Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Technology & School Stuff
Now that we’ve covered clothes, let’s discuss the REAL reason why you’re studying abroad—school. I decided to group technology and school supplies together, since most electronics will be used for classes in some way.
Like any other modern college student, I rely on my technology to improve my efficiency, contact my friends and family, and organize my life. However, like any other modern traveler, I know that electronics, while necessary, are a liability. Expensive items like iPhones and MacBooks are targets for thieves. That is why it is best to only bring what you will need and use while studying abroad. The less you bring, the less you can lose.
Since you’re going to classes, I would recommend bringing a laptop if you have one. Before you leave, you can download books and movies for in-flight entertainment. International flights can be very long and boring! I would not advise you to take both a tablet and a computer on any travels. Go with the one that you use for classes most of the time. Also, if you use any special chords for school (such as an ethernet cable or a VGA-to-LightningBolt converter), be sure to pack those.
- Cell Phone
Since I will be blogging, I have chosen to take my iPhone so that I can take pictures. It’s an old model that’s out of contract, so I will unlock it from my carrier and buy a SIM card to use down there. You can also buy a cheap phone to use during your travels. Most of the world does not use cell phone contracts, and instead they use prepaid phone cards. Peru is the same way; you only buy minutes as needed, so it will be very easy to find a suitable phone plan once you arrive.
As for headphones, bring whatever you normally use. Although I’m bringing a pair of traditional headphones for use on the plane and at home, they are a bit flashy, so I will also bring the ones that came with my iPhone. I will use these when out in public, since they are less of a liability.
Studying abroad is the trip of a lifetime, and you might want to capture your favorite moments on camera. For most things, a smartphone camera will suffice. However, if you want to bring a DSLR or action camera, feel free. Just realize that they can be easily stolen, depending where you choose to take pictures. I’m bringing a small action camera with a suction cup mount and waterproof housing to take photos and videos for the blog, but I won’t be bringing it everywhere. I will only use it when I need it, so as to eliminate the possibility of losing it or having it stolen.
Before you leave, it would be wise to research the electrical situation in your host country. The two things you need to research are outlet shape and voltage.
Outlet shape varies by country, although certain regions tend to use the same type of plug. Most of Europe uses round prongs, and North America uses flat prongs. For Peru specifically, the outlets can either be flat or round, and sometimes both. I’ve never needed an adapter (a tool that changes plug type), but I’m going to bring a small rounded one just in case. Older Peruvian homes sometimes use rounded plugs, and since I don’t know my accommodations yet, it won’t hurt to bring a small one. Also, if you plan on traveling to other countries, it might help to look up the electrical situation there, too. For instance, Chile and Argentina both use different outlets than Peru.
Voltage is the other thing you need to research before you go. Some countries, such as the US, run on 120/125 V. Others, such as Peru, use 220/240 V. This means that if your destination uses a different voltage than your home country, you might need a converter. If you are only bringing electronics such as your phone and computer, your chargers probably support both types of currents. If that is the case, then you would only need adapters for your trip. However, you need to check your chargers before you leave!
You’re studying abroad, remember? Sometimes I am inclined to think that I am only taking a long trip, forgetting that my main purpose in Peru is studying. And because you will spend a lot of time hitting the books, you need to pack a few things.
Perhaps the biggest difference between college and high school is the absence of the school supply list. By now, you’ve figured out what works for you and what doesn’t. I personally prefer to take notes by hand, but many of my peers use only their laptops to keep up in class.
Items like notebooks, pens, pencils, and folders can be sourced abroad. Peruvians are students, too! I’m going to bring some pens that I really like, but many places carry the same brands that you use in the States. It’s a good idea to bring at least one writing utensil, since you will need it to fill out your customs form.
Another reason to buy your school supplies abroad is the change in pressure when flying. I know it sounds weird, but so many of my gel pens and highlighters have never functioned the quite the same way after a flight. That’s why I will bring a few cheap ballpoint pens and a small bag in which to keep them for my trip. Make sure to put them in your personal item for easy access in-flight.
It’s also a good idea to keep a folder of important documents while traveling. Prescriptions, travel itinerary, and any addresses are good to have in one place. Have the address of your accommodation, orientation hotel, and local program office handy, since you will need to provide at least one address on your immigration form. The best address to use is that of your host family’s, but if you do not know that by the time you leave, provide one of the latter two addresses.
That’s it! Packing electronics and school supplies is very easy, it just requires a bit of research. Stay tuned for the next post in this series!