The most nerve-racking part of this experience so far has been preparing for it, although thinking about having to go without frozen yogurt and sushi did come in a close second.
Even though I figured that the basic essentials would be easily accessible here, I didn’t want to have to worry about having to run to the store within the first couple of weeks, so in some cases I purposefully over- packed, and I’m quite happy I did!
I didn't try to stuff my whole wardrobe into my suitcases or anything, I just packed the necessities, such as: shampoo and conditioner, hair defrizzer (which really wasn't optional for me anyways), lotion, school supplies, etc. I packed a lot of this kind of stuff, but packed very minimally clothing wise.
I looked up packing tips online and watched study abroad videos on YouTube (which were very helpful), and everyone seemed to agree that after packing, you should unpack, then repack with about half the amount of clothes. I also agree because shopping is very tempting while abroad (and you're going to need some space for those clothes). I'm not a big shopper myself, but being in another country for an extended amount of time has made me feel the need to blend in, and although I'm working on sounding like an española, looking and living like one is also important, hence studying abroad!
The stores here in Alicante are similar to those in the US.
Some shirts even have "California" and "Beverly Hills" on them, and
the American flag also seems to be quite fashionable here.
So under-packing clothes and over-packing toiletries worked out in my favor primarily because of Alicante's climate. If I were going to Ireland for the semester, I don't know that my two pairs of jeans would fly in that weather. Same with if someone were to pack two pairs of shorts to come here, shopping would definitely be in order because we have shorts and tank top temperatures here frequently. Googling the average temperatures of your destination may be the deciding factor of whether or not you decide to pack that insulated Eskimo jacket with the furry hood that takes up half your suitcase (don't know what I was thinking even considering it, but Southern Californians are notorious for freaking out over a light drizzle). Thankfully I decided that layering clothes are probably a better option for the 10 days it's supposed to rain while I'm here. The point is to check the weather then pack!
Something like this should be easy to find for your city.
(Make sure you convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit
or you might pack your Eskimo jacket)
If you're planning on taking more of a minimalist approach on packing, you can easily pack the bare minimum and make purchases once you're onsite (I've found that the key to successfully minimizing is to choose interchangeable, basic pieces). One of the top things to keep in mind is the exchange rate in your new country. At the moment, every $1.44 is worth €1, so if I do decide to book my flight to Germany next month, shopping isn't going to be on the agenda for a while.
So besides the things that don't need to be packed, here are some things that do need to be crammed into that suitcase:
- Laptop (my friend only brought an iPad and wishes she had her computer)
- Phone (smartphone is handy because of the apps, such as Viber and Skype, that help to keep you in touch)
- Journal (document everything!)
- iPod (music helps with homesickness for me and Pandora doesn't work here)
- Camera (for obvious reasons and plus you've got to brag on Facebook!)
- Food (might sound weird but sometimes you'll just start craving some good ol' Trader Joe's peanut butter pretzels)
I thought pretty hard on what I should include in the do/don't list since I always experienced a bit of a panic every time I went through my checklist of things to pack. I hope that this has helped you. Happy packing!
Kiana Fukuda is the Fall 2013 MOJO in Alicante, Spain. She is currently a sophomore at California State University, San Marcos.
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