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Buzzing In: To Pack Or Not To Pack?

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As an international student travelling across oceans for university, you only have so much luggage space to work with. Before you go about fitting belongings in your suitcase in a Tetris manner, here are my takes on whether or not to pack specific items. Keep in mind that these tips might be more catered toward Asian students coming to study in Manchester as I come from Malaysia!

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#1 Rice Cooker   

There seems to be a split among my peers when asked whether they think students should bring a rice cooker with them (of course, this is under the assumption that you are a loyal consumer of rice such as myself).

A rice cooker on its own is not a miniature object that you can chuck into your luggage right before your flight, which is why this decision does not weigh lightly. I personally think it’d be beneficial to bring a smaller one over if your suitcase allows for it and you will be using it quite often.

While packing, my mom bought me a double boiler that can cook just about anything in all manners (sear, fry, steam, boil, etc.), and it has been instrumental in doubling as a rice cooker too!

If you decide to scout for one only when you touchdown, options are available, too, though they might lean toward the pricier side.

#2 Clothes

There is no doubt that you’ll need to pack clothes, but not your entire wardrobe.

Unless you pulled a Captain America and have withstood ice for decades, I’d suggest not bringing too many summer outfits as you will likely not need them at all (I still have two pairs of shorts in my suitcase that haven’t seen the light of day). Bring warmer clothes that will keep you cosy against Manchester’s ever-changing weather; if not, pick up a few sets of heat tech—they work wonders!

Don’t forget to pack at least one jacket or coat with you. When you first arrive, chances are you will be busy settling in and calming the paperwork instead of having the luxury of shopping around. So, a good jacket or coat will do the trick of keeping you warm. As the weather progresses into winter, you might need a thicker coat, which can be found at reasonable prices all around the city, so don’t worry about freezing!

And how can we forget about shoes? My advice is simple: at the very least, pack one pair of shoes that can endure the rain.

#3 Sentimental Items

This goes without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many people forget about the sentimental things while overemphasising packing the essentials.

Even if you are someone who doesn’t suffer from homesickness, the move from an Asian to Western country will ultimately make you miss home a little. Having elements that you can display in your room to remind you of home will bring about some comfort despite being on your own. You’d be amazed by the power of just a few photographs and mementoes.

#4 Food

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot stress this point enough: Bring your favourite food.

I departed Malaysia with only two packs of instant noodles and it will forever be one of the biggest regrets of my life. This isn’t limited to instant noodles; if you have a specific brand of coffee, tea, or chocolate that you so adore, do not risk not packing them.

Though there is a slim possibility you will be able to find the same brands here in the UK, the prices are usually hiked up. So, go forth and make a list of your favourite noodles, snacks, and drinks and be generous with how much space you allow food to take up.

Pro-tip: If you love or have a habit of cooking, bring any spices you regularly use.

#5 Bolster

Did you know that bolsters are non-existent in the west? I did not until I arrived.

I suppose this is straightforward then; consider bringing one over if you cannot fall into slumberland without a bolster. Though, how you will fit one into your suitcase will be a toughie.

#6 Toiletries

When it comes to toiletries, do not worry about bringing a load of hair and body shampoos over, as most common brands can be found at your local drugstores. However, what I would suggest packing is your skincare if you know it won’t be easily located here.

I make special note of this because it is not ideal for one to swap their skincare routine completely; hence, if you are particular about these things, make sure to do your research on whether your skincare can be found here and bring ample supply if the answer is ‘no’.

#7 Masks

Even though COVID-19 is gradually becoming a norm in the west, some of us would rather tread on the cautious side. If you fall into that category, I advise bringing a decent supply of masks to hold you over the semester because, boy, are high-quality masks pricey here!

Bonus Hack 

If you didn’t already know, vacuum bags double the number of things you can pack into your suitcase and are the best investment you will ever make. Happy packing!

Take a look at my other Buzzing in advice pieces:

Buzzing in: Watch out, don’t get shocked (part 1)

Buzzing in: Watch out, don’t get shocked (part 2)

Buzzing in: Apps to download before you touchdown in Manchester

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