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Anjali, who studied in the US for four years, stresses the importance of your initial packing:
"It basically sets the tone for your entire experience. If you are ill-prepared and rush through packing, you're going to struggle when you reach university. It's important to start on the right foot."
Yesterday, we reviewed how to pack and ship belongings to your US university.
Today, a few current and former US students tell you what exactly to bring and what to leave at home.
What to bring
Anjali continues, "Also, the most important things are often the last to be considered. Don't forget items such as: water-proof slippers, at least two pairs of closed shoes and small items such as jewellery and perfume. The slippers are for the communal showers; you don't want your bare feet in that water! The closed shoes are necessary in the US, because sandals are only worn for casual occasions. Also, sometimes it's just too cold for chappals. Finally, if you love authentic chutnies and pickles, bring a few in their original packaging. You can find most Indian foods in the US, but the best pickles and chutnies in the US don't compare to the ones from home."
Medha, who studied at Boston University in the very cold Northeast region of the United States, gave the following advice:
"Don't underestimate the winter weather here. I grew up in Bombay but spent time in Delhi as a child. I always thought Delhi winters were the coldest on the planet -- I couldn't have been more mistaken. Bring thick gloves, hats and jackets, if you can find the proper kind in India. If not, buy them immediately when you land, if you're studying in that part of the country."
For Simran [Images], who went to Hiram college, a small school with an even smaller Indian student population, remembrances from home were of the utmost importance.
"Honestly, if I didn't have pictures of my family, of my room back home and of my friends, I would have went crazy. I also brought a few authentic kurtas, a mini tabla and a small tobacco hookah. Not only did these items remind me of home when I was feeling down, they served as great ice-breakers with my American roommates. They eventually became obsessed with Indian culture, particularly Bollywood. Whatever you do, don't reject your heritage in an effort to look like everyone else."
What you bring with you is largely a matter of personal choice. If you cannot live without your favourite books, for example, be sure to pack them. On the other hand, if you don't read, it makes no sense to lug around a stack of hardbacks!
You will have to carry whatever you bring, so don't go overboard. Do not worry if it's impossible to bring everything, since most goods are available in a varied range of prices in the United States. Refer to yesterday's article to review shipping options for extra luggage. Remember, these options can be quite expensive.
America is truly a 'self-serve' nation, and as such, you will be required to handle your baggage, move into your room and get situated on your own.
Start to pack early and frequently update your progress. This will allow you to remove unneeded items and ensure that essential things are packed and secured.
And of course, you must remember important documents -- your student visa, your passport and letters from your university. Keep all of these items in your hand luggage; do not put them in checked baggage! If the airline loses your bags, you will have big trouble without a passport and visa.
Finally, if you need additional advice, write your international student adviser and ask for a detailed list of suggestions. His or her expertise in your particular location will ensure you pack suitably for your unique situation.
What not to bring
Anjali says, "Basic things such as pens, paper, notebooks, toiletries, bedding and towels should be bought in the US. They take up too much space in your suitcase, otherwise. Oh, and don't bring thermal underwear -- no one wears it and you'll look weird. Also, do not bring electronics, because they don't work with American media. I brought some really nice speakers from my desktop computer at home and they don't work on American computers. I don't know why."
Medha echoes these sentiments, "You can buy pretty much everything in the US, so don't bother bringing so much. Make sure you have items of great sentimental value, because living alone can be hard. Also, they tell you not to brring anything expensive or valuable -- but I disagee. Jewellery in the US is rubbish and so expensive. Bring a few pieces from home; even costume jewellery is fine."
The US government recommends that you do not bring food, seeds or plants. America has very strict restrictions on importing foods, perishables and agricultural goods into the country. You could unknowingly find yourself in big trouble if you don't follow the rules closely.
Also, don't bring your entire book collection; only bring your favourites. At US universities, books can easily be obtained.
Don't bring medications, unless you have written prescriptions from a doctor -- Prescriptions for Medication and Eyeglasses
The US government also suggests you leave behind: expensive jewellery, treasured possessions, family heirlooms or delicate things. There is always a chance that these items can get lost, stolen, or damaged during travel or during your stay;
The following items are strictly prohibited: firearms, knives, weapons, or articles that could be perceived as weapons and narcotics.
Finally, remember that appliances in the United States work on a 115 volts and 60 cycles system. It is usually best to purchase electrical items in the United States. Most items are reasonably priced. Also note that video systems, including televisions, VCRs, and DVD players (including those in laptop computers), use different systems in different parts of the world, and those you bring from home are unlikely to be compatible in the US.
Part I: Tips for travel and baggage
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