Preparing for study abroad is both a harrowing and extremely exciting experience. As I discussed in my first post, I was super unprepared and super excited. After all the applications and documents are sorted out there’s a whole lot of waiting. I went about the rest of my semester normally, with study abroad sitting happily in the back of my mind as something to look forward to. It didn’t become stressful until I got to winter break and realized I had 3 weeks before my flight and no plan whatsoever.
I definitely thought about packing a lot. I looked at lists, asked around, and made lots of piles. I did everything except for actually pack. This, of course, was a huge mistake. As Christmas and the new year passed, my time to pack decreased and my stress increased.
My first instinct was to look up lists online to organize myself. There are tons of packing lists out there and I looked at every one I could possibly find. They have specific lists for Italy, for Rome, for specific periods of time, specific seasons, specific styles of dress—everything you could think of. The magnitude of lists made my head spin. I tried compiling them into one, choosing the items I use or don’t use and building my own personalized packing list. I think making my own list was a good choice because there are a lot of things on those lists that seemed excessive and there are things I use that others might not have thought of.
There are also a lot of things you could buy once you arrive. For example, I bought a compatible power strip with USB slots and a couple extra converters which have been such a great thing to have. I don’t need converters for every single electronic at home and I have an extra converter for when I travel. Something I wish I would have brought more of is my facewash. I have a specific one that I like, and I haven’t been able to find it here. One piece of advice I have with toiletries is to look into whether they’re available at your destination and bring the things you won’t be able to buy. Keep in mind that these things are generally heavy, so you still might have to sacrifice something in that regard.
Preparing for such a long trip is really difficult, especially if you haven’t travelled before. In terms of clothes, I was completely at a loss about what to pack. The weather in Rome fluctuates a lot so I brought a collection of warm and cold weather clothes. I didn’t really account for the weather in the other cities I’d be traveling to, so that’s something I recommend considering beforehand. I recommend packing a suitcase with 2-4 weeks’ worth of clothes and add a few extra pieces for unprecedented travels.
People tell you to pack light, but I brought two suitcases filled with space bags and I totally did not pack enough clothes. I told myself I would do some shopping but forgot I’m a picky shopper. Weeks had passed before I added any pieces to my wardrobe, but now, 10 weeks in, I’m doing okay on clothes.
I forgot some stuff and I brought too much of others, but no matter what you’ll never pack exactly what you need. In preparation, do your best. I stressed myself out so much over packing and preparing to go abroad that I didn’t get to really enjoy the last couple of weeks with my friends and family. My recommendation is to make that list and execute it in one day. Then don’t think about it again. You are going to do and see so many things that you won’t even think about that one soft sweater you left on your desk chair.
Enjoy your life and deal with the stuff you forgot later. So if you’re stressed about packing, don’t sweat it. It’s such a small part of the amazing journey that study abroad offers.