I hate to admit it but I overpacked despite all the advice not to. My host mom offered to lend me everything that I could possibly need. I underestimated how amazing it is to live in a homestay. I absolutely adore my host mom, but more on that later. Now that I'm here, looking back on all that I packed yesterday, here is a list of advice I would have for packing.
(Skip to the bottom for a summary)
1. Airline's Baggage limitations
Most airlines flying from the US will allow for one checked in bag (the big red suitcase, up to 50 lb. max), a smaller carry-on luggage that you can access during the flight (the gray suitcase), and a bag/purse that you can sit with (the blue bag). I put all of my liquid things (ex. toothpaste, lotion, mouthwash, contact lenses, etc.) into my checked in bag so that I wouldn't have to worry about the TSA's carry on rules about liquids. Also, a word of advice, don't put too much into your carry on bag. I didn't have enough room under my chair or next to me for my huge bag. Luckily, the plane was pretty empty so the person next to me didn't show up and I got two chairs to myself. I wouldn't bet on having two chairs so limit what you bring in your bag.
2. The Checked-in
Put everything that you possibly can in here so long as it doesn't go over 50 lb. I followed the list provided by IES Abroad so I had a very limited selection of shoes and clothes in this suitcase along with many random things like notebooks and my pillow (unneccesary for a homestay but it reminds me of home).
3. Ziploc Space Bags
This is one of the best investments ever. Make sure you have some bags where the air can be squeezed out of the bag by rolling it or sitting on it rather than the vacuum version. It makes it easy to store, take out, and put back clothes that are seasonal. It also saves so much space in your luggage. The one downside to using Ziploc bags is that although you save space in your luggage, you don't in weight. I almost went over the 50 lb limit because the space fooled me into thinking that I could pack a lot more. This weight limit only affects the checked-in bag though, so go nuts packing everything you want in your carry-on luggage.
Just in case you arrive later or on a Sunday when most stores are closed (or sleep through the day due to jetlag like I almost did), I would recommend packing a small bottle of all your shower liquids. That takes away the stress of shopping on the first day. Also, my house mom prefers that I keep my shower things out of the bathroom since the one bathroom is already so crowded with their personal items. I would recommend bringing a bag for shower things.
5. Sweets that Remind you of home
The culture shock and the loneliness of my chambre de bonne (more about this in my next post!) was really overwhelming when my host mom left me alone in my new room for the first time to get settled. Having some of my favorite chocolate from home was the perfect remedy along with some messages to my friends and family.
6. Snacks that Fill you up
The time change made me hungry at times other than the normal lunch and dinner time so having some crackers filled me up as I waited for the actual meal time. In France, you eat during the normal dining hours, not when you're hungry. I learned that the hard way.
My homestay doesn't have a printer and I don't get to the program center for another four days because of orientation. I would print out any maps and directions to your program/orientation location before going abroad. I also made copies of all my documents (ex. passport, visa, credit cards, so forth) just in case anything got lost or I needed a form of identification. I don't recommend carrying around actual documents like your passport.
8. Charging Difference
I bought and packed a plug adapter because the outlets in Paris require a charger that looks like two sticks (top of the black plug adapter picture). I couldn't find one in the airport or the supermarket and my phone and laptop ran out of battery on the plane. It was really great to be able to charge my electronics that minute I got to my homestay using the adapter.
9. Screensaver/Wallpaper that makes you happy
There were moments when I got super homesick and nervous from all the changes that came with being in completely unfamiliar territory. It made me super happy to unlock my phone and see this goofy picture to remind me of another awesome time. It substituted my need to text a friend when I couldn't due to my change phone plans and the lack of wifi during my travels.
10. Homestay Gift
I brought a bag of chocolates for my host family as a thank you for welcoming me into their family. It's the customary thing to do but I almost forgot it while packing.
11. Bag of Grooming Materials
Boys: even if you don't wear makeup, remember to bring things like a nail clipper.
Girls: Makeup is very expensive here so pack away! On the bright side, there are many Sephora locations here. Fun fact, Sephora was founded here in France!
12. Bags I brought
I brought three main bags. One as a tote for school that can fit my laptop that I brought with me as a carry on on the plane (more details in next pic). I also brought a small messenger that will fit a waterbottle and my wallet for days of traveling and site seeing because it's lighter. I would advise getting bags with zippers because all the pickpocketing that's going on. The last bag is a plain tote for random things like groceries (also more details two pics down).
13. Carry on Bag
I really overpacked in my carry on bag and I do not recommend it! It took up the entire airplane seat next to me so I was really fortunate that person didn't show up. Things I did find useful were: small snacks (from above), an eyemask (my airplane neighbors kept their light on for the entire ride), sodoku/book/French guide book (but only one), all of your emergency cash/documents/credit cards (keep them close and keep them guarded), lotion and lip moisturizer (the plane is drying), headphones, and an inflateable neck pillow (an inflateable pillow saves so much space). Some things I wish I didn't bring with me include: my sunglasses, my laptop (I didn't have wifi), tissues (the plane has them), and too much lotion.
14. Grocery Bag
Paris grocery stores charge you for plastic bags to carry your purchases so bring a tote to carry your produce. Save money and the environment!
15. A French Guide
If you're like me, you're speak only un peu French. A guide is much more trustworthy than Google translate and it also has all the common phrases that can get you through most quick introductory conversations during you first week.
16. Take Pictures!
I miss my mom already so looking at the photo of us in the airport taken right before my departure made me less homesick when I got really nervous before having dinner with another family speaking another language. Taking picture with your family before leaving also helps reassure them and that means a fewer number of worried texts!
1. You get three bags of luggage, each has different perks that you should take advantage of.
2. Limit your clothing, shoes, and random knick knacks
3. Ziploc Space Airbags for the win!
4. Travel Shampoo, Conditioner, and Soap
5. Sweets from Home
6. Snacks that are filling
7. Print-outs and Copies of your travel documents and credit cards
8. Plug Adapter
9. Fun Phone Screensaver
10. Homestay Gift
11. Nail Clipper/Makeup - Grooming
12. A bag to go sight-seeing with
13. A bag for school that can hold your laptop
14. A bag for eco-friendly grocery shopping
15. A Guide to Speaking French
16. Pictures with your family
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<p>Salut! Je m'appelle Gwen. I am a sophomore at Babson College and currently about 11% fluent in French. I hope to remedy that while wining and dining in the beautiful city of Paris. I am majoring in Business with a focus in Marketing. Follow along my stories to experience the ups and downs of studying abroad à Paris!</p>