitcase for all the cute boots and other crap you’re inevitably going to buy while you’re abroad. WIN – WIN!
If you want to blend in, leave your American stuff at home (it will probably save you packing room anyway!). There are several things you can wear that will identify you as an American – I’ll leave you to be the judge as whether you care or not.
- Flip flops – especially the plastic-y rubber kind that make the smacking noise when you walk.
- Ugg boots – these were actually surprisingly popular in London, but not so much in other parts of the world. Proceed with caution.
- Baseball caps – you’ll be spotted as an American from a mile away. Popular here, strange looking abroad.
- Light wash, flared jeans – or just flared jeans in general. Completely normal in the good ol’ land of blue jeans, but you’ll rarely if ever see them abroad.
- College/organization t-shirts – all the rage at DU (we all have just about a million from everything we get involved in) but the trend hasn’t really left our borders.
- Sweats – Comfy for sleeping/lounging, icky for class and public settings.
Good luck packing friends – may you live long and prosper (abroad)!