by Rebekah Pusateri
Two suitcases, a carry-on, and a backpack is what I was allowed to bring to China. I remember how daunting and overwhelming it was when I realized I would have to pack a year of my life away into those suitcases. I probably watched a hundred YouTube videos, read up on packing cubes, and scanned blogs from people living in China. No packing list seemed quite right because the bloggers were from different areas of China or had different jobs. The reality is only you will know what is best for you to bring across the world. Of course, reading advice from other travelers is a great idea, but when it comes to what you personally need to feel comfortable in another country, you know best.
My bedsheets are something else that makes my apartment feel like home. I bought bedsheets from the United States to take with me, knowing that China doesn’t have fitted sheets. That did take up more space in my suitcase—I was hesitant about taking them for that reason. I highly recommend taking your own sheets though because it feels like I’m still in my bed in the states. Having a cozy bed set-up is very important. Your bed is the place where you’ll crash exhausted after a day of work, after a bad day of culture shock, or where you’ll snuggle up to read a book or watch a movie. I think a comfortable bed setting can set the mood for the rest of the apartment. Another teacher here had a great idea of bringing throw pillow slip covers. It takes up little space in your suitcase but will instantly make your apartment feel like home.
Becoming an expat can be stressful. Something that helps with a successful move to another country is having what you need to feel safe, relaxed, and at home. My advice is to think about what you will miss most and how you can take a piece of that with you. Missing my family was my biggest concern about moving across the world. I couldn’t imagine not seeing their faces every day or hearing their voices. I decided to have a gallery wall in my apartment with pictures of my closest friends and family. I picked my favorite pictures of family and friends, printed them at Walmart for less than $10, and bought some washi tape. It took up almost no space in my suitcase, but it’s made all the difference. Every morning when I get ready for work, I look at my pictures. It makes me feel closer to home, and I don’t miss my family or friends as much.
There is something that I wish I had brought—comfort food. I decided to bring more clothes than take space to pack food. I love the Chinese food here, but there are days when macaroni and cheese would satisfy my food cravings and culture shock. Thankfully it is possible to get American food here through foreign export stores like Metro. It will be more expensive than buying it in the United States or your home country though, so I still think it is worth it to bring some food in case of emergencies. Next time I’m in the states I plan on grabbing boxes of macaroni and cheese, microwavable bags of popcorn, and hot chocolate packages.
As you’re packing for your life abroad, whether in China or elsewhere, think about what you love most in your current life. That could be people, items, food, weather, or maybe even the language. How could you take parts of that with you? With a little bit of creativity, you could take all your home essentials! The good news is that two suitcases, a carry-on, and a backpack can hold much more than they seem. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and start packing! You know what you most need to feel at home. So, what are you putting on your packing list?