7 things to bring with you on exchange and studies abroad

Going abroad soon for exchange*, university or further studies?

I’m excited for you! There’s a lot to prepare for and so much to look forward to, even with the current global climate. While my own exchange was years ago, I still remember it fondly and have dug through the corners of my mind for the stuff I was glad I took along (and what I wish I did).

I hope this list will be of some help!

*According to reports, we can anticipate exchange programmes resuming in 2022. Yay or nay?

1) A coat with inner pockets

This was the best item I brought on exchange with me! Inner pockets are great places to stash your important documents (passport, photocopies of IC…) and spare cash, and help ensure that they stay safe and on your person.

Do be careful when choosing your coat or jacket; its inner pockets should be able to be zipped or buttoned closed. Otherwise, your items could fall out when you’re running for the train! You really don’t want that to happen. You’ll also need to keep your coat close to you at all times.

2) String lights

Anyone’s room could do with some string lights! The ones with warm lighting really make your home away from home feel a bit cosier and welcoming, like a little sanctuary of sorts. Close the windows and switch off the main light and you’d be ready for a movie/drama marathon instantly, too.

The good thing about string lights is how lightweight they are. You can also use them to hang some photos or notes if you like, making them pretty useful!

3) Your favourite stuffed toy/bolster

If your favourite bolster can be packed into your luggage, why not take it along? You’ll sleep better with something familiar beside you, and it helps add some life to your room.

You could always swap this to a small little plush if huge ones were never your thing! Some friends took a little keychain plush along to famous sightseeing spots to snap a shot and create a photo series; they look back at these pictures fondly.

4) Dashi/Miso/Kombu/Wakame/Cheat soup bases

As someone who lived off a saucepan and mug meals when on exchange, these are things you really cannot leave out when packing! They make soup-based meals so much quicker to whip up, and give you some variety amidst the instant noodles, local food, and frozen pizzas you’re likely to be eating.

The best part? They’re nutritious and a little of these goes a long way, especially since you’re most likely only cooking for one! This makes cooking a little more cost-effective.

Aside from these, I brought some furikake, a bag of Japanese milk tea mix for an occasional treat, and some noodles—wheat noodles and wheat vermicelli—that would be hard to find where I was. This was all I brought food-wise, and I bought anything else I really missed from the Asian supermarket twenty minutes away.

5) Your absolute favourite chilli or spice mix

This was one thing I regretted greatly: I didn’t bring a bottle of my favourite belacan/sambal chilli. My exchange was in Scotland and the United Kingdom honestly doesn’t offer much in the way of condiments apart from HP and yellow mustard sauce.

I made up with some fresh chilli from the Asian supermarket but that just isn’t the same. If you, like me, need the heat with your meals, bring a bottle! If your flatmates/new friends are keen, offer them some chilli and see how they take to it!

6) Some local souvenirs to give away

You’ll meet people from all over the world during your studies abroad, and you’ll grow close to some of them. You may also need to attend an event or two where it’ll be good to bring something along. A copy or two of your favourite local author’s works, your favourite snacks, or tea are some good choices!

A Brazillian flatmate of mine, for example, gifted me a pair of Havaianas which I still use to this day!

7) A dressy outfit or two

It’s better to be safe than sorry! You can take them out for formal events, business networking events, and even dates if you have them. You’ll also be able to save money and potentially hair-tearing outfit-shopping—some of you may enjoy the process, however, and that’s fine too!

The upside is that you already know you’ll look great in these clothes, and how to match them.

Do you have any other must-bring items to share with us? Please comment below, we’d love to know more!

Bon voyage, take care and stay safe. (:

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