Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pre Stage: Helpful Hints

Jeudi, 5 septembre.

It's hard to believe that three weeks ago, I was sitting in my room at home, with a giant empty suitcase and the piles upon piles of clothes that I ambitiously hoped to squeeze inside it. Of course, I'd read the Vademecum and googled pictures of the city, but I really had no idea what to expect. So without further ado, here are some of the helpful hints that I wish I'd known a month ago while packing my suitcase!

I think my number one packing rule for anyone following in my footsteps is: if it fits, you bring it. I read a lot of articles and posts before I got here with advice about exactly what (and what not) to bring and most of them agreed on one thing: don't bring too many clothes! But I'm here to tell you -- bring them. Sure, I could have packed seven days worth of clothes and planned to do laundry once a week, but I didn't. I'm here to study and to explore and to live -- not to spend four months roughing it. I mean, I don't think you should go absolutely crazy and ship your whole wardrobe, but if it's something that you need, you want, or you just feel really good in, then into the suitcase it goes!

Here are some of the things that I'm glad I brought ... or that I wish I had brought more of!
  • Beach towel. I didn't bring one. Sad face.
  • Toiletries. I don't really understand why, but everything feels very expensive here and shampoo and conditioner are no exception. I didn't think I had room in my suitcase for regular-sized bottles, so I purchased three refillable travel bottles bottles and filled them up with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Although I'll have to refill them sooner or later, they've lasted me through the past two and a half weeks! Other toiletries to bring with you -- sunscreen, lotion, facewash. 
  • Money -- cash. If you're doing the pre-stage, you'll be walked through the steps of setting up a French bank account, to which you can then wire money from home. It's a convenient and not super complicated process, but it takes time. So in the meantime, make sure you have enough cash to get you through your first few weeks. That includes food and drinks, toiletries and other necessities, souvenirs, and some bigger purchases -- a cell phone, a tram pass, etc. I brought 500 Euros with me and although I still have lots of money left, it's been comforting to know that I have emergency funds if I need them.
  • Money -- credit/debit cards. Before you kiss America goodbye, check out your bank's ATM policies. While my credit card charges a certain fee for international transactions, Molly can withdraw money for free on her debit card! Definitely a bonus.
  • Comfortable shoes. More than anything, our Pre-Stage has consisted of a LOT of walking ... and I have a feeling that won't slow down as the semester continues. So if you have room in your suitcase, don't feel bad filling the space with shoes! Because it's still summer here, most people are wearing sandals: gladiator sandals are pretty popular, but a lot of girls wear sturdier shoes, like Birkenstocks and Tevas. There's also a lot of sneaker action -- but remember, we're talking Converse and Keds, not Nike. You might be comfortable, but you'll look like the biggest tourist in the world in your bright white New Balance sneaks.
  • Tupperware. Tupperware. Tupperware. Oh, how I wish I had packed my luggage full of Tupperware! I'm not kidding. It's so incredibly useful and convenient and although I'm sure they sell it in France, I sure do wish I'd brought my own supply.

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