TAPIF Packing List | Last minute ideas on what to pack (and what to leave behind)
Update: Check out “Every single item on my packing list” for…(wait for it) every single item on my TAPIF packing list!
Just wrote a nice long version of this post and it was deleted, so here’s a quick rundown of some learned-the-hard-way things I wish I’d known a year ago, for anyone who’s doing some last-minute packing for TAPIF:
Money: It’s best to have your money split up in different accounts/forms:
- We were at the mall when my mom saw a Travelex kiosk and insisted I get a card. I didn’t know what it was and didn’t think it necessary, but I’m so glad she made me do it. It’s essentially like a prepaid card that you can load up with euros, but the thing that made it useful was its security chip. Unlike many credit or debit cards in the United States, cards in France have an extra chip on them that’s necessary to use with train ticket machines, etc. Some newer cards in the United States are starting to get these, but if you don’t already have one, it’s good to have something like the Travelex card for back-up until you open a French bank account.
- I also took out some cash at the kiosk (you may be able to find cheaper rates somewhere else). I was told to take some coins to pay for bathrooms once I landed, and that was great advice.
- My host teacher got me in touch with the last assistant she had, and luckily I asked her about the dress code at the schools before going out and buying a bunch of work clothes. Teachers wore jeans and sneakers to school, and I sometimes felt overdressed when wearing a blazer. It’s best to check in with someone if you can, but you probably won’t need anything special as long as you have shoes that are comfortable enough to stand in for long periods of time.
- I definitely did not pack enough warm clothes, but I ended up buying a cheap sweater and jacket at a mall and thrift shop after heading over to France. If you have the room for a peacoat or fleece, though, it’s definitely worth taking one over. I also had a pair of waterproof boots that came in handy; generally, if you can find clothes that you can layer with, and that are waterproof without being rainboots or raincoats specifically, those will work really well.
Documents: I first scanned copies of all the documents I thought I might need (passport, visa/OFII, apostilled birth certificate, student ID, arrete de nomination, health records, insurance card, and letter of coverage abroad). I then saved them on my computer, a pen drive, and on Google Drive, which I shared with my parents as well.
I also printed out at least 5 copies of each document, which was enough to start, but I definitely ended up needing to make more once I got to France. I find accordion folders to be bulky, so I put the copies in sheet protectors (one type of document facing the front and one facing the back), which I then put in a folder with metal tabs to keep the protectors in place so that I could just flip through the documents like a book. This ended up working amazingly well throughout the trip and was more compact than other alternatives.
- I didn’t have a cell phone that could use a SIM card, so I ordered a cheap phone from Amazon that could be used internationally. A day or two before my flight, it still hadn’t arrived, so we spent a solid day driving around trying to find an affordable alternative with no luck. Just as we were packing the car to head to the airport, it arrived, and my little brother set it up on the car while I tried to fix a misspelled name with a Travelex rep in England. I had wanted a working phone for my journey to France so I could notify my host teacher if my flight was delayed, but I don’t think the minutes that came with the phone actually worked. I did use the phone itself with a Bouygues SIM card once I got to France, and I’d carry around my American phone to log into wifi while traveling.
- My laptop has been infested by ants and generally led a rough life, but I’m glad I didn’t have a new laptop when I had to choose between checking in my camera or my laptop for my flight. I also took a small hard drive and a convertor; I bought a huge bulky one that could be used all around the world, but it stopped working late in the year; a couple of smaller adaptors would be preferable. Just keep in mind that the UK uses different adaptors if you plan to travel there. My DSLR camera was a little bulkier but it’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever spent money on and was totally worth the extra weight.
Realia are “objects and material from everyday life” “used as teaching aids.”
- The last assistant in my place told me that she didn’t really need anything she brought from home, although the students enjoyed seeing American coins. When I showed my students American money, they kept asking me if it was real. I ended up taping the coins to a piece of paper and labeling them after a minor incident where we thought some coins had gone missing.
- I did end up taking a bunch of worksheets that I never used, but it was helpful to have some brochures and maps of my hometown, especially since I didn’t have Powerpoint. Brochures and menus could have been useful for travel planning, giving directions, and role play, and it would have been nice to have more personal photographs and postcards when introducing myself or talking about the United States. However, if you have access to a projector, you can always show these that way. I would have liked to have picked up some small storybooks from my library’s sale to use with the younger students as well.
I took a purse, a handbag that could fit books and other items for taking with me to work, a suitcase with wheels, and a hard core backpack. The backpack was definitely worth buying; it was incredibly comfortable even when I was carrying a ton of stuff, and it was easier to take with me on short trips, especially when needing to run upstairs while trying to catch a train or walking along roads with cars parked on half of the sidewalk.
Gifts and other fun stuff
For some reason, I was adamant that I did not want to take any souvenirs that couldn’t be consumed, so I took food, all of which was destroyed in my suitcase. If you do have some local specialty that can handle an international trip, it’s nice to have something for hosts and others. I was going to pack some small games like Bananagrams, but it turned out that the last assistant had already taken care of that! I also left out Solo cups, but ended up in a house where that was taken care of as well (guess we all just think alike). Having a journal available is also nice, especially in the journey over and the first few weeks when everything is so new. I did take along a French phrasebook and a secondhand Kindle, which I hardly used.
I definitely made different versions of packing lists and thought hard about what I wanted to take with me, but all that effort definitely wasn’t necessary! You can buy almost anything once you get to France, even if it is a little more expensive (like peanut butter). Finding what you need can also end up being an experience in itself! Comment below if you have any questions or your own thoughts about what was useful to pack for TAPIF!
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