Thursday, May 3, 2012

Packing Tips for NSLI-Y (and other study abroad)

So, there has been a little (lot) bit of freaking out about packing, and how much to pack, and what to pack. This is a run-down, in a handy dandy Q&A form, for everyone who is freaking out about packing. I mean, come on guys. You're capable young adults, going abroad for the summer/year. You can handle filling a suitcase.

(Note: NSLI-Y official rules of packing (at least my understanding) - summer guys, you get one checked bag. Year, you get two. Fifty pounds (MAX) for each. Plus your carry-on.)

Q: How much should I pack?
A: One (two, for year, if you need it) suitcase(s) that weigh less than fifty pounds, plus a carry on bag. Rule of thumb? You have to be able to carry all your luggage (BY YOURSELF) up a mountain and back to get to and from your house with it. Oh wait... that was reality in Jordan. Still a good rule of thumb!

Q: Is 50 pounds going to be enough?
A: Yes. Although shoot for 30 or 40 if you can, just to leave plenty of space for souvenirs and such. If you're a book person, or are planning on getting a particular heavy object, leave more space, as these items weigh more than you'd expect.

Q: Do we have to wear long pants/skirts if we're going to the Middle East?
A: Yes. You're ambassadors of the United States, like it or not. That's what you get for accepting a US government sponsored scholarship. Therefore, be modest, and learn to love the long pants. I promise, when you get back to the states, you'll be in shock at the haraam clothing of American teenagers ;)

Q: How do you pack for a whole year?
A: The same as you pack for the summer. Laundry exists, you know. You don't have to bring another outfit for every day!

Q: How big should my suitcase be?
A: Rule of thumb? Don't be an idiot. You'll know if your suitcase is too big if you can't carry it out the door by yourself. Just make it big enough to bring what you need, and no bigger. (Although, if you're a big shopping/souvenir person, leave extra room. I had enough room for souvenirs after giving my host family their presents, but that might not be the case for you).

Q: How many outfits should I bring?
A: Enough for one week - you can do laundry. Or follow the "rule of fives." Five tops, five bottoms, five pairs of socks, five pairs of underwear, and so on.

Q: How do I make all these clothes fit?
A: Don't fold pants, just put them flat at the bottom of the suitcase. Roll t-shirts like this. Put anything that's not cooperating in a Ziploc bag, and zipper it when you're sitting on it to squish out all the air. Put your socks and underwear inside gym shoes so that you don't waste the space.

Q: What do I put in my carry-on?
A: Heavy things, because your carry-on isn't weighed, but your checked bag is. This includes books, and any sort of large metal jewelry, if you have a lot of that.

Q: What should I do for luggage locks?
A: You really don't need to lock anything, but if you want to you can buy a luggage lock at Target or Walmart. Just make sure it says that it's TSA approved on the package.

Q: What about bringing back souvenirs?
A: If you know you're a big shopper, leave room. If you're not, the space that "opens up" after giving your host family their presents should be enough, depending on what the presents are.

Q: What will I bring back to the States when I'm done?
A: Souvenirs, of course. But most likely you'll end up leaving a lot of your clothes that you brought with to the host country, in the host country. In some cases it's to make more room for a souvenir that you now like more than that old t-shirt, or because you're just barely over the weight limit. Our group created a significant pile of clothing items that stayed in Jordan after we left, so don't be surprised if ou find yourself leaving lots of clothes behind. As such, pack accordingly, and try not to be emotionally attached to every piece of clothing you pack :D

Q: AHHHH WHAT ABOUT _________ ?!?!?!?
A: Do you need it? Yes? Bring it. No? Don't. Easy as that.

HAVE FUN PACKING EVERYONE! Even though I'm not going with NSLI-Y this summer, packing just makes me excited. Plus, I still have to pack for eleven weeks of camp this summer, and packing to go to Swaziland is right around the corner!


  1. what kind of gifts did you give to your host families? i'm going to morocco this summer and i have no clue honestly, and dont want to get anything wrong or be offensive.

  2. The best host family gifts are gifts that you've either made yourself (some sort of painting, wall hanging, glass piece, jewelry) or something from your home country (mug, snowglobe, t-shirts - soccer jerseys go over well with host brothers, or whatever else is well-known in your region). The thing with hand-made stuff is that it has to be nice - you've got to be decent at whatever your craft is. Same thing goes for souvenir type stuff - rather get them one or two nice things, instead of a pile of junk. You can never go wrong with America stuff :)