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Indelible International - Packing Tips for the Frequently Over-Prepared

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Packing Tips for the Frequently Over-Prepared
   Ally Pirret
   June12, 2011
  

Graphic by Jordan Steinfeld

I am terrible at packing. My problem is not that I am disorganized and forgetful, but that I am a compulsive worrier. I consistently over-pack, which can be an expensive problem in the age of airlines charging upwards of $50 for an overweight bag.* I can’t just bring one or two books; I need five or six in case I finish the first two or don’t feel like reading them (admittedly, having a Kindle has largely eliminated this problem).

Packing for study abroad is a much different process than packing for a short-term trip or vacation. You are packing up your life and consolidating it into two or three suitcases. A seemingly impossible task, right? Well, yes and no. My esteemed colleague, Jordan, has some tips on how to best pack for study-abroad. I, on the other hand, will give you some hard-earned advice on things you probably shouldn’t pack.

How Not to Pack:

  • When in doubt, do not bring it. You do not need to bring three pairs of running shoes. You do not need to bring six cardigans of slightly-varying style and color. Know this: your clothes are going to fall apart. You are going to have to buy new stuff.
  • If you take measures to do some extra-crafty packing (like vacuum-packing your clothes to fit more in a suitcase), make sure you thoroughly think through said strategy (making sure you have the tools to re-vacuum-pack your belongings for the return trip). A friend of mine vacuum-packed her favorite down comforter to take abroad with her and had to leave it in Australia, as she couldn’t fit it in her suitcase to bring home.
  • Don’t take your entire DVD library. Take, at maximum, five desert-island discs: your comfort movies or TV shows. Go on an iTunes spending spree before you depart, and stock up on things to ration out when you’re culture-shocky and need to retreat from the world.
  • Don’t wait until the day before you leave to start packing. I know at least a dozen people who packed for year-long study abroad trips the day before they left. Just the thought of that gives me an eye twitch. Those people ended up bringing totally useless items (three beach towels), seasonally-inappropriate clothes (wool sweaters), or forgetting staples like clothes for their internship interview or a gift they purchased for their home stay family.
  • Leave the sweats and flip-flops. Bring what you need to exercise in and what you need to sleep in, and leave the rattiest garb at home. Americans have the reputation of dressing super casually compared to the rest of the world. If you are living in Paris, you cannot wear Daisy Dukes and Ugg slippers to class. Sorry, you just can’t. When you reach your destination, observe what people wear when they’re dressed down, and pick up some of that (read: harem pants!)

 

*(true story: I bought so many books when I lived in Argentina that there was no way I could pack them in my checked luggage without having to pay overweight fees. Instead, I packed all seventeen of them in my huge carry-on backpack, which wasn’t weighed. When I got home, I weighed it: 82 pounds. Suck it, Delta. I win). 

advice, over-packing, packing, true story, things well all do sometimes
 

     

 
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