We all have that list of things we wish we could bring abroad but know we don’t really need (or just can’t fit into our suitcase because of that 50lb weight limit). But here are some things you wouldn’t think to bring with you (and physically couldn’t), yet you’ll probably miss while you’re away.
- Garbage disposal in the sink – It truly is a magical appliance. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a decked out student apartment abroad, you probably don’t have one. No more dumping those last soggy Cheerios down the drain. Now you’ve gotta scrape your pans into the garbage so your sink doesn’t clog and make the entire kitchen smell.
- Dishwasher – Again, we’re going old school with this one. You can’t just throw your dirty plate into that magical box and press a button then BAM it’s clean. Nope, in order to avoid a colossal pile up and zero clean dishes, you’re taking that sponge and soap in your hand and using some elbow grease to clean those stubborn things. This task alone makes cooking for yourself that much more of a pain.
- Speaking of food! Meal plans – Throwback to your freshman year (or later, I love my meal blocks & dining dollars) and the glorious days of swiping a card and not worrying about the money slowly draining from your bank account. Because, hey, you already paid for it. Nope, you’re either handing over cash, using your credit card, or you continually top-up your student ID card to pay for food. Learn to love grocery shopping, my friends.
- Freezer space – Still on the topic of food (because, let’s be honest, that’s what we really care about), unless you’re still that person in the luxury apartment, you probably don’t have a gourmet fridge. Of course, this also depends on the number of roommates you have; two with a decent size fridge, you’re good to go; five… good luck. As for us, we have a little dorm fridge with a nice little freezer shelf just big enough to hold our tub of ice cream. (It’s necessary.)
- Automatic water heaters – I’m not sure what it’s like in other places, but this is the first time I’ve ever had to manage my own hot water. We had mostly cold showers the entire first week until we got our outlets fixed (our electric water kettle kept blowing the fuse) then we had scalding hot water so we’re still trying to time it for that perfect balance. It’s all a learning process, my friends.
- Separate washing machines and dryers – “What do you mean? Aren’t they always separate?” Oh, NO, my friends you must not have been introduced to the space-saving washer-dryer COMBO machine! “How does that work, Alyssa?” Honestly, I have no idea. Actually, it doesn’t. If you know you have one of these in your future accommodation abroad, bring a clothes line. #lifesaver I told you we’re going old school on these things and laundry is no exception. You could just put your load through 3 drying cycles but I prefer to let them hang dry and throw in another load.
- Unlimited calls and texts – I was planning on living off of WiFi until I got myself an Irish phone but luckily my parents pulled through and got me an unlimited texts and data international plan! (You go, parents! Also awesome since I didn’t have WiFi in my apartment for a week.) Even still, calls are 20 cents per minute and I wanted a backup so I got an Irish phone anyway. If you don’t get an international plan, I’d highly suggest purchasing a SIM card and/or a cheap phone once you arrive. A lot of places have some pretty great data deals to keep you connected!
- Hundreds of channels on your TV (if you have one) – Honestly, you shouldn’t miss this because the internet exists on which Netflix and Hulu exist. However, sometimes you really wish you could have some variety. We have 4 channels and channel 3 is my personal favorite. That’s the true definition of variety; from weight-loss documentaries to travel shows to Glee to game shows to on-the-verge-of-a-soap-opera dramas, you honestly never know what you’re gonna get. Enjoy, make a game out of it! Or actually go outside and do something fun in the awesome country you’re living in temporarily.
- Smoke-free campus – I definitely had not even considered the impact of being used to a smoke-free campus and limited smokers around me when choosing to travel to a European country. It is HIGHLY common around Cork. Most buildings ban smoking or at least have a designated separate room or outside area for smokers so no need to worry about that. However, walking around a densely populated campus diluted with student and adult smokers can really be a shock to the system. Be prepared. Hold your breath. Walk with a purpose. (I’m also highly sensitive to smells so some may be more tolerable.)
- Lastly, the good ol’ US customary system of measurement – Yup. I said it. As of 2006, 95% of the world’s population live in metricated countries. In a different perspective, every country except the US and our buddies Liberia and Myanmar are using this almost-universal system. So, thank you United States of America, for choosing to be that stubborn child who won’t get off the swing set at the end of recess. Pro tip: learn the metric system. I can’t visualize a mile so there’s no way I’m going to understand how long a kilometer is. Feet. Inch. Yards. I’ve got those down. Like I said, traveling abroad is a learning experience. Learn it now, learn it later; the choice is yours. (Also, Celsius vs. Fahrenheit – pay attention to conversions in your science classes, kids!)
BONUS: WiFi will always fail you as soon as you really need it, no matter what country you’re in.
Top-up – to add money to a card or plan i.e. adding money to your student ID
*Disclaimer: I do not speak for all countries, study abroad programs, or accommodations but on behalf of my own experience.
**Results will vary.**