How to Pack for 6 Months Abroad
Firstly, here is a haiku about packing:
No no no no no
No no no no no no no
No no no no no
This haiku conveniently translates into French by replacing every "no" with "non"
Every time I remember my time abroad in Chile, I find that I am discovering new things that I learned from my time abroad. Without further ado, here are my hard-earned facts about packing:
1. Start Packing At Least Two Weeks Prior
Don't panic. Ok. Panic.
Starting to pack weeks in advance is similar to taking an inventory list. When going abroad for six months, you will soon notice that you need more than just clothes and comfortable shoes. You have favorite products that you want to bring with you. Additionally, this helps you stay calm if you need to come back and re-evaluate what you will truly need and what you most likely will not. Programs often offer a packing list for students, and they are very helpful as they are based off of evaluations from past students.
2. Pack Your Tested-And-True Items
I have a specific hair type, a specific skin type, and specific medication. My favorite shampoo company does not ship to Santiago. I could not go without my face skincare for six months, and I certainly did not know if I would be able to get them in pharmacies in Santiago. Fortunately, I started packing early and had ample time to order them before my half-a-year adventure. This list also includes specific medications and contraceptives. Six months is a long time. Be prepared!
3. Pack All Extracurricular Needs
I also packed camping equipment when I went to Chile, and I am glad I did! It was easy to put that aside and convince myself that I could have bought them in the country. There were many student protests in Santiago, and that meant many stores closing early and a sober approach to the possibility of being in the streets (as a foreigner).
4. Check Airline Website for Specifics
I cannot stress this enough! Did I have to pay $200 for baggage when my bags were over the limit? Yes. I still cry about that. It is imperative to understand baggage limitations with the specific airline you are flying with? Can you pay for going over? What the exact measurements for carry-ons and personal items? Might you have to convert those measurements from the metric system? You might. And you might cry doing it. Some companies like Jetblue will NOT allow you to go over. Ever. I vehemently over-packed for my trip to Chile which brings me to…
5. Donate Clothes If You Can
In my six months abroad, I volunteered at Teleton. Teleton is a medical center that provides full care services for all children in need, free of charge. Working for that organization opened my eyes to how many resources I have and take for granted. Additionally, it helped me realize that I could donate my good clothes, since every year all of Chile comes together with “El Dia de Teleton” and raises money for the organization. Sometimes, we cannot donate money but we have clothes to give! If you do choose to donate, it is important to wash and fold your quality clothes beforehand.
I hope this does not discourage you from taking that leap of faith to get on a flight to X country to taste sizzling foods, dance with locals, or even to have your heart moved while volunteering. This is to prepare you for a great adventure in your quest to becoming a global citizen. I sincerely hope your time abroad is as enthralling as mine. And I hope it leaves you wanting more!
Stephane Alexandre is the Intercultural Immersion Editor for Wandering Educators. A Tufts University student, she just returned from studying abroad in Chile.