What to Take On Your Year Abroad
Monday, 12 December 2022
A list of essential items to take with you on your year abroad informed by the advice and experiences of a student on their year abroad. Feel free to learn from my mistakes!
I’ve been in France for nearly three months and it’s starting to feel like I’ve sorted myself out, so I might finally be able to write this list! To start – everything depends on where you’re going. The important part is to understand the vibe of your location: for example, I need to take a train to get anywhere with bars or clubs, so jumpers and craft supplies are more useful than a party dress (but a university town may be different). Don’t focus completely on your work/study placement, think about how you are in Nottingham, and who you’re likely to be in your new location.
The Essential Essentials
Passport and Visa – You cannot go anywhere without a valid travel ID, so check your passport is in date and apply for your visa in plenty of time.
Phone charger and phone – If anything goes wrong, WordReference, Trainline, and other apps can be lifesavers. And even when nothing goes wrong, having that lifeline brings you peace of mind.
Coat and weather appropriate accessories – Travel will always mess with outfit planning, but be comfortable and make sure you have layers (I know I sound like your mum here, but honestly she has a point).
Medicines – Ironically, I was too anxious to talk to my GP about my emergency anxiety medicine, so I had to leave it at home. Don’t do a me: talk to your doctor if you are on anything so that they can write you a note for border control. Also, bring your basic painkillers, it’s a pain to go get them when you actually need them.
Adapters – All of them. I brought three. One of my friends has an extension cord adapter and I’m so jealous.
Local currency – all the train stations in France have paid toilets, if you don’t have a centime or a euro you will be holding it until lunch or the train. Card is not king everywhere even after the pandemic; bring some notes and break one to get coins early on. Also vending machines snacks are lovely for a long journey.
Basic Toiletries – A lot of big UK brands don’t sell overseas and delivery can be difficult. So if you have a favourite cleanser, deodorant, or prescription contact lenses – make sure to stock up.
Clothes – Duh. However, do think carefully. I have no official dress code but still felt a little uncomfortable at first as the only one in the staff room in jeans until some of the others relaxed mid-term. Bring work clothes if you’re working, warm clothes, cool clothes, pyjamas, cute outfits for Instagram… but remember you will have to carry it yourself in a suitcase.
Laptop and charger – for all the same reasons as for uni.
Notebooks, folders, pens – for students these will be necessary at some point especially if you’ve arrived and quickly realised that grammar is actually necessary for day to day conversation!
Home Nostalgia – I really wasn’t sure what to call this but these are things that remind you of home for when the homesickness and culture shock starts to kick in. I brought photos of friends and family, society merch hoodie and a blanket I made during my first exam season as well as a hot water bottle that’s been with me forever. (Sidenote – if you’re going anywhere with remotely similar or colder temperature to the UK, I recommend a hot water bottle, you don’t know how good the heating will be)
Your hobbies – it will take you a while to discover what’s around you so bring something you can do for yourself before you find your life abroad. I brought my camera and my sewing kit – haven’t touched my sewing but I have so many photos now and it genuinely helped change my mood when I could spend a day outside with my camera. If you’re a journal person bring that, or a crochet kit or your video games. These things don’t disappear because you’re in a different location.
Grammar books – I know. This sucks. But it does help to have a guide when you realise that tenses are difficult or that people actually use indirect pronouns casual conversation
Comfy Shoes – and ones that aren’t about to break, ask me how I know.
Extra bags – can’t go wrong with a couple of totes! Seriously you’ll bring your big bags to carry everything but spare a thought for the day to day, what will you take to work/class? What about for the weekend? Do you plan on travelling around your country?
A Plan – surprising that it’s this far down huh? No plan survives first contact but do have an idea of what you’re doing. You’ll always forget something important but remember that you are moving to a country, if it’s that important you will be able to find it somewhere. I have been very lucky, the people here are very welcoming and helpful, so I didn’t need to think about plates, cutlery, bedsheets, and a duvet. You might need to think about everything. That said, there is always a solution so even in the worst of times, hotels exist to bridge the interval before you can get essential items sorted and McDonalds is normally open even when all other restaurants are closed. So don’t stress yourself out, prepare yourself as best you can, and take the plunge. It is worth it. Promise.