In some ways it seems like it was just yesterday I was packing to move to Korea to live and teach English. In other ways, because I have seen and done so much in the past 16 months, it seems like years ago I was crouched in my bedroom surrounded by piles of possessions. I was reminded of this packing session last week when I maneuvered my suitcases out from their hiding spots behind my washing machine and slowly began packing up my life once again. While packing I got to thinking about things I packed and hardly used or other things I brought that were completely unnecessary. If you are about to embark on a year in Korea be sure to make a thorough packing list, but also remember to forget a few things. These few things don't deserve space in your luggage. Use the room for other more important items. I know people may not share my packing opinions, but here is a list of things I think you can afford to forget. Take it from me, you can find almost anything in Korea and traveling with less rather than more makes life so much easier. Good luck and please comment with any packing questions you may have.
1) Scarves. I brought a bag full of flowing and colorful scarves and I regret doing so. You can find beautiful and affordable scarves in countless shopping stalls and stores in Korea. I would recommend bringing maybe one favorite and then have fun shopping for Korean scarves. Many of my friends brought scarves home to friends and family as gifts.
2) Lots of jewelry and accessories. Like scarves, you can find stylish and well-priced jewelry and accessories in Korea. Also, leave your most valuable items at home. They will be there when you return and you don't want to worry about them while you are abroad.
3) Stationery items, pens and stickers. Korea is all about cute and I loved sending home birthday cards and 'just because' notes because I could use adorable paper, stickers and markers from my favorite store, Art Box.
4) Beauty products. People worldwide travel to Korea to stock up on beauty supplies. Every street is lined with cosmetics stores. My favorite store is Skin Food. I even have a membership gold card. Most products I found in Korea were affordable, great quality and made with natural and organic ingredients. If you have a product you can't live without - bring it. But just know that soon you will have new favorite products with Korean labels.
5)Tampons, deodorant and toothpaste. Some old information on the Internet points to a need to bring boxes of tampons, multiple sticks of deodorant and a handful of toothpaste tubes. But I promise you this information is outdated. I was able to find all of these things. They may cost a few dollars more, but really there is no need to bring a surplus of these items. Bring enough to get you through the first month and then be adventurous and go out and find them. I promise they are out there.
6) Over the counter medicines, allergy pills, and birth control. You can easily buy these items at any Korean pharmacy.
7) A cell phone that will not work in Korea. Look into your cell phone options before you move to Korea. Many phones will not work in Korea but do not panic. Leave your old phone at home and buy a phone in Korea (There are so many options - Koreans love their cell phones!) or you can buy one from The Arrival Store and they will ship your new phone directly to your hotel in Seoul or your new school.
8 )Glasses and contacts. Of course, bring a pair or two. But know that Korea is known for having very affordable and stylish eyeglasses.
9) Your entire closet. Suitcase space is limited and apartments are small in Korea. I promise you will find clothes you love in Korea. Heck, you might even adopt a Korean sense of style. Bring your favorite clothes that you love and feel comfortable in and forget the rest.
10) The stress. Don't spend your last days at home completely consumed with stress. In the end all you really need is your plane ticket, your passport and a good attitude!
Enjoy the adventure, I know I sure did!
Devan Meserve, a New Hampshire native and St. Lawrence University alum, decided that after two successful post college years living and working in Boston she was primed for exploration beyond the East Coast. With encouragement from friends and family and Aclipse’s expert advice she landed an instructor position with Chungdahm April English. Devan is loving life in Uijeongbu: she is continuously impressed and entertained by her young students and spends her free time following Anthony Bourdain’s advice, “I’m a big believer in improvising and getting lost.”
Check out her blog!