26 July, 2010

You can buy your soap in Britain, too!

I don't really know why oversize suitcases were invented.  It's like there is someone out there taunting students and willing them to over pack.  Over packing is an elementary error that can become painfully apparent the moment you try and pick up your suitcase.  The amazing thing is that a suitcase that is too heavy to move is sometimes not a deterrent to make the packer pack less.  Sometimes it's not until the case is weighed at the airport that the packer decides that there may be too much stuff in their bag.  And, more depressingly, some people don't realize that they have over packed until they get off the plane, having not slept very much, and try to lift their bags off the carousel.  Sometimes this is the moment of sad realization that they didn't need to bring four month supply of soap, shampoo and conditioner from home.
Fall 09 students arriving
September to December in London are not the warmest months, so you probably don't need to designate too much luggage space to summer clothes.  That space may be better used for your coat.  It's easy to forget to pack your coat in August, but often within a few weeks the wind will remind you how much warmer you would be with a coat on.  Another thing that's easy to forget is a towel.  Though you are likely to be looking for furnished flats to live in, this is something that is best provided by you.  You can of course get a towel here when you arrive, but in the past many students have brought an old one from home and then chucked it at the end of the semester.  On the other hand, sheets may be something that are better to purchase here.  Most people don't know until they find a flat what size bed they will be sleeping in.
This is probably what you will feel like when you arrive
You may also want to bear in mind that many students accumulate things that they want to bring back when they leave.  This could be stretching some people's ability to forward plan, but saving space in your suitcase from the beginning is a lot cheaper that having to having to pay for an extra suitcase or post things back home.  Many, though not all, flats have washing machines in them, so you don't need to bring every scrap of clothing that you own.  You may want to have a quick think before you start packing about the kinds of things that you think you will be doing while here.  Is there a dress code at your internship?  Have you picked up your London Centre school uniform from the bookstore?
Spring 10 students arriving
Some good things to remember are that plugs in the UK are different from plugs in the USA and both are different from plugs in continental Europe.  It's wise to bring your own adaptor before you get here, or else you will be carefully conserving your laptop battery.  There is also a different voltage in the UK.  Most laptop power cords have a transformer built into them, but many other electrical goods don't, and no one likes the smell of flaming alarm clock in the morning.  Another good thing to remember is that in these four months abroad you will get to experience food from around the world.  Leave that massive jar of peanut butter at home, give it's place in your suitcase to some more clean socks and consider the joy you will feel when you get home to your old favorite foods that you relinquished for British delicacies.   Before you fly find out the airline's weight limits for luggage.  Hand held luggage scales may make it easier to know how much you are carrying before you even leave home.  And make sure you can lift your own bags; most blocks of flats don't have elevators. 

Here is a parting narrative in the form of four limericks:
There once was a bag from Eau Claire
That had an itch to get out of there
It got packed full of stuff
Which was more than enough
But the packer didn't care.
The bag got on a plane
Though the airline complained
"This bag is too heavy,
It will have to pay a levy.
When we lift it we are pained."
When the suitcase had landed
There was no way to be candid.
It couldn't be lifted
Refusing to be shifted
And its packer just had to leave it stranded.
This story is a sad one,
 So here's the moral, then it's done:
If you are at all in doubt,
Leave those extra jeans out
And ensure that your bag weighs less than a metric tonne.

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