International Students’ Guide to Packing for University

Packing for university can be tricky for any student, but for students studying abroad, it can present its own unique set of challenges. Jonathan Mellen from Yew Chung International School, Beijing, shares his 'mental packing list' with tips for a safe, happy and smooth transition to university.

Yew Chung International School Beijing 2019 graduates

Yew Chung International School, Beijing

Along with graduating seniors across the world, Year 13 students at Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) are preparing to spread their wings and fly the nest. As students excitedly look forward to the new opportunities and challenges that await at universities around the globe, the first order of business to prepare is packing.

Taking the (Mental) Leap: A Checklist for University

Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) Guidance Counsellor Jonathan Mellen is particularly busy at this time helping the school’s soon-to-be alumni prepare for their departure from YCIS Beijing. Last month he shared with us the advice he’d prepared for students on packing for university and this month he’s back with tips to help your scholars prepare their minds. Here is his checklist for graduates, to ensure their minds are equipped to make the big transition.
  1. Growth Mindset: Keep an open mind and know you will face unforeseen challenges. Don’t fear this, but be prepared to try to learn from every challenge and set back. These challenges can become opportunities for personal and intellectual growth.
  2. Flexible Attitude: Entering university will be in many ways like entering an entirely new world. You will encounter new cultures, norms and ways of doing things. It’s important that you come prepared to compromise, this will help minimise conflict, culture shock and frustration.
  3. Moderate Expectations: Manage your expectations. University will be a big exciting change, but it might not live up to all of your hopes. Try to avoid mentally mapping your college experience before you have even started classes. It’s impossible to know what the next few years will hold, and it’s advisable to take things as they come.
  4. Clear Sense of Self: Accept who you are and throw out any plans to remake yourself or adopt a new (false) persona at university. Knowing and accepting who you are is the best tool in making decisions in your best interest. If you need help understanding who you are, try taking a personality test and making a list of your strengths and weaknesses. This should help you start to see yourself more clearly.
  5. Clear Goals: Write down your main reason for going to university along with some S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals you have for your university career. Keep this list of over-arching goals somewhere you can easily access it. This list can serve as a compass for you at university, helping you to remember why you are there, what you ultimately want to achieve, and keeping you from getting lost in the broad new world you are about to enter.
  6. Social Plans: Prepare to have fun! Research the groups on campus you are interested in and make contact. Try to establish a connection before you arrive, so you have people to connect with when you get there. The school’s website and online searches for the relevant social media accounts are good places to start. Even if you are an introvert, don’t skip this step. It’s ok to keep your social plans minimal, but social interaction outside of classes and dormitory life can help you manage stress and avoid isolation.
  7. Budget: This one is far too often overlooked. Sit down with your parents, review the money you will have access to (whether through a job or your parents’ support) and make an itemised list of all the expenses you will face. Try to think of everything, yes even the non-academic costs, to avoid stressful, unexpected financial surprises. (Start with the basics: books, school supplies, activities, food, entertainment, transportation, etc.)
  8. Personal Care Skills: Maybe you have been lucky enough to have an Ayi your whole life, or your parents were just super in taking care of all of your home needs, but now you are heading out on your own. Learn to do laundry and cook basic foods, practice washing dishes, be sure you are clear on how often you need to change your towels and bed sheets (hint: once a week is advisable). No one will be around to take care of your personal hygiene and care needs, you need to be up to the task.
YCIS Beijing University Guidance Counsellor Jonathan Mellen would like to offer two pieces of advice:“Attitude is the most important thing you will bring with you anywhere you go, university is no different. This is something no one can give you, only you can cultivate this within yourself.”“Responsibility is fostered within. People can give you tips and guidance, but it’s up to you to develop these traits.”

Guide to Packing for University

  1. Overnight Bag: Pack an overnight bag as a carry-on for your flight in case your big luggage goes missing.
  1. Birth Certificate: Bring your birth certificate. You'll probably need it to set up a bank account and possibly for registering at a university or collecting scholarship awards.
  1. SIM Card & Mobile Phone: A sim card and mobile phone that work in the country you're going to attend university. Consider a dual sim phone to allow you to keep your old sim and phone number while easily adding a local number. This will make it easier to call home and still be easily accessible to your new contacts at university.
  1. Medications & Supplements: Pack a supply of meds, vitamins and supplements that you routinely take, but be sure to check the laws regarding drugs in the country you are headed to before travelling. Some medications and supplements that may be legal in your home country might be restricted in your destination country. Also, work with your parents and university staff to devise a plan for refilling your prescriptions while at university if possible.
  1. Laptop: What else are you going to do your work on?
  1. Memory Sticks / Thumb Drives: Memory sticks to back up your work. You don't want to know what it feels like to lose the work you spent so long creating.
  1. Passport: Bring your passport. This probably goes without saying as you'll need it to get where you're going, but make sure to take some copies of it plus your visa in case you lose it. If you are a dual or multi-national, discuss with your parents if you should bring multiple passports.
  1. Medical Insurance: You will need to present proof of insurance to receive medical treatment in some countries. Be sure you have a card, letter or some other document showing your policy number and providing a 24hr service number where that policy's administrators can be reached by medical staff. Joining large institutions (like universities) puts you at higher risk of falling unexpectedly ill as you encounter new pathogens.
  1. Passwords: A list of all the passwords you use for your accounts. It's not nice being locked out when you need to access resources online or communicate with friends and family back home!
  1. Local Currency: Living in China and many Eastern countries we have become accustomed to paying for everything with our mobiles, but real cash will be needed when you are abroad. Don't forget to bring currency for the country in which you'll be living with you when you set off, don't wait until you arrive in your new country to try to get money. As soon as you reach the airport, you'll be looking for transport. Be armed with some small notes in the local currency and a city map.
  1. Adapters & Converters: Nowadays we all live and die by a plethora of electronic devices from electric toothbrushes and curling irons to digital tablets and laptops. Be sure you know the electrical current and power outlet configuration of your university so you can bring the right adapters to allow you to plug your electrical appliances into the mains and the correct converters to ensure you don't damage or destroy them when you do so! This can prove to be a very inconvenient and expensive mistake!
  1. Toiletries: Don't forget a towel, toothbrush and your hygiene essentials. You will probably find everything you need in your new country, but don't risk a few days of poor hygiene before you can find what you need there.
  1. Warranties: Pack the warranties for your valuable electronic devices and research places near your university where you can get your electronic devices fixed. Nothing is worse than having your laptop die before an assignment is due and having no idea of how you can at least try to recover your work.
  1. Lockbox: Bring a small safe for your valuables (passport, wallet, medical records, insurance cards, etc.). This should be fire resistant, and you should keep your valuables in it whenever not using them to prevent theft or loss.
  1. Comfort Foods: Check into the customs regulations for the country where you will be attending university. Be sure you don't try to bring things into the country that aren't allowed. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand have incredibly stringent customs regulations, and you can face harsh penalties and significant fines for violating their laws (even by accident). Consider researching the relevant ethnic food stores and restaurants located in your university's city. This might provide good leads on where and how you can get your favourite foods, locally and legally.
That concludes YCIS Beijing's university mental packing guide for international students. We hope you find it useful and we wish all graduates the absolute best as they prepare to tackle life's next adventure, university!Visit YCIS Beijing's website to find more tips for preparing students for university success.
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