Recently someone asked me for advice on the logistics of study abroad. I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain during the Fall 2014 semester. I studied history, worked on my Spanish and traveled to Belgium, Morocco and Portugal in addition. Because I am history major, it is my nature to do lots of research before nearly anything I do, study abroad was no different. I am happy to share what I did about phones and money and other logistics while abroad with you, in case you are preparing for study abroad either now or in the future. I will share my suggestions based on about 3 months of research preparation. Having been returned from my time abroad, I am happy to say that in all of these things I was successful and I never lost (or had stolen -) a single thing!
Note: all of these suggestions are made with the idea that you want to save the most amount of money. If money is not an issue for you, lucky you!
In all the travel blogs and any talk online about studying abroad, I am sure you will see how much people love to talk about packing. Everyone has their own thoughts on the best way to be cost, space and weight efficient. I suggest you look up all these various ways to be so and choose the one that you think will best suit you. I travel quite a bit, so have a routine for packing and what I know I NEED to take. However, I had never packed for such a long period of time before and I wish I had done things a little differently. If you have ever been to Europe you know that there is cobblestone EVERYWHERE. If you didn’t know that before and are going there, remember that important point. I want to use this as an example for context in traveling. If you will be traveling a bit you do not want to be carrying giant or 3 suitcases on cobblestone, up stairs or in mud. When I arrived in Europe, the first hotel I stayed at did not have an elevator or a handicap way to get into the hotel. I carried my giant suitcase up quite a few stairs and was sweating by the end. Perhaps where you are going has cobblestone that will tear your suitcase, perhaps they don’t have elevators, perhaps you will have to walk a while with your suitcase in order to get to your destination, perhaps you are going somewhere where you will get to drive up to front entrance and someone takes your suitcase to your room for you. Be prepared for anything. If you are going to a place you have never been before, do not expect conditions to be the same as they are in the USA. I saw girls who had brought 3 giant suitcases and were struggling whenever we had to go from one place to the next and carrying them up the stairs. I only had one giant suitcase but I still felt I had brought too much. Literally, you feel the weight of your decisions. Be sure you can carry your suitcases on your own and try not to take more than 1 suitcase. You can always purchase another to bring back with gifts for all your friends and family. Things to consider are storage of your suitcases while living there, weight, allowance and being able to move the suitcase yourself. I suggest packing a week before then rolling your case around to make sure you can handle it. If it’s too heavy TAKE THINGS OUT. Below is a vague outline of my thoughts on what to pack .
THINGS I DON’T REGRET PACKING:
- Medication I needed, enough for the entire time I was gone. If you take any medications regularly, be sure to talk to your insurance provider and doctor well in advance to have enough medication for your time out of the country.
- Contacts and travel toiletries (enough for 1 week, until I had time to buy toiletries there). Do research on where you are going – are toiletries something you can buy there? It won’t be your favorite brand, but immerse yourself in the culture. Maybe you will find something even better there, I did.
- Really comfortable and cute shoes
- Unique things from home, like my pillow. I love my pillow.
THINGS I REGRET PACKING:
- Enough clothing for all the seasons I thought I would experience. Do not think you know the climate of a place you have never been. You can read about it, think you understand, but I really think it is something that has to be experienced. And once experienced, if you find you need a coat there will be a store that caters to that environment where you are. I took a winter coat because I knew I would be there for winter and I never wore it. I didn’t need it. Winter there, although similar temperatures just feels different. I wish I had just taken clothing for the current season and bought more clothing there.
- Too many clothes in general.
- Books (real ones). I didn’t have a tablet when I went on my trip, but I do now. I have been a long time supporter of hard copy books. I have a giant bookshelf in my bedroom and I love it. But books are heavy and take up space. I bought a tablet to save space and money on my next trip. I will now be e-reading.
THINGS I WISH I HAD PACKED:
- I don’t believe in wearing sweatpants in public, but I love a lazy day in sweat pants. I didn’t pack them because I knew I wouldn’t be wearing them often, but it turns out I missed them quite a lot. It’s one of those little comforts that I missed from home and would definitely take them next time.
- A nice camera. I don’t own a camera. I have always just used my iphone, it takes nice enough photos and is easy to use. But, after all the marvelous things I saw, I realized the importance to me of sharing those memories with friends and family. With a nice camera, I know now the sharing of my experiences would be much better.
- Old Bay – no explanation needed.