five months in a suitcase – part one: the naive coed

Five months of my life in suitcase. It excites my gypsy soul and terrifies my inner Girl Scout because it took my car, my mom’s car to haul my harp, and my friends adopting my fridge and microwave to move back from the dorms. As much as I love minimalism, I am terrible at it. There is too much to prepare for.

However, a suitcase and a carry on seem like quite enough now that I’m all packed. 

There are a myriad of lists available (I liked The Budget Traveler), but they are often from richer or more tropical people than me. So for anyone studying abroad to Ireland, The British Isles, or North West Europe. Here’s what I’m taking. I’ll let you know when I get back how well it worked out for me

1. A Purse

My purse is actually a leather camera bag and has a very handy latch. It holds the while-on-airplane-essentials:

  • almonds
  • phone and charger
  • kindle
  • kleenex
  • Benadryl
  • gum
  • journal
  • pens
  • headphones
  • wallet
    • School ID and drivers license
    • health insurance
    • credit/debit cards
    • Starbucks gift card
    • Euros/USD

2. Carry On – School Backpack

Though no one believes you, you are actually going to study on your study abroad trip. I didn’t buy a new backpack for this and am bringing my sturdy one from Cabela’s that my parents got me in high school. I’m hoping this will work for Ryanair and other budget airlines as a carry on in addition to fulfilling my academic needs.

In my carry on, I’m including:

  • laptop, case, and charger
  • kindle charger
  • electronic converter
  • makeupfrom Pinterest
  • change of clothes
  • almonds
  • medicines for one month
  • passport
  • raincoat
  • water bottle/thermos
  • folder of papers
    • copy of flight info
    • acceptance letter from university
    • packet from study abroad provider
    • proof of finances
    • proof of insurance
    • class schedule
    • confirmation of enrollment
    • boarding passes

I have copies of all these documents stored on my computer and in Dropbox as well.

3. The main event

I’m borrowing a large suitcase from my parents, and I’m shocked at how much it holds. Lucky for me. So far, I have:

  • 8ish sweaters and cardigans
  • 4 tank tops
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • bar soap
  • coconut oil (see why I’m never without it)
  • feminine products and various toiletries
  • 7ish shirts/blouses
  • trousers
    • black ponte leggings
    • dark skinny jeans
    • maroon leopard pants
  • grey pencil skirt
  • black a-line dress
  • underwear (the more you bring, the less laundry you do)
  • belts for various outfits
  • hoodie
  • raincoat/jacket (my warmer, heavier one)
  • two pairs of comfortable, neutral flats
  •  two pairs of tights
  • school t-shirt and one other
  • leggings for sleeping/working out
  • prescription meds for as long as possible and tylenol

Sometime later, I’ll let you know what important item(s) I forgot to pack, but for now, I’m rejoicing at being 5 pounds underweight and both fully contained and fully clothed.


two weeks out

13 days. 16 hours. 02 minutes. 17 seconds. The countdown is agonizingly slow.

photo from rebeccabelliston
photo from rebeccabelliston

The question “How is it going?” can derail my brain for several hours. So much is going.

I’ve researched rain coats, weekend trips, Irish language opportunities, and harp lessons. I’ve scoured countless study abroad blogs for the failsafe tip to ensure an immaculate semester (there isn’t one). I’ve freaked out, regretted my decision, and not been able to stop smiling. I’ve missed all my friends and the developments in the Honors College. There are some costs to leaving the country for five months that they don’t tell you about.

I have my class schedule now, though there are a few things that need to change. I’m still not sure which dorm I’m living in, but I know I’ll be on campus.

Right now, I am most grateful to my study abroad provider, World Endeavors. My advisor has been invaluable in navigating the different education system. Different credit hours, different schedules, and two weeks of finals would have been much more confusing without her!

For those of you approaching your own study abroad departure, here are the tasks I have completed.

  1. All paperwork for Wichita State (my home university) has been filled out and returned to the study abroad office.
  2. All my pre-departure paperwork has been filled out and returned to World Endeavors (my program provider).
  3. My flight documents, acceptance letter, financial statement, and insurance cards are in a folder.
  4. My bank and credit card company have been informed of my travel plans.
  5. I’ve ordered some euros from my bank.
  6. My parents and my advisors have my flight itinerary.
  7. I’ve purchased a converter for my electricity needing devises.
  8. My cold weather clothes are generally gathered.
  9. I’ve read approximately 297.63 books on Ireland.

Besides several hundred last minute things that I’ve forgotten, all that’s left is to spend time with friends and family, pack, and get on the plane!

study abroad tips – patience

Preparing to study abroad can occasionally seem like an insurmountable task. There are forests of paperwork, a myriad of blogs to read, valleys of bureaucratic pitfalls, inundations of emails, and mostly waiting. Like, a lot of waiting. A LOT of waiting. You’ll fill out a form and wait for a signature. You’ll send out an email and wait for a response. You’ll make a phone call and wait for a return. You’ll submit applications and wait for acceptance. You get the picture.

After the initial torrent of activity to complete the application, the work slows to a small but never ending trickle. As you’ve by now tried to distract yourself and fund your trip by getting a job or five, replying to these emails, obtaining these signatures, and, especially, making phone calls will become more cumbersome.

My first tip is not to worry but stay alert. Your study abroad representatives get paid to make sure everything goes O.K. with this process. That doesn’t mean nothing will go wrong, but you have people looking out for you.

The second tip is this: patience, small one. Create Pinterest boards of blog posts, packing ideas, places you want to see. Read history and tourist books. Watch movies about your new home. Create unreasonable expectations about life there – people will always surprise you. Buy some sweaters. Overplan. Work like a dog and convert hours of toil to bus tickets and postcards.

picture from
picture from

But, most of all, have patience. The time will come. Try to not to drive your parents crazy while you wait.