Leaving Home: The Flight I Never Thought I Would Take (& The List Taking Me There)

Aug 23, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Fall2016_Matthew_Benczkowski_Square_Profile.jpgMatthew Benczkowski is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A molecular biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

In his first post this week, Matthew shares his packing list for Sydney and a few pre-departure thoughts and tips. 


As Ernie Harrell once said, “It's time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure” and as I prepare myself to go, these words echo in me. It is safe to say that I am not a well-seasoned traveler, but rather a beginner in the vast world. To say I am nervous is an understatement. I am beyond scared.

I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, where everyone just seems to know each other, and I go to school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is only two and a half hours away from home. I have never been away from home or from my parents for any extended period of time, but if I am away, I am constantly in contact with them. But now, everything is so different because I can’t just hop on home if I forget something, or come home immediately if something happens — I am taking a risk and temporarily leaving home. So to ensure that I won’t relive my freshman year of needing my parents to bring me things I forgot down to me and taking everything I unnecessarily packed, I have created the "Sydney Study Abroad Packing List"!


Side note: I am flying American Airlines and Qantas, so I have two free checked bags internationally (up to 50 pounds), a free carry on, and a personal item. This means that I only need to pay for my checked bags between states.

To be honest, I think everyone is most afraid of clothes packing. How much should you take, what do you need, where will it all fit?


  • Socks, underwear, and undershirts for 2 weeks
  • 3-4 swim suits
  • 1-2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of khakis
  • 7-9 pairs of shorts (it will be spring and summer there!)
  • 2-3 pairs of sweatpants
  • A lightweight rain jacket
  • 9-10 button down shirts (Sydney is a big city and people like to dress up)
  • 4-6 polo shirts
  • 2-3 quarter zip sweatshirts (for nights out, layering)
  • 3 pairs of sneakers (walking, running, exploring)
  • 2 pairs of boat shoes
  • 1 pair of boots (for rain, hiking) (or so I can have them for the snow that will inevitably be in Erie when I arrive back home)
  • 1-2 pairs of dress/fancy shoes
  • 1 pair of flip flops

When packing clothes, keep in mind to choose things that go together and that you can easily mix and match, layer, or repurpose.

That bin, condensed.


Electronic Items

  • GoPro and GoPro stick (with charger!)
  • Camera, camera case and charger
  • Laptop, laptop case and charger
  • SD cards for camera
  • iPod/iPad with charger for music/entertainment on flight
  • Electrical converter
  • Cell phone
    • If you take your own, it has to be unlocked so you can get a data plan abroad. Companies will not unlock phones that are not 100% paid for or on contracts.
  • Lifeproof/waterproof case for your phone
  • Portable charger/battery pack
  • Headphones

Carry On

  • Actual and copies of your:
    • Passport
    • Visa
    • Identification
    • Plane tickets
    • In country address
    • Medications
  • Change of *comfy* clothes
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Neck pillow
  • Hair brush
  • Medicines in original containers:
    • Dramamine
    • Tums/Rolaids
    • Peptobismol
    • Acetaminophen
    • Excedrin
    • Benadryl
    • Melatonin (can help with jet lag!)
    • Vitamins
  • Book/electronics for plane ride
  • Top sheet (doubles as a blanket for plane rides)



  • Money belt - put your wallet, passport and cash into on flight/in city
  • Travel scale - don’t go over your weight limits and risk having to pay extra fees!
  • Empty reusable water bottle
  • Umbrella
  • Extra glasses, contacts, sunglasses
  • Sleep mask
  • Shampoo
  • Bars of soap
  • Razors
  • Notebooks and other school supplies


Travel and Packing Tips

  • Use locks on your checked bags!
    • You never know what might happen and do you want your suitcase accidentally popped open and all your nicely packed things to be thrown every which way?
  • Having said that, print out copies of your travel itinerary and put them in an unlocked pocket in your luggage
    • In case your luggage gets misplaced or mistaken as someone else’s, at least the person who has or finds it knows where and to whom it is supposed to go!
  • Use storage bags
    • I picked up some amazing no-vacuum-needed storage bags at Target to help me pack. All you do is roll or squeeze out the air, and you are ready to throw it in your luggage. Also, this way you know that things really can’t get too wrinkly. Roll your clothes, roll the bag and you are ready to roll down the tarmac.
  • Use space wisely
    • Cracks and crevices can hold socks and underwear! They are easy enough to jam into to small spaces.
  • Cancel your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions.
    • It is not worth it. Get rid of them! You have a whole new city, country, lifestyle to explore. Don’t waste your time glued to your screen.
  • Stay in touch.
    • As hard as it is for you, your parents are worried, nervous, and anxious (probably more than you are) too. Give them a call, email, text, or any update just so they know you're okay and you love them.


So, the journey is about to begin, but first I need to feel confident that I didn't forget anything, roll all of my luggage into the airport, and I am on my way. This is so difficult for me because I have only been on a plane twice: a 38 minute ride, and an hour and a half ride. Now, I am embarking on the longest nonstop flight, Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney, Australia, 16 hours and 50 minutes.

Sydney, I am on my way!


Until we talk again,

Matt Benczkowski

Thanks Matthew!

Matthew's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned. 

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Official Bloggers and Vloggers, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations