U.S. Student Alena Nitti Preps and Packs for Her Semester Abroad in Paris
The USA Abroad! series is a look at the experiences of Americans who are having an international student experience in Europe.
I am currently three weeks into my time abroad in Paris, France. There are some things I'm glad I brought, and other things that I wish I had with me. Being that I am now settled in my Parisian apartment in the 7th arrondissement, I think it would be beneficial for me to lay out the dos and don'ts of packing for your trip abroad.
Packing for winter (and spring) in Paris
To start, the biggest piece of advice I received from friends who traveled abroad and from online sources is to pack light. Before arriving in Paris, I had no idea what my apartment was going to look like or how much storage I was going to have. I also heavily anticipated my style changing once I touched down.
That being said, there was a lot of narrowing down to do in terms of clothes. If you are like me, you love clothes. And loving clothes comes with having a lot of them! It was important for me to only pack the essentials in my closet that I knew I was going to wear more than once. This plan resulted in packing mostly basics, and a few standout pieces I knew I wanted during my time abroad.
What I got right (and what I needed)
I packed 5 pairs of jeans and 4 pairs of nicer pants. I have found this ratio to be perfect, since it leaves me with enough pants for the week, but has left me with room to buy more pants in Paris, which I have!
I packed a few basic t-shirts and long sleeves, which have been super useful. I packed a handful of sweaters, and I actually had to buy more once I arrived because I was not anticipating how cold it was going to be. One mistake I made was bringing the wrong jackets. Jackets take up a lot of room in a suitcase, so I limited myself to three. I had to buy a heavier jacket here since the jackets I brought were not cutting it.
Leave space in your suitcase
I think abroad students underestimate how much they will shop while traveling in Europe or anywhere else in the world. We are overwhelmed and overstimulated with new sights and new styles. Wanting to blend in with our environment, I have noticed that we flock towards shopping as a mechanism of blending into the new culture. Knowing that I was going to buy clothes during my time allowed me to limit my packing even more.
One thing that I would recommend is packing one piece of clothing that is special to you and reminds you of home. For me this is my favorite sweatshirt and sweatpants. Putting these on instantly makes me feel a bit safer and gives me a sense of familiarity.
Allowing room to grow
A part of going abroad is letting go and going outside of your comfort zone. I think that this idea goes hand and hand with decisions when it comes to packing. It's impossible to bring your whole life with you in a suitcase. You have to leave room for the new life you are about to create. It is hard letting go of some materialistic pieces that you have grown accustomed to, but in the long run it has been really healthy to limit the amount of things I have with me.
After all, being abroad is not about what I brought with me or what clothes I wear, these things are just externalities in comparison to the internal journey I have embarked on. It's hard to put that into perspective when packing as you want to make sure that you have everything possible to limit unknowns. But after three weeks, packing and preparation was just a needle in the haystack that is Europe.
Alena Nitti is a Communications studies major and a Creative and Cultural Industries minor with a focus on fashion and media at Chapman University in Orange, CA. She is currently abroad in Paris studying fashion for the spring semester. Alena has an affinity for fashion, vintage clothes, photography, and writing.
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