One of the most difficult tasks when studying abroad is packing. Like so many of us, I procrastinated when it came to packing, which made it all the more stressful in the end. How do you figure out what to pack when all you have is one suitcase for a 5-month stay in a foreign country you’ve never been to before? I definitely didn’t know.
No matter how many times you check the weather and ask people who have visited your host country, you always end up second-guessing these sources. I ignored a lot of advice because I thought I knew myself better, and what would be most useful to me. This worked for me in some ways, but I definitely packed some of the wrong items. So I’ve written my advice for every other strong-minded student travelling to Wellington, who thought they knew better than their mom and program’s packing list.
4 Things I’m Glad I Packed
By far one of the most important packing essentials, and definitely the most important pair of shoes I brought, hiking boots are necessary for anywhere in New Zealand. If you plan on doing any sort of tramping (New Zealand’s term for ‘hiking’), you need to have well worn in boots. And by ‘well worn’ I mean thoroughly broken in; I learned the hard way that wearing new boots around the house and around the neighborhood a few times before leaving doesn’t suffice. I had to wear flip-flops for over a week in New Zealand in order to let the blisters I had on my foot heal. Not fun at all, so definitely bring a pair of broken in hiking boots.
There is nothing better than being able to travel with everything you need in one pack on your back. Don’t think it is more stylish to bring your Vera Bradley duffel bag, because you will regret it when you have to lug it around on your shoulder and when it gets dirty in a hostel. Opt for a larger backpacking pack that you can tramp with overnight if you want, but can also use for weekend trips or breaks, it is much more versatile and comfortable to travel with.
Definitely bring a rain jacket and waterproof pants with you. You don’t want to be caught on a tramp without the proper gear to keep you dry, which would just result in you being cold and uncomfortable. A lot of rain gear folds up really easily into small, compact sizes, which makes it easy to pack for tramps and your journey to and from New Zealand.
Scarf, Gloves, and a Hat
I debated packing a set of knit gloves and scarf, but I am so glad I brought them. They aren’t lying when they said Wellington is windy, and the wind sometimes brings a chill, as well. Without these three essentials, I would have walked to class cold and unhappy countless times.
5 Things I Definitely Shouldn’t Have PackeD
I am not lying when I say I have never worn the pair of heel booties I packed. Wellington’s hills do not accommodate heels very well, and the walk from Kelburn (where a lot of the student housing is located) to the city centre does not seem like it would be fun in heels. If you are so opposed to wearing Converse, boots, or flats when going out or going to more fancy events, opt for a wider heel that is only an inch or two high. Apparently, that style is really in with the Kiwis, too.
I’m not quite sure what I was thinking with the amount of jewelry I brought with me. Two of my necklaces broke on the journey from the States to New Zealand. The ones that survived, I haven’t worn once. Half of them don’t match any of the clothes I have here in Wellington. As for earrings, I have rotated wearing two pairs of studs, so all of the fancier earrings I brought with me haven’t been used, either. I recommend bringing two watches, one waterproof and a nicer one to wear when you are more dressed up. Bring with you only what you wear on a daily basis, and maybe a neutral necklace if you feel so compelled.
If you are going to Fiji like I did for orientation, bringing a beach towel to use for swimming and showering isn’t a bad idea. But leave it at one towel. Don’t bring an extra smaller one like I did, because I maybe used it one time. Once in New Zealand, you can buy all of the towels your heart desires.
Luckily these didn’t fit in my suitcase because I am glad I didn’t bring them. They would have been a waste of space and weight, and a hassle to wear when walking up and down the hills of Wellington. When there’s a rainy day, I wear my hiking boots, which are waterproof and more suitable to this area.
At the last minute, I took out the notebooks I had packed, mostly because my suitcase was overweight at the airport. Looking back, it was pretty silly to think I should pack these, it’s not like New Zealand doesn’t have notebooks in its convenience, office, or book stores. Once in New Zealand, there’s plenty of time for you to go and grab the supplies you need before classes start, and what the worst that can happen, you take notes on your laptop for a few days? Don’t stress about squeezing school supplies into your suitcase, it’s not worth it.
Kate Farrell is a student at the University of Hartford and a TEAN Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with TEAN in Wellington, New Zealand.