Packing: A Traveler’s Rite of Passage

The best part about traveling is, well, traveling. But in my opinion, the worst part by far is packing. Simply put, it’s one of my least favorite activities in the whole wide world. Between traveling every year to my mother’s home country and a nine-week iSTAR stint in Malawi last summer, you would think I’ve got this packing thing down pat. Yet truthfully, I would rather swim to France in shark-infested waters than obsess over everything I need to bring with me for five weeks – well, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. 

Despite this, I spent the better part of the week prior to my departure packing. My room looked as though my closet got the stomach flu and decided to heave out its contents – the floor littered with sundresses and shoes, ten variations of the same shirt and a million other miscellaneous items. And while I feel as though the pain of packing is a rite of passage every traveler should experience, I have decided to share the wisdom I have acquired in hopes of making your packing a less intimidating escapade.

If you’re anything like me, clothes are a key mode of self-expression. When traveling to a new country, especially one where I am not as fluent in the language as I care to admit, the way I choose to style myself will speak for me in ways that perhaps my words cannot. Therefore, I think closely about what clothes I allow to take up precious space in my suitcase. Because you’ll be traveling to monuments, museums and places of worship, it’s a good idea to bring respectful and modest choices. Montpellier can get quite hot in the summer, so ladies, pack a thin shawl or sweater that can be thrown over a tank top!

Think about other things you use on a daily basis: toothbrush and toothpaste, sunglasses, Chapstick, a brush, phone chargers, etc. I find the easiest way to make a packing list is to pay attention to the things I use over the course of one day and write them down! Though it’s easy to forget you’re going abroad for the courses – and not just the beautiful views, delicious food, and cultural experiences – remember to pack classroom essentials like a laptop, charger, notebooks and pens. Though it’s only five weeks, if you’re prone to homesickness, think about bringing a few pictures of friends and family that you can hang on your wall, or other things that remind you of home. 

While packing can be stressful, remember that most things can be purchased once you get there in case you forgot something! So, try not to stress too much (easier said than done, I know) and enjoy your last days in the States before heading out to your new adventure!

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