On Packing for Granada

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Carmen Miller
January 14, 2024
Picture of a dark blue suitcase with a polka-dot luggage tag, seen from the top

I wasn't sure if I would be able to pack for study abroad without stressing over what to bring, how much to bring, how to fit everything... But after spending a chunk of winter break working on it, I'm pleased to say that I'm all packed, and it wasn't as bad as I'd been expecting. Here are a few things that made the process easier:


  1. Start Early: I like to plan ahead when possible, so I started working on a detailed packing list almost as soon as my study abroad was confirmed. I read lots of IES Abroad student blogs and looked at just about every recommended packing list there is, trying to figure out what I absolutely need and what I can live without. I added to my packing list throughout the fall whenever I thought of something, from a specific pair of shoes to a particular toiletry I didn’t want to forget. Once I had a thorough list, I used it to organize myself when I was packing up my dorm, putting everything I knew I wanted for study abroad in the same suitcase so I was that much closer to being ready to pack once I got home. And when I got home and unpacked my college stuff, I kept everything I wanted for Granada out so I wouldn’t have to find it again once I really started packing.  


  2. Organize Everything First: I laid all the clothes (and everything else) I was thinking about bringing out in piles on the floor so I could see what exactly I had. Was it chaotic? Yes. Could I see my bedroom floor for several days? No. But having everything out made visualizing what I was bringing much easier, which was useful for figuring out if I was missing anything or had too much of something. Seeing everything laid out also helped me start to imagine how it might all fit into a suitcase. 


  3. Pack in Stages: The actual act of putting everything into suitcases and keeping them under the weight limit was definitely the hardest part for me. I usually think of myself as a pretty good packer, but packing for study abroad has challenged that conception. To keep myself sane, I packed in two main stages after I made final decisions about what to bring. First, I sorted everything on my floor into three piles, based on whether the items were going into my backpack, my checked suitcase, or my carryon. This massively reduced the visual clutter and helped me realize that I don’t actually have as much stuff as I’d feared. Then, I packed my backpack first, since that pile was the smallest. Next, I packed my carry-on, and had the happy realization that I actually had a bit of extra space for suitcase spillover. Finally, I packed my suitcase, which took a few attempts to get everything to fit in a sensible way. After some rearranging and a last cut of superfluous things I managed it. I did have to sit on my suitcase to close it, but I’m packed! Shoutout to the handheld luggage scale my parents gave me—it is so much easier than trying to hold a suitcase while standing on a scale! 


Along the packing journey, I ended up editing my packing list a bit—I realized I had too many shirts that were all the same color, for instance, and decided to bring more sweaters that would pack down small and fewer bulky tops. But having a personalized list made the task a lot more manageable and helped mitigate my concern that I would accidentally forget something important, so I would definitely recommend making as detailed a list as you can manage. If you tend to overpack, a detailed list is easier to whittle down, and if you’re an under-packer you might be able to notice some gaps just by looking at the list. 

Lastly, as my departure date approaches, I’m trying to really lean into my excitement to be in a new place! Getting everything packed is super exciting and also a little bit scary – seeing my suitcase ready to go really emphasizes how soon I’ll be leaving. While there are definitely nerves, I've found that treating all the prep I’m doing as part of the experience and trying to enjoy it as much as possible has helped tremendously. 

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Carmen Miller

I’m a Comparative Literature major at Haverford College with an interest in how cultures and stories interact with each other. I love baking, writing, hiking, and exploring new places. And I can never resist the siren song of a good library!

2024 Spring
Home University:
Haverford College
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