For the entire month of December, I have worried tirelessly about my upcoming trip to Nice. I’ve contemplated everything under the sun: if my suitcase was going to fit all the clothes I wanted to bring, if I would have enough time to see all the places I wanted to see… the list goes on. I feel as if I am so unprepared for what is to come and there is nothing I can do about it.
It feels like this is the calm before the storm. It was all too much to think about at once.
After a few weeks of panic, I quickly learned that writing out lists allowed me to compartmentalize all the thoughts running through my head. I started a Google Doc to type out lists of EVERYTHING I could think of: clothes, budgets, trips, restaurants, stores, and more. I separated the list into smaller lists and did online searches for more help. The internet has hundreds of good packing tips, day-to-day itineraries, and travel hacks for students. Utilize them! Consolidate them! Refer to them once you arrive!
While there’s no certainty for the months to come, creating lists helped to put the current anxiety at bay. I’ve written out a comprehensive list of the things that helped me most when planning, just to ease my mind. And yours too, if you are preparing to study abroad:
- Figure out your phone plan! It makes the entire process smoother if you can get this settled beforehand. Will you buy a SIM card in your host country, or utilize a phone plan from your current provider? Talk to your family and plan accordingly. I know that in many countries (in my case, France) there are cheap SIM cards with monthly rates available for purchase. I spoke to friends that studied abroad in the past few semesters and found that several students typically choose this option. Just make sure your phone is unlocked first.
- Create a budget tracker! I used a Google Sheets template that I found on the internet to make mine. There are plenty of spending tracking apps available, and your bank might have one built into their app or website. This was crucial for me, as I wanted a way to keep up with finances over the four months of my stay. Additionally, I made a list of things that I absolutely cannot leave my time abroad without. Whether that’s a piece of art, jewelry, a book, or an experience, it helps to have things to look forward to.
- Plan out what you will pack! If it will help (it will), write a list of all the items you plan to bring. Pack more of the versatile, everyday essentials, and less of the unique pieces. I wasn’t sure how much storage I would have in my apartment, so I purchased packing cubes to section off each type of clothing item (socks, shirts, etc). This came in handy for separating and limiting my packing. Also – try to limit how many heavy/bulky items you put in your suitcase. It adds up quickly!
And just a few more packing essentials...
- Water bottle.
- Portable charger.
- Camera. Any type of camera – your old digital camera, a film camera you purchased just for this semester, or even your phone camera will work.
- Journal. An absolute necessity for your time abroad. I have already started to write out my goals for the next few months, and I look forward to writing in it when I arrive. It is so important to stay grounded and be able to reflect on your life in a new place. I am so excited to look back on this when I return home!
- Random daily items. I packed band-aids, scissors, and ibuprofen. I considered what smaller things I use on a more regular basis and tried to include them, in case I don’t have access to them abroad.
This might seem like a lot, but you can never be organized enough. If it helps to make the transition from home to abroad smoother, do it. After compartmentalizing, my mind was no longer stressed about the logistics and could focus on more positive feelings. I relieved the nerves and made ample room for excitement and anticipation.
More to come later. But for now, I will be shoving my packing cubes into my suitcase and planning weekend trips along the Côte d'Azur.
More Blogs From This Author
Hi! My name is Kate Allen and I am a third year at the University of Virginia, studying Foreign Affairs and Global Commerce. I love to read, cook, take photos, and explore.