Essentials for going abroad
1. Photo from home
Yes, you’ll have access to all your Instagram and Facebook photos online, but there’s nothing like having a printed photo or two to hang up on your wall or framed on a shelf in your new room abroad. It will give your accommodations a touch of home and help you not feel quite so far away when homesickness strikes. And don’t forget a picture of your pets! It won’t be the same without them.
2. Mobile device
Even though you might not use your phone service, bringing your mobile device along can be useful for sending messages to new friends through apps like WhatsApp and iMessage. It will help you save money on an international phone plan. Plus there are dozens of great travel apps out there that can help travelers translate, capture a moment or find their way around.
3. Earplugs and eye mask
Many interns will be moving from quieter residential areas to loud, bustling cities. It’s a good idea to bring along earplugs and an eye mask to help drown out the sounds and lights that you’re not used to. Plus these items will also come in handy on the plane ride and for other excursions.
4. A taste of home
Foods and smells can be strongly linked to our feelings. Sometimes the most soothing thing to kick the sudden onset of homesickness is eating a food you can only get at home. Whether it’s just a special seasoning your mom uses or a favorite local salsa, pack a little something that tastes like home for those moments of longing.
Whether in book or Kindle form, bringing literature for plane rides, park exploring and rainy days is a good idea. A smart book to bring would be a travel guide about the country you’ll be living in, as well as a famous novel from the country translated into your native language. You’ll easily be able to find Don Quixote in Spanish in Madrid, for instance, but the odds are you won’t finish it unless it’s written in English.
6. Itty bitty gifts
Small items like candies, postcards or bumper stickers from your home city or region can be great little gifts for new international friends. It’s an inexpensive way to share your culture with others, especially if it’s a product you can’t find anywhere else in the world. People will be grateful for your generous gift but also learn a little about where you are from.
7. That thing you won’t be able to find anywhere
This thing will vary from country to country, that’s why it’s important to do some research beforehand. Some common products in one country are simply impossible to find in another. It’s important to read up on your specific country online to figure out if you should stock up on something before getting on that plane. Think especially about medicines and hygiene products that would be uncomfortable to go without.
8. An open mind
A good attitude and a willingness to try new things is almost as essential as your passport. (But also, don’t forget your passport!) The experience is about letting new ideas and cultures in so leave the preconceptions, fears and prejudices at home. Take the curiosity and open mind with you and don’t look back.
9. Adaptor plug
Though prosaic, it’s not a bad idea to have an adaptor plug at hand due to the different models of electrical wall outlets around the world. A voltage converter or transformer may be necessary depending on which country your from. Do some research and don’t let yourself go powerless. You can figure out what type of adaptor or converter you might need with the chart here.
10. Not TOO much
Besides the essentials, it’s also pretty important not to pack too much stuff. Bring clothing that can be worn in a variety of settings and that doesn’t take too much space up in your suitcase. Try to give yourself a limit of how much clothing to bring and roll up your clothes so they take up less space. Taking only what you really need will help you scale back and simplify your life. You’ll realize how meaningless all that stuff is anyway when you’re having your fun adventures abroad.
Photo 2. based on Miguel de Cervantes, The Adventures of Don Quixote, Man of Mancha by Damian Cugley, CC-by-2.0