I’m really behind. But here’s what I started to write before arriving in France.
When you have a weight limit to keep to and 8 months to pack for, having a light piece of luggage is important. I recently discovered IT luggage. They make SUPER light luggage that still seems a good quality. My 28″ suitcase weighs 5.9lbs. Not too shabby. It’s sold at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s and probably other places.
As for what I’m packing, I’ll have to do an evaluation of what I took at some point, because right now, I can’t really say if what I’m packing was all the right choice or not. But here’s a picture of my packed suitcase… I can say I regret forgetting my USB drive.
The “Covering Your Bases” part of packing and preparation
When I studied abroad, everyone was enrolled in the Smart Traveler Program through the Department of State. To read up about it: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_4789.html Here’s the link to enroll: https://step.state.gov/step/
Make copies of EVERYTHING. Both to take with you and also to leave with your parents. By everything, I mean your credit cards, passport, visa, arrêté de nomination, etc. Keep them in a very safe place. If your wallet is stolen or lost, having copies of your cards may help you. It may be easier for a parent in the US to make calls if something happens. If your card freezes, even with the international number, you may be put on hold and that devours your minutes.
Call your banks to put a travel advisory on your cards so they don’t freeze while you’re away. Some internet purchases are still considered fishy and your card MAY be frozen anyways. So go to an SNCF storefront to get your tickets. You don’t want to dispute charges from SNCF when your ticket insurance is purchased but your ticket’s purchase is blocked. Just trust me on this one. You may also want to see if your bank has a reciprocal bank abroad. If so, foreign transaction fees at their ATM may be waived. Bank of America is partnered with BNP Paribas in France.
Get your phone unlocked so all you have to do is get a French sim card. Call your phone company and depending upon where in your contract you are, they may be willing to unlock your phone.
If you have college loans, settle everything about them. When do you have to start making payments? How much? When can you set up automatic payment? Can you defer them? If there’s a problem while you’re away, can you authorize your parents to speak to the loan provider and/or what is a good way to contact them internationally?
I’m leaving my parents a guidebook with any information they may need. I know they appreciate the gesture because it makes them a little more relaxed and secure. It can be really helpful to have someone you trust in the US with access to information that may help them to help you resolve problems from within the US. My study abroad experience helped me become more of an expert at problem solving and the art of “se débrouiller” than I wanted, but hey, I learned. A lot. If you’re doing TAPIF or IES Abroad in France and hit some obstacles, don’t hesitate to post questions here. What’s the point of learning if you can’t share the knowledge? I can’t promise to be helpful, but maybe.