What to Pack and What to Bring Back

Dylan Atkison, Engineering a Craft Brewery Belgium Summer '22

When planning to travel abroad, the essentials always come to mind first. Whether it's your favorite pair of socks, a specific kind of toothpaste that you always have to use, or a hoodie that holds significant value to you, everything has its place within your suitcase. Things like your passport and ID will always travel with you, but I’ve found that it’s mental preparation that catches you off guard before something you forgot to pack. For example, while traveling to Belgium, I accounted for the six hours of sleep I would lose by staying busy all day and crashing hard onto the hotel bed when I got in that evening. Exploring cities in a foreign country is taxing, even if an itinerary has been made and a plan has been carefully laid out for you. Planning out how the first day will go and what sights you’d like to see helps to establish a routine to avoid things like jet lag or anxiety associated with travel. This is equally true for the return trip. Learning to sleep on a plane or in a variety of otherwise uncomfortable spaces helps the body to mitigate any drowsiness or grogginess that may arise due to being in another time zone. These feelings, however, are normal and present the opportunity to try new things in the place you visit. For example, upon arriving in Leuve, myself and a group of students went to fight off the drowsiness we incurred from a loss of sleep by getting a cup of coffee and enjoying a refreshing breakfast in a new space. This coupled our routines from home with the unfamiliar environment we found ourselves in, and allowed us to refresh and partially recharge before setting out for the day ahead of us. On the list of essential things to pack, comfortable shoes and a backpack will be lifesavers. Unlike in the United States, travel through a city is often done on foot rather than by a car or bus, and I personally clocked over 21,000 steps on my first day alone. A backpack offers a place to store your wallet and water bottle while keeping your pockets and hands free, as well as somewhere to store the souvenirs you find along the way. Memories are the best thing you can find on your study abroad, and souvenirs help you to convey those memories to others who helped set you on the path ahead.