Studying abroad in just ONE suitcase: Yes, all you need is ONE SUITCASE!

Happy August Everyone!

I can’t believe the summer is already almost over! Enjoy the remaining weeks you have left before you set off to your new Fall adventures!

Some of you may be preparing for a semester/year abroad to another country. Ever wondered how you can fit all of the stuff you need in just…

ONE SUITCASE???

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Well look no further! I am not an expert, but after traveling and studying in Sweden for a semester, I figured out what is ESSENTIAL for you to pack!

NO NEED TO SEND PACKAGES OVERSEAS TO WHEREVER YOU ARE STAYING!!!

First, you need to check and see how many bags you are allowed to take on the airplane (or boat if you are traveling that way).

Also, check and see the maximum weight limit for your check-in bags. (*Note: British Airway’s weight limit is 51 lbs./23.3 kilos.)

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*CAUTION: BE AWARE THAT YOU MAY HAVE TO DRAG YOUR SUITCASE/ HAND BAG AROUND FOR LONG DISTANCES IN ORDER TO GET TO YOUR DESTINATION. DON’T BRING BAGS THAT YOU HAVE A HARD TIME CARRYING OR MOVING AROUND.

Now here comes the fun part. All you need is ONE SUITCASE. Yup, just ONE!

Some people prefer suitcases with 4 wheels, some prefer duffle-bag like suitcases. Before I left for Sweden, I found a 2 wheel suitcase that also had a backpack that you can zip on and off the suitcase! (:

Here is what I think are essential to bring anywhere you go:

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1. Weather appropriate clothing (don’t bring your whole wardrobe; bring enough clothing that will last you a week and that you can mix and match).

2. Weather appropriate shoes (if it is snowing where you are landing, boots are absolutely needed! Your feet will thank you!)

3. Toiletries that will last you for a couple weeks: Hair brush, tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, soap, face wash, etc.

(don’t bring anything in a big bulk; you can buy more of your toiletries where ever you are staying).

4. Medicine: Bring the medicine that essential for your well being that you may not find easily in the country you are staying in. (Medicine such as pain killers, vitamins, etc. can be found easily in your country’s drug store.)

5. A mini First Aid kit: Hey, you never know! Just bring a little bit of what you think you may need. It’s better to be prepared!

6. Laptop: Like any other student in the country you will be studying in, you will need the technology to do research, write papers, make presentations, etc. But like most college students, our laptops become our best friends because of the internet!! XD

7. Charger and plug adapters: Depending on where you are studying, you may be in a country that has a different plug than the one in your home country. Bring at least one adapter so you’re not caught with a useless charger and less than 5% battery on your laptop, phone, etc.!

8. A photo album: Photos are great to have to decorate your room with! Seeing the faces of family and friends will make your transition into a new environment easier! (:

9. Extra currency: In the 1/1,000,000 chance you get ripped off, make sure you have extra cash of the currency of the country you will be studying. Better safe than sorry.

When you pack your suitcase correctly, you can get all of these materials in; and even more stuff if you want. The key is checking to see what you really need or can just get at the store when you arrive at your final destination. Whatever else you want to pack is up to you!

Materials such as these should NOT be in your suitcase because you can always buy them later on. And depending on your housing situation, they may be provided for you:

1. Bed linens and pillows

2. Closet hangers

3. Kitchen ware

4. Tons of food

5. Shower curtains, waste baskets, and other bulky bathroom materials.

6. Tons of school supplies.

7. Any bedroom materials that are bigger or taller than your own suitcase/hand bag.

Basically, anything too big or things you know you can live without for 6 months-1 year (or longer) should not go into your suitcase.

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You may be surprised with how little you can live with and still be happy! 😀

Let’s get stranded in another country!- my misadventures to Sweden- Part 2

Hello all! 😀

In my last post, I talked about the mishaps you may encounter while traveling by air, domestically or internationally, and what to do. Now I’m going to put you through a little scenario on what to do while you are stranded. Here we go! (:

So you’re at Heathrow Airport in the winter and just found out that your flight is CANCELLED! The only flight you can book will be leaving in 2 days. So now what?

cancelled flights

FIRST, make sure you have some way of communicating back home or to some person, company, etc. in the U.K. (or wherever you are). Do you have a way to communicate through wi-fi (example: Skype, Facebook, etc.)? If not, does your cell phone have an international plan so you can call any one anywhere? If not these two, then try to get yourself a SIM card for your cell phone. Trust me, it sucks not having a way to communicate to others!

SECOND, do you have the currency of the country you are stranded in? In this case, the UK uses British Pound Sterling. Yes, certain areas do accept the Euro but it is better to have more British Pound Sterling for times like going on the bus, etc. Make sure to have your credit card on you too. You never know when you will need to use it. (*Note: double or triple check that your credit card company knows that you will be using your card internationally)

currency trading

THIRD, is your PASSPORT still on you? If you lose it, it makes things much harder! If not, be sure to report it missing at the airport.

Alright, you have a way to communicate with others, the appropriate currency/ credit cards, and your passport. So where are you going to sleep for the night? I would suggest NOT sleeping at the airport.

If you know some one that lives nearby, try to call them up and ask if you can stay there until your flight time. If not, try to find a hotel, hostel, etc. to sleep in. You can try to book your hotel online, by phone, or ask the customer service at the air port to book you a room. (*Note: If you have a travel agent like I did, try to get them to book you a room. They might have a better chance finding something good). I suggest you lodge some where that is not far away from the airport… more time to sleep, less time to travel back to the airport. 😀

Next, you need to find a way to get to where ever you will be staying- transportation. If it’s at a friend’s house, hopefully they can pick you up. In London, you can use The Tube (one of the more cheap ways to travel around London), a taxi, or a hotel shuttle if provided. At Heathrow Airport, there are areas where you can get more one-on-one info on these modes of transportation. If you are going to sleep in any one of these hotels in London, you can use the Heathrow Hoppa Hotel Transportation.

heathrow-hoppa

Great, you finally reached the place where you will stay for the night! But your stomach may be grumbling right now. If possible, try to purchase some food at the airport before you leave. The place you may be staying at may not have any eateries nearby or all of the places are closed. Remember, food (preferably healthy) and water are key to keeping yourself from feeling faint or getting sick. You will be stressed out and starving yourself will do you no good.

Although this is food from Sweden, food anywhere is key to "roughing" it while stranded. Carbs are preferable for energy.

Although this is food from Sweden, food anywhere is key to “roughing” it while stranded. Carbs are preferable for energy.

Finally, get yourself some SLEEP! SLEEP MAN, SLEEP! Sleep is another key factor (perhaps more important than food and water.. although food and water should not be ignored) that will keep you healthy, refreshed, and keep you from not missing your next flight!

garfield_sleep and eat

So now you are at the airport ready for your new flight. Hopefully all will go well this time and you will reach your final destination!

“I want to bang my head against the wall!” – my mis adventures to Sweden

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Hello every one!

Once again, I’m sorry for being MIA (missing in action). I’ve been in the U.S. for about a month trying to re-adjust to the time difference, reverse cultural shock, etc. Leaving Sweden has been physically and strategically easy for me. I was able to travel around Europe by myself for a couple of weeks and enjoy the summer weather. 😀 I will have to make another post about my European travels later.

Now going to Europe and Sweden during the winter… well, that trip was a true test of my courage and perseverance! Want to know why? Just keep scrolling down and read on!

 I went through an absolutely RIDICULOUS  and FRUSTRATING trip to Sweden!! I had my trip planned out perfectly from A to B about a couple months before my departure date. Despite all of my effort, my plan crumbled apart!

In this post, I will give you tips, advice, and what you can expect to happen IF you ever get stuck in a domestic and international terminal. Hopefully you will never get your flight RE-SCHEDULED AND CANCELED in at once like me!

First of all, I’m not quite sure what British Airways’ track record is like, but they did not run well with me! I had an afternoon flight from LAX to Heathrow Airport, London (my lay over stop). It was supposed to be a 10 hour flight.

Instead…

It became an 8 HOUR WAIT to find out that my flight was to re-scheduled due to “maintenance problems”. They kept pushing back the time it would take for our plane to be fixed. After 8 hours, they finally decided to reschedule our flight.

Luckily, I was still in Southern California and my family was able to pick me up.. at around 11pm!

My advice:

  • Although I had this problem with British Airways, this can happen to any airplane company! Some times things do not go as smoothly as you want them too.
  • If your flight does get delayed because of “maintenance problems” or what ever else the flight crew tells you, keep your cell phone on hand. You never know if your flight may get rescheduled and you’ll need a ride back home. *Note: some times, you can get another flight the same day depending on the flight schedule and how much the flight costs.
  • If for some reason you have to wait for a long time like me, make sure you have snacks, a charged up phone (or laptop, iPad, etc.), a good book, and a comfortable seat. All of these things will make your wait more bearable!

Luckily, my flight was rescheduled for the next morning. My second attempt to get to Heathrow Airport was a success! (:

BUT……!

Right when I thought I would have a seamless journey from London to Sweden, the unimaginable (for a Southern Californian native) happened.

My flight from Heathrow Airport to Copenhagen Airport (my final flight destination before going to Sweden) got CANCELED due to the heavy snow!!! In fact, every flight that was supposed to leave from Heathrow was canceled! banging head against the wall

This is what I was doing inside my head.. >_< Since I was 2 whole days behind schedule, I kept thinking to myself in the airport, “I WANT TO BANG MY HEAD AGAINST THE WALL!!!!!”

If you are first-time, college student going abroad to another country, this can and WILL give you a lot of stress. Remember, most people who have jobs which require a ton of air travel tend to experience these mishaps.. just not all at once!

Now here’s a few tips and suggestions I picked up while being stranded in the snow, with a CANCELED flight, in an international airport:

  • Just remember, any thing can happen. You can plan out the most perfect flight schedule (just like me!) and still every thing back fires on you. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up!
  • Be sure to follow the directions the cabin crew gives you and and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • Today, we live in a generation of technology. Before you head off for your study abroad adventure, make sure you have your phone company UNLOCK your phone. Or, you buy a phone with a SIM card for the country you will be studying in. Although it costs more, it may be better to have an international plan so you can always call home.
  • If you would prefer to communicate back home through Skype, Google Hangout, etc. you will need wi-fi. Remember, NOT all wi-fi is free. For example, Heathrow Airport only gives you about 45 minutes of free wi-fi before you need to pay for more. Here is a link to one of it’s internet partners which you can use, Boingo (for a username and fee): http://www.boingo.com/
  • If you do not have a cell phone that you can use and/or internet, you can always use the international pay phones.
  • *Note: International pay phones only accept credit cards. So make sure your credit card company knows that you will be out of the country and that you will need to use your card while you are studying abroad.
  • Try to book another flight ASAP while you are in your current airport. Unfortunately, myself and hundreds of others were unable to book a flight for the next day due to the amount of people trying to get a new flight schedule.
  • If you have a travel agent (for example, AAA), contact them and try to have them book you a new flight. They might have an easier time finding a new flight than you.
  • *Note: Be aware of the time difference. I was 8 hours ahead of California and at the time, I was calling home during the day. If you are calling home when every one is asleep, you will probably have a harder time getting help from your travel agent.
  • Depending on the country you are in, there may be a language barrier. If you have to, make sure to whip out that translator book! Most countries should have a section of customer service help who speak English but you never know. Luckily for me, English is the dominant language in the U.K. If you are in a European country, most people know English!
  • Don’t forget to EAT & DRINK! You will be exhausted and stressed out. At the very least, you should have a little food in your stomach and drink lots of water. If you don’t stay hydrated, you are more prone to fainting, dizziness, etc. Nothing is more embarrassing than hitting your head on the floor in front of hundreds of people in an airport terminal. Trust me, I saw people at the airport banging their heads against the floor; rather than the wall! XD

Wagamama

Wagamama: A restaurant at Heathrow Airport which serves tasty Asian noodle favorites (yakisoba, ramen, udon) and other Asian foods. They even serve English food for breakfast!

This is the advice I can give for first-time international travelers, especially study abroad students, who may get stranded in a domestic or international ariport.

My next post will talk about where to stay, where to eat, etc. when you have to spend the night whichever country you are stranded in.

What I experienced was a one in a billion chance. Even if you do experience something similar as me, you WILL become a well-seasoned traveler! IMG_5285 

I hope these tips help! Happy Traveling! (: