Packing discriminately will save you hassle:
Look at what the weather will be like in the country you are studying in. Bring walking shoes because you likely will not have access to driving a car everywhere like in the U.S. Figure out if you will have easy access to laundry facilities, so then you know you can wash your clothes. If you know you need specialized clothes, then prepare for that. For example, I worked on an archeological dig while abroad in England, and it wasn’t always rosy skies. I had to find water resistant pants that wouldn’t suck in days of moist dirt and drizzle, and they just so happened to be great for hiking too (hello, versatility, my friend).
Pick out all the clothes you want to bring and then cut it in half (I am speaking as a young lady who used to bring 5 different shirts for a weekend vacation). You only need one pair of jeans, maaaybe two, if you just really like jeans. Bring versatile pieces. By that I mean, bring a pair of shoes you can wear with at least 75% of your outfits. Try not to bring more than 4 pairs of shoes. If you know you need to dress up for an occasion, then bring shoes you can wear professionally and casually, like flats or loafers.
You should be able to work at Qdoba with these packing skills:
You want to roll your clothes as tightly as possible to make room in your bag. Do not fill your bag to the brim because you will need souvenir room. I wore my hiking boots and as many layers as I could on the flight, because it made room in my suitcase for outfits and toiletries, and because the airplane can get cold and you don’t want to search around for a blanket. Fold your clothes in half once or twice, and then roll it up like a burrito with the forearm strength of the hulk to get a tight roll. If you have multiple shoes, stuff underwear and socks into them to create more space. Buy larger toiletries from a local shop when you’re abroad. For example, I bought smaller bottles of shampoo and body wash while abroad, and then I used what I could, and threw the rest away before packing for my return flight.
Dora’s backpack held a talking map, and yours should be just as magical:
It is sinful to not bring a massive carry-on. Usually, you get a small suitcase to stow away and a bag to hold with you. Number one items to bring: passport, visa if needed, paperwork on where you’re going and why, plane tickets, and medications and their documentation. Documentation about the reasons your traveling may not be required, but you are questioned upon entry to a country, and handing them some official looking documents from your program will make the talk smoother.
Your backpack needs to be a survival kit. It should include a spare outfit, toothbrush and paste (your teeth will feel gross after a 9+ hour flight), glasses/contacts/solution (if you are blind to far away things like myself), entertainment (a book, a kindle, music, whatever), and MONEY.
Bring a debit/credit card for American airports if possible, or just like $50 for emergencies. Have cash for the country you are going to already. You don’t want to hop of the plane ready for adventure and a copious amount of sleep and then realize you have not a cent on you—because not everywhere takes cards. Another tip is you want to take out a large sum of money because doing a currency transfer multiple times can cost you. For my month long trip, I took about 400 pounds with me and I used it all and then some. Also, perhaps a month in advance, contact your bank and let them know you will be abroad in case you use your card over there, so then the account isn’t shut down.
Remember to take deep breaths, drink water, and try to catch some zzz’s.
Abby King is a senior studying history and classics at the University of Kentucky. She studied abroad in Summer 2016 in England where she participated in the Durham University Summer Fulbright Institution and learned about ancient and medieval history and archaeology.