Keep Calm... And Get Organised!

Travelling overseas is always a great adventure, but if you are moving to study abroad for a year or more, the preparations can be quite overwhelming – especially if you’re coming from a faraway country like me, who came all the way from Brazil.

But don’t worry: we’ve all been there and there’s always a way to get some helpful tips and advice from all sorts of sources, including current students like myself.

In this post, I’ll tell you a little bit about my pre-departure journey and top things to pack in your luggage.

For me, the entire process from university application to visa preparation and packing felt really fast-forward. As a scholarship recipient, I received the approval letter from the University at the end of November. My studies were starting in January, so I had exactly one month to request my visa and receive it before Christmas, pack my belongings, finish my contract at the PR agency where I was working for almost two years and depart on December 31. Phew, it was intense!

Plan wisely and use a check-list

Amidst such a tight schedule, good planning and organisation were paramount to ensure that everything progressed smoothly and I didn’t forget anything essential. Fortunately, I had great support from my family – especially my boyfriend who helped me with his super travel experience and with check-listing items. Lucky me!

Leicester Square

Well, looking back now, if I could recount the key documents and items which were definitely useful for me here, it would be the following items:

Documents and Copies

The “the more the merrier” and “take it just in case” principles apply well here. Every previous overseas business trip I’ve been on, the more relevant content and documents I could take with me (either printed or electronically) the better, so I used the same principle this time.

Make sure you take all the documents you used for your application (including the complementary ones) and their respective translations, even if you don’t think you’ll be using them in the future. Trust me: you won’t have to worry about shipping any document while you’re here (and save money, of course).

Thus, here are some essential documents and copies to prepare besides your passport, visa and flight tickets:

1. Your personal documents, including driver’s license
(London’s public transport is really good so it is unlikely that you will be driving here, but you might want to travel abroad and drive, so take it just in case)

2. University papers: printed unconditional offer letter and CAS e-mail; receipts of extra payments (tuition and accommodation), if applicable

3. Original copies and certified translations: your diploma, transcripts, English language certificate (if applicable), reference letters and any other documents which you may have used for your application

4. Any medical records in case you have a health condition or use prescribed drugs

5. Evidence of funding: bank statements and certified translations

6. Copy of travel and health insurance, if applicable

As you can see, there are several copies to print, so make sure you do a check-list and print them all at least two weeks in advance of your flight. In my case, I tend to be quite systematic with this, so whenever I travel, I always try to organise the papers into folders and keep them in my hand luggage – you might be asked for them at the airport, so don’t put them in the checked bags! 😉

Personal items

First and foremost, check your luggage allowance! Even though you might not be able to calculate exactly your bag’s weight as you pack, you can have an approximate idea of how many items you can bring and prioritize in your check-list.

For me, it was important to take comfortable clothes and shoes which I fancied the most. As it was winter in UK, I made sure I took at least two coats and a set of really warm apparel to prepare myself. If you are from a tropical country like Brazil, you will really notice the difference in the weather!

Overall, choosing can take time and is quite tough (#girlyfeelings), but you can always turn it into a fun experience if you call family and friends to help you. My beloved dog Annie was having a blast while I was packing and definitely wanted to come with me (who wouldn’t?). Also, you might take the opportunity to get those unused clothes in your closet and donate them – at least, that’s what I did and it felt great!

Please take me to London (and my pink ball too)!
Please take me to London (and my pink ball too!)

So, along with documents and copies, here are some priority items that I made sure I packed in my bags:

7. Clothes and shoes for all seasons and purposes: whether it’s for winter or summer, casual or professional, take your favourite and good-quality clothes and shoes with you. You won’t regret it!

8. Electronic gadgets: I packed my smartphone with useful travel and translating apps and carefully wrapped my laptop which I use everyday. Bear in mind that if your country has a unique adapter/socket type as Brazil does, don’t forget to take the adapter for your charger.

9. Extra pounds in cash or traveller card: especially for emergencies and for when you arrive in London for transportation, meals and other essentials

10. Items with sentimental value: photos, lucky amulets, hand-written letters… anything that warms your heart and makes you smile!

In addition, I would not recommend taking items which you can easily buy (or borrow) here at reasonable prices, such as basic clothing, books, dictionary, stationary and universal adapters. Also, with the fabulous technological advancements and cloud storage benefits, you can have access to all sorts of contents and resources anywhere through your smartphone/tablet/laptop, so it’s definitely much easier to minimize physical items and your luggage weight.

Ready to depart!
Ready to depart!

Well, I hope you’ve had a fun time reading my tips and pre-trip story. If you are planning to depart soon to London, I wish you the best of luck, safe travels and enjoyable last moments with your loved ones before you come! See you soon!

For further tips and advice prior to your travel please see:

University of Westminster – Before You Arrive

Education UK: Moving to the UK Essential Checklist

Before coming to London...
See you in London!

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