What to pack? The ultimate year abroad packing list.
So you've found out where you’re going, your parents are bugging you about booking flights, sorting out insurance, getting your EHIC card and finding somewhere to live, and all the while your university is overloading you with forms, questionnaires and boring emails. What no one mentions until it’s too late and you’re already out there, is what you actually should have packed. Here, thanks to our YAGs (Year Abroad Grads), we’ve got a list of what’s hot and what’s not in terms of packing...
1. Adaptor plugs — it might seem obvious, but lots of people tend to forget these, or think they can buy them once out there. Wrong. So many countries don’t do the whole 3-pin plug converter thing, so make sure you pack a few spares. You can also get a hold of a universal plug, if you’re off to different countries during your stay. Another idea is to get one adaptor plug to plug in a multi-extension lead into the wall! Genius.
2. A decent laptop and portable hard-drive — nowadays, you can get hold of a laptop quite cheaply and it really is a great piece of equipment on your year abroad. The majority of students put this item at the top of their list and with good reason, too: some unis have a shortage of computers or you might find yourself doing the internet cafe/university library rounds, struggling to hand in your project on time. It makes sense to get one, storing all your photos, music and work in case you get a little homesick - Skype helps too! The portable hard-drive sets your mind at rest when you're out and about with your laptop. Leave it, with its 500GB to 1TB memory filled with invaluable files and folders, in your foreign flat.
3. A smartphone/MP-3 player — with so many cheap MP-3 players on the market, you’d be crazy not to bring one with you, as you might want to drown out that irritating child on the metro or be faced with some very long trips on an overnight coach. Even if you’re not that tech-y, it really does make a difference to listen to your favourite mix of songs from home, curate your new year abroad music collection, scroll through your photos and, with some products, watch a decent movie.
4. A light coat — you would have thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to find something suitable to wear in most countries. But you might be in for a nasty surprise—some countries consider mullets to be de rigueur, so you can just imagine the clothes that must be on offer! Plus, wherever you are, global warming means that you might come across anything from temperamental showers to gale force winds. Be wise. Pack one in your suitcase. (Even a pack-a-mac will do!)
5. Staple clothes — yes, difficult to define the word ‘staple’ as this varies amongst you, but students have told us that a classic white shirt, black trousers (and/or skirt), one pair of smart-ish shoes might come in handy (what if you land the job of your dreams and all you have to wear are those South American trousers that look like pyjamas? You can’t bank on your audience having a sense of humour...). Find out more about creating your own 'classic capsule wardrobe' for your year abroad.
6. A scrapbook — you may sigh, you may not believe yourself to be arts and crafty, but cynics beware: you’ll need somewhere to store all those tickets and flyers somewhere anyway. A scrapbook is a must for anyone on their year abroad, as you get to amass all sorts of crap and have a good memory book by the end of it! You can make it as personal, funny, bodacious or just plain, erm, plain as you wish! Here are some other weird and wonderful ways to record your time abroad. If you're not up for blogging at the same time, you could try the blue 'One line a day' 5-year diary below too...
7. A (mini) dictionary and/or empty vocab book — yes, you may not think you need a dictionary, but do you know how to say bath plug in the lingo? What about heartburn? Or even slight fringe with some highlights, no shorter than so many inches? Alternatively, you may decide to go for the extreme option: jot down in your vocab book when you don't know a word and ask a local for the translation. You'll become a synonym WIZARD by the end of your year abroad, which is an incredibly useful skill! Get used to it: no dictionaries allowed in your Finals...
8. Student card/ISIC card/Young Person’s Railcard — these are amazing for discounts, cheaper travelling deals and as a means of identification. You can even get discounts on the Eurostar with the YPR, oh yes!
9. A good camera — bit of an obvious choice and if you don’t have one yet, invest as this little item will be your chance to document all those cool places you’ll have come across on your year abroad. Your phone camera is just not enough!
10. A 'presentation folder' for all-important papers - as student, Arthur, says: "People will harp on about the endless admin associated with a year abroad - THIS IS NOT AN UNDERSTATEMENT. There’s bank account paperwork, mobile phone receipts, university documentation, CAF (accommodation reductions) application forms, insurance policy wordings and much, much more. I can’t tell you how useful my folder, full of all useful documents, an abundance of passport photos, and a lot of paperwork, has been! It has drawn envious(??) glances from my fellow Erasmus students (I don’t care if they all think I’m a nerd….)."
11. Comfort food— you laugh, but you have no idea how much you’ll miss your PG tips/ Marmite/ Branston’s pickle/ Cadbury’s/ Percy Pig sweets once you’re out there! Avoid glass containers: get squeezy plastic where possible (as below!)
13. A dictaphone - About to encounter the world of lectures and seminars in a foreign language? No words can express how useful a dictaphone will be to listen again to those missed words, colloquialisms and expressions in dialect. You'll get used to it after a while, but at the start it's embarrassingly easy to zone out and lose concentration. And it's hard to listen and write in a foreign language at the same time. The content of your recordings is also handy when revising (for friends too!). Not a bad word to say about a dictaphone, really!
14. Leaflets and flyers from home - Are you teaching on your year abroad? Many students have reported back that flyers showing where you're from (galleries, walks, National Trust houses, tourist attractions) are really useful for the kids to read and translate, and could even inspire a lesson plan or two, e.g. Create a leaflet to your home town in English!
15. Passport photos - lots of them. (12?) You can get your photo taken in a booth once (costs about £5 these days), and then scan and print multiple copies of the photos onto photo paper. Noone will know the difference, they're only interested in an accurate mugshot, and it will save you LOTS of money!
16. Vacuum bags - on your left: huge pile of packing. On your right: a tiny suitcase. How on earth do you get it all in there?! The answer: reduce your packing volume by up to 75% with vacuum bags. Unfortunately this does not, obviously, affect the weight, so your baggage restrictions apply. If you need an extra suitcase of stuff (perhaps with ski clothes in for later in the year?) we can offer you a 5% discount from a recommended shipping company! Alternatively, you could get friends and family to travel with you, and steal their baggage allowances... and don't forget the biggest flight approved hand luggage available!
Don’t forget to read our articles on insurance, whether or not you have a university policy!