I’ve been in London for exactly one month! Ok, probably not too exciting for you, but after a year of planning this entire trip it is sweet to recognize my time spent here.
So like I mentioned a couple weeks back, here is a post of items that I am glad I brought with me, should have brought with me, and glad I bought while here. Some items include links so you can find out where to purchase them. Yeah, consumerism man. Obviously not a complete list, I wish I could have brought more clothes, and left others behind–but this is something I could not have predicted until living here. Also I would not forget ones passport (duh), health insurance card, and university acceptance letter. All of which are extremely important for immigration. And if a computer and a good digital camera are questionable items to pack for you, don’t study abroad in London.
Glad I brought with me:
MSR Packtowl Personal // I first traveled with this quick dry towel to Ecuador, and it was a lifesaver when traveling from place to place. It can go without a proper washing for longer than the normal towel, and is light and dries quick enough making it is perfect for weekend trips.
Mac’s World Travel Adapter Kit // I would not risk traveling abroad without adapters that work well for your technology. I know some people who bought adapters, but they did not work once here. The Mac kit contains adapters for far more places than you will travel to, but will work. Perfect for MacBook and iPhone owners.
A good travel book // By travel book, something that does not just lead you to all of the tourist stops. I’m a huge fan of one by Saska Graville called “London Style Guide (Eat, Sleep, Shop)”, it contains cute shopping and eating options, includes tons of East London stops, and I really dig the photographs. Finding one solid book with a good map that fits your personal style and what you hope to get out of London is one of the most helpful items you can pick up before leaving.
Some money in local currency // When you first land in a different country, the last thing you want to worry about is finding a cash exchange or ATM. Take care of your jet lag ASAP by buying some coffee and a muffin, and worry about finding an ATM closer to where you are living once settled down a bit.
A small notebook and pen // Attending a new school as a student means a plethora of new information as well as usernames and passwords will be thrown at you. Keep it all in a one location with a notebook small enough to throw into any bag you have. It was a lifesaver having a pen ready during immigration, with forms to fill out, etc.
A solid, medium-heavy jacket with a hood // When traveling in the fall, you will be surprised how quick a good jacket becomes necessary. In London the weather can switch rapidly from sunny to rainy, so the hood is good for the occasional unexpected rain shower. A jacket with lots of pockets is nice to have as well so you can store your phone, some cash, whatever and not have to carry a bag all of the time.
4×6 prints of my favorite images // Student housing is bland and boring, but it doesn’t have to be once you move in. Bringing dozens of printed images with me did not take up much room in my luggage, and makes my room feel more homey. I collected the images from both my own photographs and those found on the Internet, and it only cost me a little less than $10 to have them all printed out at my local CVS.
A backup credit card // The unexpected can, and probably will happen when it comes to your finances. Our family credit card information was stolen while here, and it was a lifesaver to have a backup card. London is one expensive city, and to be without money means no food and no travel–not a position you want to be in.
Should have brought with me (hey mom, don’t send anything over, it’s all good):
An old cellphone with a full keyboard // A phone is incredibly important while abroad for coordinating between friends and meeting up. International phone charges can be incredibly steep, but cheap phones do not come fancy. If you have an old iphone or blackberry, bring it along. Cellphone providers can unlock the phone and insert a pay as you go SIM card for your trip. It is way easier to bring an old phone with you than have one shipped.
A good winter hat and gloves // When you leave for fall term it is summer at home, and the last thing you want to think about is the arrival of winter. But it slowly happens, so packing your favorite hat and light gloves is smart to consider.
More boots, not sandals // Self explanatory, but it rains in London a lot. It also gets colder quicker than you want it to. I brought two pairs of toeless shoes that I haven’t worn once so far. Unless you’re traveling to the middle east (*wink*) bring sturdy shoes, like boots. You will wear them everyday and never have to worry about the weather when out and about.
A reusable water bottle // Yes, this is something you can buy once abroad, but I know a lot of people already own one that they use all of the time. Buying bottled water is silly, and you won’t understand dehydration until you live away from home with jet lag. Water is a must, and a good water bottle makes it super easy to do so.
Glad I bought while here:
A cellphone, albeit a prehistoric one // The cellphone I bought here is the biggest joke of a cellphone. It’s a flip phone with a keypad and the background is perpetually set to a cheesy tropical island image. But it only costs ten pounds a month and although it takes me a couple of minutes to send a coherent message, I can send that message and move on with my life.
Hairdryer and hair straightener // Some hairdryers and straighteners do not work properly with converters, and others might cause problems with the electricity in your room or dorm even. Rather than dealing with possible malfunctions, just bite the bullet and buy a proper hairdryer and straightener. I think I spent a combined thirty five pounds in all, and it is so worth it.
Basic kitchen tools // When you first realize you have to cook your own meals, it can be quite easy to resist the whole thing. But I love to cook, so spending the money initially on kitchen tools has made all the difference to mealtime. My must buy list includes a small, but sharp knife, a medium sized plate, a medium sized pot, a sauté pan, a set of hand towels (good for removing food from the oven and drying dishes!), a big sealable container for leftovers, a baking pan for the oven, a slotted spoon (good for stirring and straining), a drinking glass, and a set of silverware. Seems like a lot, but this is truly minimalist for me.
Cheap, thin notebooks // Believe it or not, it is called study abroad, so most likely you will be taking a couple of classes and in those classes people will say things that you might want to remember for your future studies. If you’re like me, then you want to be able to take your notes back with you. A thin notebook is the perfect size for one term, and is small enough to bring back with you at the end of it all.
That is all I can think of for now, but that is certainly a comprehensive list. To be honest, you will never pack too little, we are adaptable after all. It might be weird buying stuff for only a semester, but if something matters to you, don’t worry about it too much. A different country can quite easily feel like home, just put in some personal effort and have a sense of humor about everything that is different.