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Study abroad - what to pack?

Posted 02 September 2013
student packing UK

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I still remember vividly the frenzied period right before my first arrival in London. My family and I spent every waking hour trying to figure out what I would need in the UK, where I could get these items and how I was going to pack them in my tiny suitcase. My mother, being the doting parent she always is, hoarded a warehouse of winter coats and woollen mittens. After all, I was travelling from a tropical country where the sun never fails to shine to a temperate island notorious for its never-ending rain.

I still remember vividly the frenzied period right before my first arrival in London. My family and I spent every waking hour trying to figure out what I would need in the UK, where I could get these items and how I was going to pack them in my tiny suitcase. My mother, being the doting parent she always is, hoarded a warehouse of winter coats and woollen mittens. After all, I was travelling from a tropical country where the sun never fails to shine to a temperate island notorious for its never-ending rain.  My father made lists and lists of what he was adamant that I would need in the near future, ranging from plug adaptors to instant noodles. Their enthusiasm along with my compulsive shopping habit terrified me, since I only had 20kg baggage allowance. Despite my valiant effort, my suitcase was 5kg overweight by the time I reached the check-in counter. Now after 4 years of constant moving from continent to continent with my entire life neatly (by my standards) packed in 2 suitcases and 1 small backpack, I have attained enough experience (some of which is truly physically and mentally painful) to comprise the ultimate packing list to study abroad in the UK.

 

WHAT TO PACK – CLOTHING

It is common knowledge that Britain spends most of its time in miserable weather. The weather is also extremely capricious. You can experience sun, hail and snow on the same day. British weather is great for starting a conversation, not for packing. If you are coming to Britain in autumn, prepare for some massive fluctuations in temperature. The key here is to bring clothes that you can layer. Multiple layered thin clothing pieces provide much more warmth than a chunky coat. Here is my list of essentials:

●    Thin vests and T-shirts: are a must.
●    Tights and leggings: fashion staples here if you are a girl.
●    Sweaters: they give you the classic British look.
●    Coats: make sure that they are water-resistant.
●    Underwear + socks: two weeks’ worth of underwear to save you from doing laundry every 3 days.
●    Jeans/Shorts/Skirts: whatever you fancy, but keep in mind that Britain is anything but a tropical, sun-filled holiday destination, although it can still be sunny and warm.
●    Sneakers: you will be doing a lot of walking.
●    Wellies: your new best friend! I’m not kidding.
●    Formal clothing: dresses for ladies; suits for gentlemen.
 

WHAT TO PACK – TOILETRIES


I would advise packing a week’s worth of everything in case you are stranded somewhere without any shops (most unlikely).

●    Shampoo/Conditioners/Shower Gel/Soap: The very basic.
●    Toothbrush/Toothpaste: you may want to carry them in your hand luggage. (see below)
●    Deodorant
●    Brush/comb
●    Shaving supplies
●    Feminine products: girls, need I say more?
●    Makeup
●    Tissues/Toilet paper: for the hypothetical stranded situation-in-the-middle-of-nowhere situation.

WHAT TO PACK – HAND LUGGAGE

Hand luggage is even more important and harder to pack then checked luggage, especially if you are travelling internationally. Airline regulations have been tightened considerably; no sharp items and bottles of liquids meeting size requirements. Remember to check with your airline to make sure that you don’t have to throw anything away at the airport because you cannot board a plane with them.

●    Medicine: for common ailments such as cold, headaches, sunburn (you never know).
●    Toothbrush/tooth paste/grooming products: you will want to stay as fresh as possible during and after a long-haul flight
●    Wet wipes/Tissue: to help you fresh up.
●    Entertainment: books, handheld consoles, etc. Whatever that can help alleviate your boredom. 16-hours trapped in (and strapped in!) a metal flying machine has never been joyous.
●    Valuables: things you cannot afford to lose.
○    Jewellery
○    Wallets
○    Camera
○    Laptops
○    Money: enough for your first few days in the UK.

●    Documents: Keep hold of these if you want to pass the checkpoint and gain entry into the country. Even if it means losing everything else, so be it.
○    Passport with your visa
○    Boarding pass
○    Copy of transportation/accommodation plan.
○    CAS: Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies.
○    Assessment of English competence: IELTS certificate for example.
○    International Certificate of Vaccinations/Health certificates.
○    Evidence about your care arrangement if you are 16-17/guardians if you are under 16.

For more information, visit UKBA website.

WHAT TO PACK – CONCLUSION

This list is by no means exhaustive. Bring as much or as little as you are comfortable with. Packing can be a daunting task when going to study abroad; but don’t let it ruin your eagerness. You are about to embark on the most exciting journey of your life. Bon voyage!

Autumn Hoang

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