That is the Question.
Packing can be a long and arduous process and — I’ll admit — even infuriating at times, especially if you’re going abroad. This means that once you’ve forgotten to pack that favorite poster you need to look at before going to bed every day, you will not be sleeping for weeks, until you get used to not having it. We wouldn’t want to trouble our parents to mail us expensive parcels now do we?
Or at least think about what to pack at least 2 weeks prior to your departure date. When you finally get down to business, you’ll realize that there’re far more things to pack than you had initially thought of.
The most important things are your documents — passport, visa, health records, flight ticket, and other documents without which you will be barred from boarding the flight or enrolling into university. Bring also sufficient cash to last until you open a bank account. Christians, pack your bibles!
Don’t bring your stuffed animal!
Just kidding, but only if it fits, and only if you’ve sworn to never part with Teddy (or Hippo). Or else do consider this option. It’ll save you a whole lot more space in that luggage.
Forget (some) electronics.
Apart from laptops, cellphones and their adapters and chargers, do not attempt to bring appliances such as an iron or a toaster or a hair dryer. The type of voltage differs from country to country, and you’re better off without all that weight anyway. If you need to be more convinced of the hassle involved, here.
I know you’ll miss your local food…
But don’t. Well all right, you can bring a few pieces of Teluk Intan heong peah if you’d like but ONLY A FEW.
Health care could cost a lot more in the UK and USA than in Malaysia. Do make sure you have a working health insurance plan throughout your course of study. Stow items (e.g. medicine) critical to your health in your carry-on bag and NOT your checked bag.
Many experienced folks have said that it’s advisable to buy them when you’re there. Winter clothing sold overseas is much cheaper and apparently trendier than the ones here. When you’re overseas, also look out for garage sales where people sell off things they no longer need at really low prices.
Number of checked baggage allowed
In my case, we were only allowed one checked baggage per passenger. You are strongly advised to check with the airlines you will be flying with before packing.
Deciding what to put in the checked bag and the carry-on bag.
Some items are prohibited in one but allowed in the other; some items will not be allowed on board at all. Please do refer to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) webpage for a detailed list of prohibited items. Link here.
Your carry-on bag should contain the most important things i.e. passport, travel documents, money, jewellery, other irreplaceable expensive items, laptops and other electronics. You might want to bring an extra set of clothes and underwear just in case there happens to be a delay with retrieving your checked bag.
Check the current temperature of the place you’re bound for.
Dress appropriately for the climate. Bring along an extra jacket in your carry-on bag so that the weather does not take you by surprise.
No lithium in the checked bag.
Temperature or pressure changes on the plane may cause leaks or fires. To quote the American Airlines webpage, “Spare lithium, lithium-ion batteries of any kind are not allowed in checked baggage. Spare lithium, lithium-ion batteries for devices such as laptops, cell phones and cameras must be packed in carry-on baggage with the terminals covered/insulated.”
Ensure that your laptops, cellphones, iPads and tablets have sufficient charge before leaving for the airport.
US-bound passengers will be required to switch on their electronics before boarding. Failure to power your devices up will result in confiscation. This precaution was imposed in response to possible threats of terrorism. More details here.
Google for college checklists.
You might already have a checklist of items to pack but college checklists on the net could still be a great help to remind you of things that might have slipped your mind. Most of them, though, are extensive, and include things that are unnecessary or impractical for an international student to stuff them all into a TINY 28-inch luggage. Nevertheless, use it as a GUIDE. Here’s one.
Make sure you plan an itinerary before leaving your home country. This includes your temporary accommodation and the means of transport to commute from one place to another. There are many options when it comes to accommodation. I would suggest that you ask a few upperclassmen if you could stay at one of their places because this is likely to be cheaper. Else, you can opt for student youth hostels at a lower price than hotels. I was told that hotels around the university might double, triple or even quadruple their rates at peak seasons like this but if all else fails, it is still a viable last resort.
Rule of thumb: pack light! Toss out things you can afford to live without or learn to live without them. Leave some items to be bought after you arrive. Keep repacking to narrow down your list of things until the most essential ones fit snugly into your bag.
In the end you’re bound to have something you just wish you could bring. You might even go as far as attempting to use the Undetectable Extension Charm on your bag. Here’s where learning economics might make you feel better, or worse, — depending on how you see it — but either way, you will definitely be more accepting of the situation: you will concede to the economic reality of opportunity costs, that human wants are disproportionately greater than available resources to satisfy those wants.
Jacqueline Wong Huey Yean never (erm, rarely) gets tired of ice-cream, Hong Kong dramas, green tea, doodling and theology. She majors in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, though she secretly wants to be a graphic designer one day. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever is the chief end of this wretched sinner, saved by amazing grace.