3 Veteran Tips for Successfully Ending Your Semester Abroad

Dec 5, 2018 9:09:00 AM / by Martyn Megaloudis

Every little pound adds up when it's time to pack up your life abroad and head home! Martyn drops 3 pieces of sage advice to get you through the final leg of your semester and journey home.

For one of my last blog posts, I wanted to write about Sydney’s beautiful beaches and conservation efforts. I had most of the blog post written up but something happened when I tried to travel home that convinced me to instead write about planning to pack up and leave the study abroad experience. However, I realize the photos of my luggage and airport terminal hallways can only be so exciting, so I’m going to Frankenstein two blog posts into one. Not only will you get to hear the tips and tricks of packing up at the end of your semester abroad, but you’ll also get to see totally unrelated pictures of Sydney’s beautiful beaches and coastline!

Another View from Manly BeachCoastal views from Manly Beach.

Tip #1: Avoid Overpacking Before Your Semester to Save Yourself Pain at the End of Your Semester

When you’re first packing up to go abroad, it’s important to take into account the fact that you’re going have to repack everything back in the same suitcase(s) and get it back home. I say this because I made the mistake of packing my bag to exactly one pound under the 50 lb limit that my airline requires all included non-extra fee bags to be under (I’m not going name airlines for reasons that will become clear soon enough). What I didn’t account for, however, was the amount of added stuff I was bringing back.

Long-term trip planning was not a skill I had before this experience but it’s one that’s been drilled into my mind now due to constant personal failure. In my personal experience, just because your bag is underweight doesn’t mean that it’s good to go. I would say account for an extra 10-15 pounds of souvenirs and clothing to come with you on the trip back. This means that you need to cut your losses somewhere—I would personally suggest that it be in the toiletries department. Not including travel-sized items, biting the bullet by having to buy toiletries at your study abroad location may hurt a tiny bit financially at first, but could possibly save you close to $100 in overweight baggage fees for the long term (see, long-term planning is now my forte apparently).

Tip #2: Pack 2-3 Days Before You Have to Fly Home So You Can Enjoy the Final Days of Your Program

Packing to Return HomeI lied when I said I wasn't going to show pictures from packing up—here's a bracelet from Taronga Zoo and a half-packed suitcase.

Make sure to pack at least two to three days in advance of your travel date. I packed three days early and (similar to the way a mom sets up outfits for a child in kindergarten) I set up three days of outfits and packed the rest of my clothing away. You don’t want to panic pack (that sounds like a 90’s punk-rock band) at the last second and ruin your last few hours abroad by spending time trying to fit your last “Bondi Beach” t-shirt into your fourth carry-on.

Tip #3: Always, Always, Always Expect the Unexpected

My last piece of advice is: expect problems when traveling back home. I did not. I thought to myself, “I packed up days before; I have everything charged, I’ve downloaded my Netflix shows and podcasts to listen to—this is gonna be great.” But let me end this blog post with a little parable...

the View from Manly Beach
Another view from Manly Beach.

I was supposed to fly from SYD---> LAX---> NYC and arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 6pm on Friday. My plane from Sydney to LAX was 27 minutes late. To a normal, non-aviation inclined person, it seems like a small and insignificant delay. That 27 minutes caused our plane to arrive at LAX 10 minutes before my connecting flight (keep in mind I still had to go through customs when arriving in LAX). 27 minutes turned into a two-hour wait at LAX customs only to be put on the next plane to St. Paul, Minnesota? Missouri? I still have no idea where I went. I then spent two hours in St. Paul’s airport and caught a different connecting flight to JFK—finally arriving home six hours late at exactly Friday midnight.

Blackmores Bridge SydneyThe Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Manly Beach ferry.

It would only be my luck that for everything I did wrong this semester, I did everything right packing up—and I STILL ended up spending an entire day seeing the entirety of the United States from a 30,000 foot viewpoint.

All I’m saying is: pack some extra snacks and portable chargers for every possible worst-case scenario when flying home from your study abroad experience.

Thanks, Martyn!

Martyn Megaloudis

Martyn Megaloudis is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Marketing major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

Martyn's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Sydney Program

Topics: Sydney, Australia, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations