I once tried very hard to follow the advice: Lay out everything you want to bring and then cut it in half– then cut it in half again. But I now realize this is crap– utter crap. And let me tell you why: Every person has different needs, desires, and comfort levels, which is why you can crumple up all packing lists and throw them away.
Frankly, there is no perfect way to pack for a long stint abroad, but I know I am a better traveler if I just govern my preferences and lifestyle at the end of the day, and pack whatever I want and need to feel comfortable. I recommend you to do the same!
However, here are some recommendations on what to pack, based off experience:
- Stock up on cabinet medicines, such as Ibuprofen, DayQuil, NiQuil, cough drops, etc. The quality in France, frankly, is not as good, and you will miss them once you are sick in bed and forced to take French cold medicine.
- Pack copies of EVERYTHING, including vaccination histories, passport, visa, OFII paper, tax returns, social security card, driver’s license, etc. I brought all of my papers in a file folder, and it’s one of the most useful things I have ever packed. You will obtain more papers and need somewhere safe and organized to keep them. Additionally, keep an additional copy of your documents on a computer or a USB key!
- As it can take FOREVER to get registered with la Sécu in France, it may be a good idea to pack an advancement on your prescriptions (especially if you are still under your parents’ insurance in the US!) During both my assistante and first lectrice year, got a 9-month advancement on all of my medications here in the United States. Pro-tip: **My OBGYN was able to give me about five months of “free samples” of birth control, so I only paid for four months instead of nine. Perhaps see if your doctors can do something similar.
- Pack extra hair/shampoo/beauty products that may be difficult to find in France. For example, I have really high maintenance curly hair, and my products of choice are not available in France (though I’ve found them online and in the UK). In order to save myself some money, I packed a decent supply of product (including a 33 oz. bottle of conditioner and three 16 oz bottles of leave-in cream). Again, it takes up a lot of weight in my suitcase, but even though it is heavier, and maybe even unnecessary, it is what I need.
- I stocked up on razors, as they are more expensive in France as well as deodorant sticks because French deodorant is legit the worst
- Pack any comfort food you may miss (for me, this includes Jif peanut butter and Sour Patch Kids.)
- European Converters for EU and the UK for your electronics are essential!
- I definitely recommend bringing a carry-on suitcase that is suitable and free for RyanAir and other budget airlines!
- Clothes: Know the climate where you are going to be living, and the climates where you would like to travel! Overall, teachers dress very casually in France. Nice jeans and tops/sweaters, a good pair of boots, colorful tights, and of course an array of scarves are key to becoming French! Invest in staple pieces!
- I did a lot of interviewing for lectrice positions, so I brought a suit over for skype interviews and in person interviews.
- I brought my own tennis shoes for exercising because I find them to be more expensive and of less quality in France.
- Ladies, tampons and Pads are expensive— consider investing in the Diva Cup! Not only is it cheaper, but it’s environmentally friendly!
- I brought travel-sized bottles because I found them difficult to find in France.
Things to Leave Behind:
- Skip out on items or props for your classroom— I promise you won’t use them. Put your photos on a USB key and find everything else you want off the internet. You’ll thank me later.
- Hair dryers, straighteners… you don’t need them, and they will not convert correctly.
- Towels, dishes, and furnished essentials. If you are in the north of France, go to Hema, a great quality, better, Dutch version of Target! They’ll have everything you need, and more!
Any other suggestions?