I have so many posts scheduled but they are all reviews – and I personally hate to just kick out one review after the other as I personally find „review-only“ blogs very boring very soon. So I tried to squeeze in something different that hopefully might come in handy for one or the other 🙂 I consider myself a studying abroad expert after going abroad three times (four if you count my move to another German town for one semester as such.) and am probably the person when it comes to move my whole life 10,000km around the globe. Nothing can really shock me anymore I guess. Let me tell you; studying in a foreign country is one of the most exciting things one can do when young. It is also one of the most stressful, emotional and challenging thing you can do in your twenties. Depending how far you stray from your home country you will not only be busy getting your things together, but you’ll also need to get comfortable with a different language, different customs, cultural and social expectations, you’ll need new people, you will love and hate and live at a different speed than everyone at home. But that’s okay. To make the plunge a bit easier I compiled 10 tips and tricks that I learned along my various moves to Japan and Korea in the last years 🙂
1. Whatever you pack; you probably will only really need half of it.
The mistake everyone makes when going abroad is to pack way too much stuff. You don’t actually need that much stuff for convenient survival. Don’t pack anything that you can get for cheap in the country you’re moving to (pack one towel instead of five, get a second or third one later). If you go abroad for a year, pack 4-5 pair of shoes and wear the heaviest one on the flight (yes, even if it’s summer, you can change at the airport after you landed. Those heavy winter boots will make lots of space for other stuff!) I usually pack 1 pair of winter boots, 1 pair of sturdy sneakers, 1 pair of ballerinas/light spring shoes, 1-2 sandals/flip flops (great for showering as well). Pack only clothes that you can wear together; try to not make it too colorful and stay with neutrals and some colorful clothes. Pack one formal outfit (1 blazer + 1 pants/skirt/dress) as universities usually have many entrance ceremonies etc. You don’t need 4 different handbags (although it would be nice to have, I admit, but you really don’t need them.) Try to think rational about what you really need and not what would be nice to have.
2. Use hair ties to get your (make-up) bag and pouches organized for easier access and less mess.
Hair ties are great for organizing your bags. I use them to keep thematically close items together so that I won’t have to search through my bag over and over again. This is something I do at home too to have all my pencil liners together and not always reach for my eyebrow pencil when I am actually searching for my liquid eyeliner.
3. Use travel sized or bottles of used up products to decant your favorite products and save money and weight. Stick the original label on them to avoid confusion.
It seems to be a no-brainer, but I was so surprised to see all those heavy cosmetics my friends abroad carry around with them! These last surprisingly long as well, you don’t really need fullsize products when travelling or even studying abroad. I have been away from home for 10 months and I am still using my Guhl Color Protect Conditioner on the right. Yep, that’s right. My Gliss Kur hair treatment also lasted me about half a year, it’s a great way to cut down the weight and save money as you don’t have to buy it in the country you’re going to (and trust me, you won’t really have time the first weeks)
4. Tote bags. Tote bags all the way.
You know, I know that handbags are much nicer than tote bags. But they are also much heavier and need a lot of space in your luggage. Tote bags are so versatile and they need almost zero space and add almost no weight to your luggage! I did pack 3 tote bags in different sizes and designs and have been living pretty happily the last 10 months. Of course I’d rather run around with my Samantha Thavasa bag but I can manage without it. I have a big errand tote which I am going to the supermarket with and two smaller ones that I use for university or going out.
5. If you go somewhere cold or for a year or longer, vacuum your winter jackets and sweaters.
Vacuum bags are seriously the best invention since antibiotics or the internet in my opinion. You can save so much space by sucking out the air of all your heavy winter clothing. I honestly never thought about it before a friend told me she always does that when moving across countries and it truly is genius. Also great when you did too much shopping in the country you went to and have to somehow get back home with all that stuff… and the same suitcase you came with.
6. Pouches. Use pouches for everything.
This may be a personal pet-peeve of mine, but….pouches are great. Especially when you are living in a dorm with limited space and shared bathroom space, pouches with different contents will save you a lot of time joggling around. It is also much nicer to pack your suitcase and all you have to do is get the pouch and place it somewhere else, you’re done. No cosmetics/medication/lipsticks flying around and probably getting damaged or lost.
7. Use cotton pads to keep your powder products from breaking when your suitcase gets thrown around.
Especially if you carry around expensive powder or eyeshadow palettes.
8. Save all important information (your passport number, flight information, hotel/dorm/university information, local telephone numbers etc.) not only in your smartphone but also on paper in case you lose your phone or the battery dies.
I usually print out a map of my hotel/dorm and the nearest station so I can ask locals/go by taxi in case I absolutely am not able to find it. A physical map is also great when your language ability is not really there yet as point-and-ask works very well around the globe.
9. If you don’t speak the language (yet), learn at least the very basic phrases such as Thank You, Please and questions such as Where/Who/What/When to be able to do at least some sort of communication. It’s not only polite but will also open up the locals as they most likely appreciate that you at least try.
This goes especially for Japan and Korea, where people can speak English but they hate to do it. Japanese and Koreans can be quite arrogant if you try to speak to them in English only. I found to greet them in their native language and switch to English was creating way more positive responses. (Some Japanese also just flee when you try English…)
10. Use your abroad experience to do as much as possible. You will be lazy and exhausted but you should always be greatful for this experience and try to make the most out of it.
Bonus: Wear something comfortable yet not too homely if you’re flying 10 hours or longer.
Being comfortable is super important. And maybe your snoopy pants are super comfortable but you should also chose something that makes you feel good out in the public. Plus, if you look too slacking, you’ll most likely get no service at the duty-free counters – do you really want that? I usually go for a pair of black (thermo) leggings, an oversized shirt + cardigan, boots and a scarf as I get cold easily on planes. 2-3 layers are a good rule if you’re on a long flight. Plus, I always keep fluffy socks so I can get out of my boots and into the fluffiness for the next 10 hours.
And most importantly: Don’t stress! Have fun! Studying abroad is a great experience and although I am totally exhausted, I would advise anyone to go for it. It’s unlike everything you’ve ever done. However, 3 times studying abroad may have been enough for me. Or I am just getting old. I’m really looking forward to move back home in 9 days (and yes, moving home is just as stressful as moving there…)! Wow, only 9 more days. I hope this post will be hopeful to anyone who thinks about going abroad or on a longer trip 🙂
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