Take It or Leave It: Fall Semester Packing

December 24, 2011

Staring at my half-unpacked suitcase at home in California, I can’t help but look back on the shoulda-woulda-coulda’s of this last semester. Most of them have to do with packing. Remind me why I brought so many short-sleeved shirts to Russia…?

To all you future study abroad students, here are some things you’ll want to take and others you should probably leave behind:

Take It:

  • A pocket dictionary
  • Sweaters, sweaters, sweaters
  • Shirts that are comfortable under sweaters, but also look nice without the sweater on top
  • 2-3 pairs of heavy jeans
  • 1-2 dressier outfits to wear out on the weekends. Ladies, think LBD.
  • Black pumps: You will wear them, and nice shoes can be pretty expensive in Russia.
  • Your favorite book in your native language: It will help in the culture-shock transition.
  • Your laptop: Middlebury told us we wouldn’t need one, but in Yaroslavl we all brought them anyways. Thank goodness! I can’t tell you how many powerpoints and papers we had. University computers are not readily available.

Leave It:

  • Long underwear: It is so much cheaper in Russia than in the US. Buy a pair at the market for 250 rubles (about 8 USD).
  • Any summer clothes: Shorts, sandals, open-toed shoes, shirts that you can’t comfortably wear under sweaters…. Don’t bother. I brought one pair of shorts and a few little peep-toed heels. I haven’t worn them since September.
  • Boots: Bring them from home if you want, but there’s  lot of opportunity to pick up a pair at the market or around town. Be careful of where you buy them, as price and quality will vary greatly, but talk to your RC and he/she should be able to guide you to a good spot.
  • A large dictionary: It takes up space, it’s heavy, and you can get some early Russian interaction by buying one at your host city.
  • Shampoo and conditioner: It’s like bringing a large dictionary, only they can explode in your suitcase.

If you have any questions about packing for Russia,  write them in the comments and I’d be happy to answer them for you. Happy packing!

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4 Responses to “Take It or Leave It: Fall Semester Packing”

  1. I definitely agree with everything except for the shampoo/conditioner. I found that they were very expensive in Russia, and was grateful that I didn’t have to buy them. In addition, the extra weight helped to keep me in check while packing, for they are items that you’ll use up and leave in Russia, leaving room for souvenirs, etc. Just a different take on things!

    Also, I’d like to add to not bring grammar books — I had to leave one behind because of lack of room, and I didn’t even end up opening them once.

  2. sarahinthegoldencircle said

    Thanks for the support and tips! That’s so true about the souvenirs–space on the return flight was a challenge for my friends who only did a semester. I’d just like to add that for students staying in Yaroslavl, Женский мир is actually a great shop for getting any shampoo or beauty product (including American brands like L’Oreal and Pantene). The prices are actually pretty similar to in the USA, so if you need refills, try this spot:

    Ярославль г.
    Кирова ул.
    Дом 9

    Look for the big yellow sign on the building over the door!

  3. This looks awesome, Sarah! Although I will not be making it home until the end of next semester, after spending the fall in Moscow I would definitely make some changes to Midd’s packing recommendations.
    1) You can find (almost) anything in Moscow, if you know where to look. All western beauty products and toiletries are readily available here, except for certain contact solutions (although you can find the latest Acuvue lenses in some malls). HOWEVER, I also found that bringing some toiletries is helpful, since I already have several pounds to work with on the return journey. (I’ve also heard complaints from ex-pats about availability and effectiveness of preferred toothpastes and deoderants..)
    2) Bring thick winter socks from home – while you can certainly find winter boots in Moscow (Uggs are currently very popular among the university set, followed closely by Timberlands), somehow functional wool socks are much trickier. My parents are bringing some from the states for a New Year’s present for my host mom – and boy, is she excited.
    3) Bring an adaptor. This is self-explanatory, but I forgot one. In the midst of making sure I had the correct one for my laptop, I failed to remember that my camera would need one, too…
    4) A favorite English book is a Sarah recommendation – I would add, if you bring one, just bring ONE. You will be buying books in Russian, and I’m already doing some serious calculating to see how many books I’ll be able to bring back. Books are incredibly inexpensive in Russia compared to the U.S, and it’s certainly much less expensive to buy Russian-language books here than at home.
    5) Most importantly, I found that I simply brought too many clothing items – washing machines here are tiny, so there’s none of that “Oh, I haven’t done laundry for two months, let me wash my entire wardrobe at once.” I find I do laundry here more often than at college in the US, and generally don’t need half the sweaters I brought.
    Like Sarah already mentioned, don’t worry about the three weeks in September when it’s warm. Think about the three (or 7 months) when it is rainy/snowy/freezing – the bulk of your packing should be for this weather. If you’re planning on an internship, dress clothes are easy to find here – check out Mango, H&M, or Zara online for price estimates.
    Good Luck!

    • Heather said

      on the adapter note – I brought just one American-Russian adapter/converter/surge protector, accompanied by one of those multi-outlet strips that you can plug 5-7 American electrical devices in (make sure it fits before you leave!). It also remedies the problem of the lack of outlets in many rooms.

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