The day has finally arrived! In just a few hours the engine of my big jet plane will leap to life and start my onward journey to London. The last week has been utterly frantic – finalising plans, bidding my farewells, trying to get some sleep while excitement courses through my veins, and of course, the dreaded act of packing. As such, this week’s Postcard will take you through a last-minute checklist so your own exchange departure is as smooth as possible (and hopefully stop any middle-of-the-night worries). Packing: Start packing early, don’t leave it until the night before because you’ll probably need to do a cull and re-pack when you realise you can’t close your bulging suitcase. Use a tough, reliable suitcase, and be sure to check your baggage allowance with your airline (trust me, even the shrewdest negotiator won’t get past those scale police at the airline check-in counter). Make sure you put a luggage tag with
a name and address on the outside of your luggage. Get an idea of what the weather is likely to be like for the duration of your stay in your host country so you can pack what you’ll need, and know what to leave behind. Always remember that you can use the inside of your shoes as extra packing space, so stuff your socks and smaller items inside. You might be a packer who rolls their clothes or folds them, but be sure to make the most of your space (but remember to leave some for your inevitable overseas purchases). Lastly, always pack a pair of swimmers. You never know when you might need them in your travels. Finances: Arrange your finances and make sure you have some small denominations of your host country’s currency before you leave. This will make paying for train tickets and cab fares when you arrive so much easier. Tell your bank that you’re going overseas so that you can still use your credit and debit cards while abroad. Make sure you check that the fees aren’t exorbitant for overseas withdrawals and transactions. Decide if you will use a Cash Passport or similar multi-currency travel money card. Documents: Take photocopies or photographs of your important documents before you leave. Email your parents and friends a copy of your itinerary and passport. Make sure you have your acceptance letter from your host institution in your carry on bag so you can produce it at passport control if requested. Also, it may go without saying, but remember to pack your passport (with the all important visa) in your carry on luggage! Health: Visit your local GP before you leave to make sure you’re up to date with your immunisations, and to get any prescription medicine you may need overseas. Remember that your scripts might not be valid overseas, so it’s better to fill them at home and take them with you. Just be careful traveling with large amounts of medicine and ask for a letter from your doctor to confirm that they’re for personal purposes. Again, make sure to pack any medicine you will need during the flight in your carry on luggage. Travel Insurance: Purchase travel insurance to cover you from the date of your travel until the date you arrive back in your home country. I know it’s expensive, but you don’t want to be the person begging a policeman for a tenner to get home after your wallet has been stolen and you thought you’d prefer to spend your money on pints rather than travel insurance. At RMIT there are some great discounted rates for students going on exchange, so check with the Education Abroad Office. RMIT: Check that your enrolment at RMIT is correct before you go overseas so that you won’t be financially penalised. Remember to check your student email regularly as well, this is how the university will contact you while you’re overseas. Accommodation: Have your accommodation for when you arrive lined up and confirmed. Write down the address of and directions to the hotel/youth hostel/friend’s house or university accommodation where you’ll be heading once you get off the plane. At the Airport: Arrive at the airport with plenty of time before check-in opens. International flights have very different check-in schedules than domestic flights so double check online before you go. Unfortunately for me – due to unlucky flight times – I’m going to be waiting around at the airport for seven hours before my early morning flight departs. Most airlines recommend at least 3 hours beforehand though. Electronics: Make sure your electronics are fully charged before the flight if you want to use them onboard. Carry a universal adaptor with you in your carry on luggage so that you can use your chargers no matter where you are. Carry On Luggage: Pack a good book in your carry on luggage. And a spare pair of underwear and a toothbrush! Remember that if your checked luggage is delayed or gets lost, you will only have your carry on bag. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes it can take a few days for the rest of your luggage to make its way back to you. Make sure any liquids in your carry on luggage are under 100ml and in a clear plastic ziplock bag. This will make going through security so much easier. Smart Traveler: Register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before you go by logging onto their website www.smartraveller.gov.au to officially register your travel. This way you can be kept informed of any emergency warnings in the area you’re traveling to, and have easy access to Australian consular assistance. Mobile Phone: Ensure that your mobile phone is unlocked and that you activate global roaming so you can let your loved ones know when you arrive safe. Be careful though as international call and text rates are notoriously high. Onboard: During the flight, drink lots and lots and lots and lots of water. This is my number one tip! Avoid coffee and alcohol as they can dehydrate you and make jet lag a lot worse. I find that my skins gets really dry and irritated in a pressurised aircraft cabin, so it might be a good idea to pop a small moisturiser in your hand luggage to keep you fresh during your journey. Promise yourself that you will get up from your seat every few hours to move around and stretch, your muscles and joints will thank you for it later. Most importantly, remember that you are embarking on an exhilarating adventure which will leave you with invaluable memories and experiences. Soak up every single minute of your exchange, because it will be over before you know it. Next week I’ll be writing to you from my new apartment in London! I can’t wait to tell you all about the beginnings of my English escapades. I hope some of you are thinking about applying for your very own exchange for next year. Head to the Education Abroad Office website here and find out when the next information session is being held. Emily Malone
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!