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Pack ’em Up

Packing tips for students leaving for the United States.

As I left to start my college years in the United States in January 2014, I took with me a battery of things I quickly realized were of no use to me, and missed a few essential items that could have made my longest time away from home slightly easier. While this list is in no way exhaustive, I hope to provide future students a better sense of what to bring, particularly given the current luggage restrictions.

Important documents
There are some very important documents that you must carry with you during your travel. These include your official acceptance letter to the university, your passport, I-20 that is to be placed on your U.S. visa page, your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) payment confirmation and your financial aid offer letter, if you are receiving aid from your university. It is very likely that the immigration officer would like to see all these documents during your first entry as an F-1 student. Keep them organized in a binder for easy access.

Research the climate of your new home closely. Depending upon how hot or cold the seasons can be, pack appropriately. Be sure to pack clothes that are easily laundered in a washing machine and whose colors do not run. Avoid bringing heavy winter layers because these are best purchased locally and will take up precious luggage space.

Even though the United States has a good healthcare system, you must take along any essential medicines prescribed by your doctor. Be sure to take along the appropriate prescription for these medicines. The United States also has a number of over-the-counter medicines, which can be purchased from local pharmacies, but check with your health center or doctor before consumption.

Food or snacks
Your university may boast of expansive dining halls and intercontinental cuisine. However, you may find yourself homesick and wanting to enjoy some familiar flavors. You can pack some dry food or snacks, clearly labelled, in your checked baggage. Be sure to declare them when asked by your immigration officer. Do not take any seeds/plant-based food, as these are not allowed.

In order to decorate your room, you may want to bring along a few special things of significance. These could be photographs, wall hangings, posters, etc. Try to take items that aren’t too heavy or fragile. This will be helpful not only during your trip to the campus but also when you need to store your things for the summer months.

While your room may initially have bare essentials, you can utilize stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond to furnish it with bedding, linens and cutlery, if necessary. These stores provide the facility to shop online, pick up the items at the store closest to you and transport them to your campus.

I hope these tips are useful to those preparing to leave for the United States in the fall. Make sure to embrace your new surroundings and ask for help when you feel lost. Everyone in their first semester is looking to make friends and this in itself makes for a great atmosphere of sharing and happiness. Bon voyage!

Parvathy Bhushan from New Delhi is an undergraduate student of biology and business at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.