To pack… or not to pack?
There is only so much you can pack for a 6 week trip to another country. It is important to pack smart and strategic. Over the course of my journey in France, I have noticed the items I have gotten the most use out of and the items I could have left at home. Let’s start with the basics…
- Clothes & Shoes
As a female, I put a lot of time, effort, and research into what to bring to France during the summer. I packed mostly shorts and basic, plain tops (for mixing and matching). It is always a good idea to bring basic clothing items in order to be able to make multiple outfits with the same items, but what I didn’t expect from France was how cool it gets at night or on a cloudy day. I had to buy a thin jacket and an extra pair of jeans because of the unexpected cool, cloudy, and rainy weather. However, the weather can change drastically, so it is important to pack for both situations. Another important thing to note is that the French do not wear “athleisure”. There is no such thing as wearing leggings and athletic tops here unless you are exercising. On a regular day, locals wear sophisticated yet casual, put-together outfits. As far as shoes, I anticipated dressing up every once in a while and wearing heels for events such as the opera or a concert. However, after my first time wearing my heels in Paris, I quickly realized I would have rather paired my dress with a cute pair of sneakers for the sake of my feet. Life in France requires a ton of walking. It simply wasn’t worth it to bring my heels because I haven’t worn them since. Instead, I would recommend a “nicer” pair of sneakers or COMFY sandals to pair with your fancy outfits!
It is very important to pack essential medicines (prescription and over the counter). Traveling anywhere can often-times make you feel a little sick due to lack of sleep, stress, stress, and being exposed to new things such as new plants or sicknesses! With this being said, I wish I had brought more allergy medicine and common cold medicine. I did bring a few Zyrtec tablets just in case of allergies, but it would have been ideal to have a whole bottle of Zyrtec or Claratin. Another medicine I recommend to bring is something like Pepto Bismol. Traveling can be very tiring and hard on the body. The whole point of studying abroad is getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things while being fully immersed in the culture! This is a wonderful, life changing thing, but keep in mind your stomach is being exposed to new things as well. I have found it useful to have Pepto Bismol tablets or Tums on hand whenever I may need it! If you do happen to forget medicine, there are many pharmacies around but it can be difficult to communicate with the language barrier. However, it is accessible.
- Miscellaneous Life-Savers.
I can not recommend enough bringing a battery powered fan to France (or any country with no A/C). We are so used to having air conditioning on full blast in the U.S., but that is very rare in France… unheard of actually. In Paris especially, it was fairly warm t in the hotel room at night. I invested in a small battery powered fan that was my life-saver that week. With the fan, I had cool, interrupted sleep. It also provides a little bit of white noise because staying in Paris can sometimes be noisy at night and in the mornings! I also use this fan in my host family’s house for extra coolness, even though usually my window provides plenty of fresh, cool air! However, I have raved to everyone about my portable fan and I think it was the most important thing I brought on this trip. Secondly, try to avoid a hard shell suitcase. I say this because they are hard to stow. You never know how big the room is that you will be staying in with your host family. I invested in a soft-shell piece of luggage that also has straps to turn it into a backpack. This was a life-saver because instead of lugging my stuff up the stairs, I just put it on my back and walked up. I purchased my bag from a brand called “mountain warehouse” and I believe it was my 2nd best purchase (behind the fan of course!). Lastly, an important item I have found myself using often is my power bank for my phone. I would recommend having a power bank on you at all times because when in a foreign country, you never know how long your day is going to be, especially when going on excursions. The last thing you need is your phone to die, especially if you are unfamiliar with your surroundings and there is a language barrier. I have also been using my power bank at my host family’s house because there is not a plug near my bed so I charge my phone on my nightstand with my power bank! It has also come in handy many times when my friends need their phones charged. I have also charged my fan, and computer with this device so it is useful in many ways!
I highly recommend reading blogs or watching YouTube videos on people’s recommendations for how to pack when studying abroad. I got many useful ideas from other peoples’ videos and blog posts! It is also essential to read-up on French culture and know how to blend in as much as possible. As they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”