For me, trips don’t feel 100% real until my plane hits the tarmac on the other side. Despite this, my anxiety around packing likes to spike about two weeks before Departure Day. The beginning of that usually looks like wide-eyed, slightly panicked shuffling of all those packing lists your program/the study abroad office/my mother shoved in my general direction. I take all of them, cross off items I don’t think I’ll need and then compile a hand-written list of everything. Some items (like bug-spray which you definitely need in Thailand) end up being last minute additions. Other items vary by country. In Thailand it can be hard to find beauty products, deodorant, and lotion that don’t have a little bit of whitening crème in them. So, I came stocked with 2 sticks of my favorite deodorant and a bigger bottle of lotion than I might have otherwise. Likewise, I generally know the hair care products I need tend to be trickier to find abroad so I brought those as well.
While getting the items you need, it can be ridiculously tempting to over-pack. When I studied abroad in Germany last fall, I know I went overboard on clothing. I still fit everything into one suitcase, but there were things I left behind to save money and I had less room for the large amount of stuff you accumulate when you make a life somewhere else. You don’t think it will be a lot. These thoughts are lies. It will. This time I packed my suitcase with everything I thought I’d want/need, then I unpacked, scrapped at least 1/3 of it, and spent another day reviewing what was left. It still feels like too much. That feeling likely will depend on the program, but here at Chiang Mai University (CMU) we have required uniforms so I don’t need regular clothes nearly as often. It’s one thing I do wish I’d accounted for when I was packing!
No matter how many trips abroad I take, pre-departure anxiety never goes away, which is why I tend to go a little overboard on packing and checklists beforehand. For me, it helps alleviate a little bit of that stress. If I’m being honest, though, traveling is the kind of adventure you can’t 100% prepare for. Something is guaranteed to go wrong or be forgotten, but part of the fun and the challenge of study abroad is learning to deal with those situations when they arise. The key is to go with the flow.