What to Pack and How to Pack it!
With the start of the academic year fast approaching, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself about to embark upon, or having already departed for, your year abroad adventure. At this point two years ago I had just arrived in Madrid, wide-eyed and unsure with little more than the bags in my hand and some pretty basic Spanish. Now I am a bona fide Modern Languages graduate, less than a week away from departing for my year abroad round two in Gay Paree.
With the hours and days rapidly ticking away, I really ought to start thinking about the P word; but what should you pack for a placement year, and how on earth do you get it all to your final destination? Fortunately for both you and me, I’ve done this before, so here are my five basic tips on what to pack and how to get it there.
1. Take photocopies of everything
Your passport, EHIC, driving licence and birth certificate are clearly the most important things you’ll need both paper and digital copies of, but what about, say, the proof of purchase for your MacBook in case it needs servicing in Germany? What if your glasses are smashed on a night out and you don’t have a copy of your optical prescription to take to the Spanish optician’s? Heaven forbid you lose your peanut allergy explanation card right before you head out to your booking at that fancy French restaurant! If something is important to you or in your life and has some sort of accompanying document then it’s a good idea to scan it, save it and print out at least two extra copies. Better to be storing extra paper than insisting to a Belgian Apple Genius that you honestly didn’t steal your malfunctioning iPhone.
2. Stock up on pharmaceuticals
If you’re taking any sort of long-term medication – whether those be epilepsy tablets or acne creams – be sure to ask your GP for extra before you leave to keep you going until the Christmas break. It might also be worthwhile to get a doctor’s note or medical report outlining any medical condition you might have to help with your social security application, among other things. Additionally, if there are any specific medicinal products that you like to have in the house in the UK, such as Deep Heat if you’re into sports, it might be worthwhile to pack a tube just in case you can’t get it wherever you’re going.
3. Stock up on spreads and teabags (and any other cupboard stuffs you think you’ll miss!)
If you’re a Marmite lover or a peanut butter fiend, you’d better fill your pockets before you depart in order to avoid weeks of hunting before eventually paying through nose for a less than ample jar (Nutella fans will be pleased to find that the chocolate gloop is sold pretty much everywhere). It’s also highly advisable to stock up on English teabags since foreign “equivalents” rarely live up to a good old Yorkshire brew.
4. Get a Kindle
Whether you buy it or borrow it, a Kindle (other e-readers are available) is so useful when travelling or living temporarily as an expat. Many e-readers can hold up to 1,000 books in the size and space of just one, saving both space and luggage allowance on your travels, and even storage space in your probably pokey foreign flat. An added bonus is that e-books tend to be cheaper than print versions
5. Ship it!
If you’re an avid golfer and are wondering how on earth you’re going to get your clubs to Sweden, or a fashionista en route to Milan with a substantial shoe collection, you may wish to consider shipping some of your stuff separately to your journey. It’s especially useful to send you winter bits – coats, boots and scarves – separately to save space for the things needed immediately, I personally have had great experiences with Send My Bag – and some pretty awful ones with Ryanair – and have saved a lot of money and energy by using them to send my winter coats and boots and even my skates. Would you rather tackle the stairs of the Paris Metro alone with two large suitcases, or greet your local postie/courier as he hands your baggage to you at your new front door? If the latter appeals more to you, keep your eyes peeled for my full review of Send My Bag’s updated features and services over at NUS or visit my blog for my original review last summer.