General Packing Overview (also known as the *happy headdesk*)

02 Aug

As I am down to 24 days before I head out for Florence, it’s time to really start playing around with meticulous list-making and latent OCD, and this week all focus is on the delightful problem of packing.

Those flying Swiss International get one checked bag (50 lbs) and one carry-on (18 lbs).  They say you can bring one personal item, but they also say you really shouldn’t actually do that.  So what this means is that I’ve got to get my life down to 68 lbs, including the weight of the bags.

The good news is, the ACM handbook comes with a suggested packing list, so if you use that then you won’t forget anything *really* important.  The bad news is, every person has to pack for their own needs, so you’re basically on your own no matter what.

That said, things to consider:

  • Laptops, textbooks, shoes, coats, jeans — these things are heavy.  And you still have to bring them.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s so easy to forget to start your planning with the necessities and then see what else you have room for.  When you’re going around buying stuff, ALWAYS be thinking about what will actually fit in your luggage.  And about whether your luggage is breaking any of the rules of your particular airline.
  • Clothing has its own calculus in a case like this.  You’re not only planning for what can fit in your suitcase without weighing it down, but also for the weather (northern Italy has only a slightly less wild seasonal swing between summer and winter than the Midwest), for various activities (swimming / walking / walking A LOT and on cobbles / casual hanging out / opera-going / etc.), and for what will help you *not* stand out as a tourist.  Not standing out isn’t really that big a deal, but being unobtrusive is better; partially, since programs like this are all about learning from other cultures, you should actually be making an attempt to (literally) do as the Romans do, and also you’re less likely to get pickpocketed if you’re not walking around in shorts and a USA t-shirt.  Layering is key for everyone, and for girls (keeping in mind that I haven’t tested this out yet), I’d suggest a lot of layered tops, as in camis and thin tees to go over them.  Actually, I may devote more time to clothing in a later post, as I know it was a concern for me and my parents — oh, and my mom thinks we found a miracle coat, so I guess I would’ve had to come back and talk about that anyway.  (And I tease my mom, but seriously, that coat may literally have been an act of God.  And I mean that in the ‘have some rainbows’ way, not the ‘so-angry-must-smite’ way.  <3)
  • Toiletries and personal products are extremely iffy.  On the one hand, these sorts of things are far more expensive in Italy, so if you’ve got room then you should definitely bring that shampoo and conditioner.  On the other hand, you may find you’d prefer to save the space and bring a more complete wardrobe or something; obviously people actually live over there, so no matter what you *will* be able to buy all the little day-to-day junk you normally depend on.  Best way to be prepared is just to make that initial value judgment, space vs. money, and then to go over ready to wing it.  (It would also help to not be high maintenance, but I suppose it is sometimes too late for that.)
  • Official documentation.  For the love of your favorite decadent dessert, do NOT forget to bring all the papers you need to bring.  There’s a checklist for them, so it should be fine, but you are so inexpressibly screwed if you don’t have them, so ALWAYS USE YOUR CHECKLISTS.
  • Remember that whatever you bring over, you have to bring back.  Along with whatever souvenirs you picked up. And even if (like myself), you mostly just intend to take pictures, I guarantee you’ll still get to the end of the program and end up staring at a pile of crap you only vaguely remember buying but still can’t stand to part with, because it’s like magic and compulsive hoarding rolled into one and that’s just the way it works.  So be ready for that.

I can chuck in a bit more info about packing as we got closer to the time that I, y’know, actually start packing.  In the meantime, I intend to do posts on the flight/initial housing arrangements, academic preparation, clothes (I guess), money and payment, communication options, and whatever else pops up.  Also if I just get bored and feel like typing, because listening to a keyboard go all clackety from active use is a great way to delude yourself into thinking that you’re being productive.

Again, for anyone who’s not preparing for study abroad, posts through the rest of August will probably be as boring as the slowly expanding puddle behind a leaky faucet — and probably not even that exciting, because leaks can at least be kind of hypnotic.  But massive oversharing infodumps never directly did anyone harm, so why not  : )

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Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Practicalities


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