I cannot believe I BRAGGED and BOASTED about how little I was taking to Milan. “I’ll have so much suitcase room to bring things home! I’ll have so little to worry about losing!” Come on now. I brought TWO PAIRS of pants. And while you’re traveling abroad, money does NOT grow on trees.
Here’s what I should’ve brought (other than more pants).
The dorm I live in didn’t provide hangers. “No problem,” I thought when I found out. “I’ll run to the home goods store and pick some up.” I couldn’t find hangers anywhere, and neither could any of my friends. We asked employees at stores, and they had no idea where to find any. One suggested we go to a clothes store and ask for some of their extra store hangers. We finally found some, but they were crazy expensive. We decided to mass order on Amazon and split among our friends. If you have the extra room, it doesn’t hurt to bring some cheap ones.
2. Makeup remover and a removing cloth.
I figured I shouldn’t bother bringing things I could easily get once I was here—especially liquids. But I didn’t consider how little time I’d have the first week, and I wore makeup to the airport. This meant that for the first couple of days, I was removing my makeup with water and toilet paper each night. Bits of shredded toilet paper stuck to my face. Unpleasant.
3. A therapist.
You can’t pack a therapist in a suitcase, but I do recommend figuring out virtual therapy before going abroad. My therapist ghosted me a while before I departed, and I figured I’d get it sorted once I was here. But now that I’m here, I’ve learned that my lack of a working US phone number makes communication much more difficult. I’ve had a hard time getting responses over email for therapy. You’ll be experiencing many life changes and may want a psychologist to talk it through with, so do yourself a favor and get it figured out beforehand.
There are some things I’m glad I brought, though, so I want to share those with you since I almost didn’t bring them.
1. My journal.
I don’t really like journaling because it doesn’t come naturally to me, so I almost didn’t bring it. But the first couple of days, I was overwhelmed and jet lagged, sleeping about four hours a night and spending many restless hours in bed. I ended up writing pages, and although it didn’t fix any of what I was feeling, it was a much-needed outlet. I’ve made wonderful friends, but in the beginning I didn’t feel I had anyone close enough to discuss these feelings with except my journal. Even if you don’t use a journal, I recommend you bring one, just in case.
2. My iPad (or a notebook)
Lucky me, my high school gave me a free iPad for graduation, but I only ever used it for art. Since I’ve gotten here, though, I’ve taken more notes on my iPad than anywhere else. The desks in Italy are typically so small that a computer doesn’t fit without teetering dangerously on the edge, so a notebook or an iPad is much more convenient. Plus, I take my notes in the art app Procreate, so when I get bored in the approximately 2-hour classes, I decorate my notes.
3. A reusable water bottle.
They don’t drink tap water here so you’ll have to buy bottled water. They only seem to come in sizes Enormous and Miniature. I’m glad I brought a medium sized water bottle that fits in my backpack and sustains me throughout the day.
When it comes down to it, you can get essentially whatever you need once you’re here—it just might be a bit of a fight and could cost you. Get to making your list and consider these items!
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I'm Abigail, a junior studying English and music at Macalester College, and I'll be in Milan, Italy for the spring semester. This is my first time leaving the country, and I want to share my experience as a low-income never-traveled-like-this-before student with you. My interests include writing stories, making art, writing music, learning languages, and exploring the outdoors.