Finally, finally FINALLYDFYADFAD I have begun to blog about how to study abroad.
To front all of this: I have been on one semester-long study abroad. I am not an expert. In fact, you could probably call me a nega-expert.
But I'm gonna blog about it anyway, mwahaha.
Anyway, I managed to make myself sit down and brainstorm a bunch of ideas for what to write about and the first thing I thought of was how to pack. Which is sorta lame since everyone hates packing. Yet, it must be done!
(Oh, and I kinda already did a post about how I packed my backpack, Henry. You can read it here.)
So, I'm splitting this post in two: how to pack for a long semester away and how to cram a backpack for a weekend.
buying the bag.
semester away: you're best looking for something sort of thick, definitely on wheels, with a couple of sturdy handles. My giant check bag, Wilbur, has these great foamy grabber-things and made lifting him in and out of trucks and buses and so forth pretty easy. Something that's also super nice to have is the cinch straps around the outside. That way, you can pack as much or as little as you like and the whole thing stays secure.
weekend away: This backpack will be your life. Think carefully. I recommend a good top grab/handle, two or three giant pockets, an "important" pocket, water bottle holsters, and the elastics thing on the outside to hold your jacket/hoodie/plastic bag full of your wet clothes (don't ask). Another thing that people don't consider is appearance: choose a bright, distinct color or print. I almost ordered Henry in black. Bad idea. Literally everyone in the history of humanity has a black backpack. Instead, I went out on a limb and got him in "highlighter yellow" and have never lost sight of him since.
picking out what you need.
semester away: my rule of thumb is don't pack anything you will use less than once a week. Only exceptions are one nice dress/outfit and a gnarly halloween costume. Really, everyone I talked to said that they significantly overpacked and could've gotten by with much less. Pick comfortable but good condition clothes that all match everything else. Buy amazingly comfortable shoes. The rest is negotiable.
weekend away: for this, do your research. Where are you staying? Where do you plan on going? What are the accommodations like? Based on that, you can pack accurately. For instance, if you plan on hiking, focus on good gear and light clothing. If you're going to go to fancy West End shows and a nice dinner, make sure you bring along a dress to fit the occasion. This, along with the essentials of: toiletries, travel guides, towel, and a good book.
making it fit.
semester away: listen to me - space isn't the issue, weight is. I could probably stuff my check bag to the brim and it would weigh something around eighty pounds. But airlines only let you do fifty - otherwise there are fees. Try to evenly distribute the heaviest things among all your bags. (This also makes the trek through the airport a tad easier.) Apart from that, use your normal packing sense.
weekend away: I usually pack my main compartment while thinking about what I'm going to do first and make sure those things end up on top. For instance, if we get into the hostel around midnight, I'm probably gonna want to fall into bed. Thus, my pajamas go on top followed by next days clothes, etc etc. But, if we plan on getting to the place and immediately exploring the town, my plans would change.