I have officially hit the half-way mark of my study abroad experience, which feels a little unreal. In some ways, time moves far too quickly, especially when you’re attempting to balance the more typical school aspects of your life with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that come with living in a different country. In other ways, three weeks ago feels like three months ago, and I am constantly scrambling to try to process all of the sights, smells, and culture I am absorbing.
I may only be half-way through my time in Rome, but I already feel more confident in my ability to live and to travel abroad. I actually feel so much more confident in my ability to adapt to another place that I’m a little frustrated with my pre-abroad self for not packing some well-missed pieces.
For weeks leading up to my departure, I agonized over what to pack and what not to pack. I researched my shoe choices for too many hours. I googled the best tips on how to pack a suitcase. I created a Pinterest board dedicated to packing and clothing inspiration. I even came up with an overall color palette for my wardrobe pieces to allow for maximum mixing and matching.
In my frenzy to try to pack for the unexpected, I definitely left behind some items that I would’ve appreciated now. However, I also brought some things with me that I am so grateful to have now. Here’s some packing advice for any students considering or planning on studying abroad:
- Just pack the extra sweatshirt.
I had read all about how fashionable Europeans are — especially Italians. I didn’t want to look overtly American, so I skimped out on the comfy clothes in order to squeeze in more practical ones. The reality is that, even though Italians do dress well, there are still days when having some good pajamas just makes a work-filled day a little bit better. Plus, I thought that I would simply purchase whatever clothes I realized I needed once in Italy. However, it’s difficult to justify spending money on clothes that you have back at home.
2. Invest in some good walking shoes.
I walk everywhere while living abroad. Even though it is one of my favorite aspects of living in Italy, walking everywhere definitely requires a comfortable pair of shoes for getting around. As mentioned earlier, I obsessed over the shoe part of packing before leaving because I knew I needed comfortable shoes, but I also knew that I didn’t want to walk around in running sneakers all of the time. I’ve been loving my Mayari-style Birkenstocks in these late summer months.
3. Don’t forget the “study” in “study abroad.”
Bring some notebooks, a folder, and some pens. It’s easier to have those things ready beforehand than to rush to find them all right before classes, especially in the middle of adjusting to being abroad. But, I would also wait to buy textbooks before classes. Many of the professors change their textbooks by the time students arrive in Rome or may even have different requirements than those listed . Additionally, it is common to switch or drop classes within the first two weeks, and there’s nothing worse than having a textbook abroad that you can’t easily return.
4. Bring that memorabilia from home.
Having some pictures to hang, a stuffed animal, or something that reminds you of home is helpful when homesickness inevitably sets in. In Residence Candia, Temple’s housing option in Rome, there’s plenty of space near your bed to hang some pictures.
5. Be honest with yourself.
For me, packing and preparing to leave for Rome was a little more stressful than the actual transition to living abroad. Take your time to plan and prepare, but also be honest with yourself. Don’t pack as though you’re going to be a completely different person while abroad who wears an entirely new wardrobe and doesn’t need a pen. Bring things that are going to make you comfortable and that you know you will use or wear.