Packing for the trip of a lifetime!

By now you probably know if and when you are studying abroad. Before you go abroad you  have to deal with figuring out what classes you will take, your visa application, and what to bring with you when you go. In fact, packing can seem like the most daunting part. How can you pack your entire life into one suitcase? How do you know what exactly you’ll need when you’re abroad? My goal with this post is to help provide some advice on this aspect so that the process goes smoothly for you all.

Hike overlooking village in Cinque Terre.
Hiking Cinque Terre in Italy. One example of an accessible trip from the south of France.

Before you leave, I advise meeting with the Registrars Office and your advisor(s) to figure out what classes you should take while abroad and how to ensure that those classes transfer back to Linfield in the way you want them to. Get your schedule approved prior to going abroad. This will lead to a lot less headaches later and keep you on the right track for graduation (which is the goal, right?). Make and bring copies of everything when you go. This includes your passport, travel insurance, course approvals and similar documents. This will help in case any issues arise while you’re abroad.

Cinque Terre Italy, national park on the coast.
Colorful houses fill many European cities.

The biggest thing to do before studying abroad is to save your money. This seems obvious but it is important to be candid with yourself and family about how much you plan on spending. Establishing a budget is key. Generously speaking I advise saving for 100 Euros a week excluding travel costs, or at least 2,000 for the semester. I got a second / third job to help save for this. Tell your credit and debit cards you will be leaving the country and what dates you will be gone. Other prep that should be done is with the language. Some of the easiest ways to do this outside of the classroom is by watching Netflix in the language you’re studying with subtitles in that language, listening to popular music from the country, or downloading a language learning app.

When it comes to packing your actual things, minimalism and essentialism is key. Don’t over pack because you’re going to inevitably buy stuff while over there. Try to stick to one checked bag and one carry on backpack, this will make your voyage through various airports much easier. Buy things like school supplies and toiletries abroad to save space and travel light. However, keep in mind that the notebooks and lined paper in other countries might be a little different from what you are used to. I found that having the city you will be moving to listed in a weather app a year in advance is helpful, so that you know the weather patterns. You can also look up the average weather at your time of being there. All of this will prepare you for what is to come, and help you know what to pack.

Now to be more specific to my experience in France. When packing, remember that Europeans dress differently than Americans, they’re typically more conservative in dress. It’s also warmer here in the south of France. Before I left, I asked some of the returning students two questions that helped me determine what to bring: what did you bring that you didn’t need, and what did you not bring that you wished that you did. The most important things I brought were sunscreen, my convertor/adapter, rain coat, and a good pair of walking shoes.

Train station under the blue sky.
Train station in Klosters, Switzerland.

Some classes (especially at IAU) take field trips or class excursions, be sure to plan your extracurricular trips around then. When it comes to travel, the earlier you make reservations or plans the cheaper and better. Travel by train and bus is very easy in the south of France. A perk of the Marseille airport is that it has one of the closest Starbucks,  as there is not one in Aix. This is surprisingly touching even if you don’t drink coffee, like a taste of home (or Riley Hall).

Starbucks cup with Lime written on it.
The closest Starbucks to Aix is in the Marseille airport for those of you looking for a taste of home.

Bon voyage!