I’ve heard it’s better to take what you know you need than to arrive and realize you’ll have to do without. They also say to pack light but that – as we all know – is crazy talk. 

Studying Abroad is something many people talk about retrospectively;  wishing they’d jumped on the opportunity or perhaps wishing one had arose during their college career. As a French language minor, I was (and am) fortunate enough that the University of Alabama offers such a program.

My summer abroad with UA is a five week intensive French immersion semester that has been absolutely amazing.  I won’t lie and say I didn’t have apprehensions about being away for so long: living with a host family that speaks only French, attending classes 5 days a week, figuring out the social norms and city landscape, etc…the mind does start to wonder and it’s easy (if not normal) to want to pull back and stay in your safe/comfortable bubble. DON’T. Like Michael Scott* said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”  These past two weeks have been absolutely incredible. Testing? Yes. Panic attacks? Yep. Anxiety? You betcha. Worth it? YOU BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR.

There are numerous things to consider before, during, and after a trip and an extended stay overseas is no exception. I’m sure many of you are more interested in the crazy stories, the jaw dropping pictures, and the sure jealously that radiates from hearing about someones time abroad. Don’t worry; that’s all to come. Finishing out my 2/5 weeks here in France – life has been nothing short of exciting. I mean hello, I’M IN FRANCE!

But first let me commence in the good ol’ USA:

Step One: Packing

I was fortunate enough to be going on a trip in which a few people I knew had already gone and was able to gather some basic information about the weather, activities, best ways of fitting in, etc…

I was given a ‘cheat sheet’ that helped me and a number of others decide what items needed to be packed and what could be left. I don’t know about you, but when I travel I love to bring back lots of souvenirs. Mugs have been my specialty but magnets make great little gifts and are much easier to pack (and they don’t break or weigh much). Keeping that in mind, I had intended to ‘pack light‘ – a laughable term for an endeavor that is lasting over 5 weeks – and just stick to basics.

Like Sandra Bullock’s Leigh Anne Tuohy says in The Blind Side “…If you don’t absolutely love it in the store, you won’t wear it.” Don’t pack all kinds of  outfits you think you’ll like. Pack what you know you want and even plan them out for which event you want each outfit to go with. I went out a bought a suit specifically for the Opera we attended. Was that impulsive? Oh yes. Was it a great deal? Did I look smashing in the photos? Yes and YES.

Step Two: Decisions

Now that you’ve torn apart your room pulling out everything you want to take and paired this shirt with those pants, those jeans with that button down, etc…step back. I knew ahead of time I would want more space going them coming back because I would 10/10 fill my luggage with souvenirs. Maybe you aren’t that way. The most important thing is to be prepared. Yes, you can buy clothes (H&M exist outside America) wherever you go. Yes, you can take tons of extras. But do you NEED to? My best friend helped me eschew a number of options simply by realizing how many of them were tailor to one specific top/bottom. Tan or white pants work with literally every shirt as do the dark colored tops. PLAN AHEAD.

*S/O to Tiffany & Hannah – solid color shirts really do make for better photos.*

Step Three: Journal

Whether you’re going on vacation or heading out for a study abroad, something I learned last summer is that it is really easy to forget the things you’ve done while on your trip. A friend of mine inspired me as she had boughten a little journal in which she would write down the days events to better keep track of the day to day adventures. I’m not gonna lie and say I’ve stuck with it everyday; perhaps a word document would suffice. I think, looking back in a few years, it’ll be neat to have a hard copy of my thoughts on the days and the adventures that were had. Find what works best for you and go forth. Your time abroad is going to be full of stories you can’t wait to share with those back home. Take advantage of each opportunity and greet each day with a smile because la vie est vraiment en rose!



*Wayne Gretzky also said that