20 August 2013

What I've learned so far...

5 Tips from a Student Moving Abroad

...a continually evolving list about dealing with stuff and moving and the stuff of moving, as of 17 days before departure. ;)


5) Don't wait forever to get started. And by that I mean, waiting until the very last minute/day/week to sort through your apartment or house and try to get rid of everything all in one go -- that's tough. Unless you feel like donating everything, or paying boatloads (possibly for a boatload) to move your stuff somewhere far, far away. I've never been much of a knick-knacks collector or a media hound or anything (except maybe books), but when I thought I "didn't really have that much" to deal with, it actually came out to at least about twenty boxes and some furniture here and there, not to mention a bike and a couple of pets. It's hard when you've put down roots somewhere--even for only a couple of years--to come to terms with all that you've acquired.

Sell/give away/donate or as a very last resort, recycle/trash whatever you do not absolutely need. Every time I've moved, whether to locations near or far, purging has always been the most time-consuming and at times difficult part of the entire process. Moving is just physical labor, but having to sort through every little thing -- every drawer, closet, cabinet, dresser, etc. -- and then pare it down, deciding where it goes: it's draining. Make it a little easier on yourself by playing into your generous side and gifting things to people you know would be able to use them (but don't overburden them with crap that you're just too lazy to get rid of the right way; that's not generosity, it's just annoying). Donate whatever isn't all that valuable -- or maybe even stuff that is, if you really don't want to be bothered trying to sell it. eBay and Craigslist exist for a reason -- good for the big, bulky stuff like sofas and bikes.

4) Take care to keep the really meaningful things. In the process of decreasing the quantity of your belongings, don't forget: you're not a hoarder just because you keep old letters and photographs and the occasional ticket stub or somehow bizarrely meaningful chipped coffee mug. I've put away six fairly decent-sized boxes of valuable and/or sentimental books and keepsakes that I wouldn't trade for all the money in the world. Our lives are constructed of the people we know, the places we've gone, and sometimes the things we acquire. It's important to hold onto those things and keep them in a safe place if you're not taking them with you right away.

3) Seek out others who are doing the same thing as you. It's really helpful to hear from others who are in your same situation. How many suitcases are they packing? What do they expect to pay for airfare? What kind of accommodation do they have, and would that maybe work better for you than an alternative? Facebook is a fantastic medium for finding groups and other students who are going to the same school or city as you, and you can find friendly answers to questions like, "How does mobile phone service work where I'm going?" or "What is this neighborhood like?" What is the best bank for student accounts? How convenient is the public transportation? Likely your university website has plenty to help you out, but Facebook groups often offer opportunities for people who have been there already to give practical advice. And who knows, you may meet a few future friends!

2) Spend a ton of time with those who mean a lot to you. But respect those who want to keep a distance. It's really hard on other people in our lives, when we move far away from them. It's hard being the one left behind. And we're not talking significant others or even best friends, necessarily. It can be our parents, our siblings, or our coworkers. Spend a lot of time with the people you care about before you leave, and if you really intend to keep in touch with them, then reassure them of this. Sometimes, however, there is a tendency for those who know you're leaving to sort of... back off. It's done kind of unconsciously (I've done it, and I've had it done to me, so I know how it feels from both sides). Sometimes the person doing the backing-off is just ready to let you go; it's all relative to how long you plan to stay away. For a few months? Maybe not a big deal. A few years? A big deal. It depends on how close you are.

Respect that some people will want to stay in touch, and some people might not. Don't feel too offended if someone doesn't seem as interested in your move as others. For some people, it's just not their cup of tea. It's cliche, but worthwhile to remember, that some people touch our lives for brief periods and others stay with us as long as we live. It's just the way it goes. Don't force unnatural relationships when you leave; it keeps you clinging to home unnecessarily and makes it more difficult to get to know new people where you're going.

1) Keep an open mind. Wherever you're headed, whether it's someplace you've only ever dreamed of going, or you've been a handful of times already, be ready and open to everything. Remember that you don't have to bring absolutely everything with you; you'll be able to get what you need there, so it's not necessary to have every little thing ready to travel. And when it comes to experiences, it's imperative to be receptive and open to the new places and new people you will encounter. Like anywhere, at any time, you'll stumble across those you don't care for, but if you find yourself dwelling on the "bad" things or those that are different from home, you'll set yourself up for a totally crap time. Leave home with the realistic expectation that not everything will go exactly that way you've dreamed, expected, or planned, but that the experience is what you make it.


These are points I've ruminated on quite a bit, especially after several trips abroad, including a study abroad semester in London several years ago. I hope they can be a source of, if anything, reassurance to anyone who is about to move far from home, whether abroad or just a few hours away.

Days to Edinburgh move-in: 18


  1. Wonderful post! As one who is trying to purge her apartment of way too much stuff, and not going anywhere in particular, I applaud your attitude towards paring down your life to its essentials, and moving on to new, exciting adventures. Have an absolutely rocking year...I look forward to following your next chapter.

    1. Thank you! I look forward to all that comes next! :D