The wait is over! You are just one month away from stepping into your dream university! You have your admits, i20, visa and tickets in hand and are so thrilled to fly! You are so excited to go shopping and call all those you are on board to go with you. Most of you have your airlines allowing you to carry 15+23+23+23Kg stuff with you to the US and you are all set to pack! And then you have a slew of questions climbing into your head.” Oh wait, what should I buy?”, “Where do I begin?”, “Will I get this in the US for a better price?”, “Will I even need this there?” and much more! You contact all the people that you know in the US and bombard them with your questions and end up getting mixed reviews leaving you flustered and frustrated!
This article is written based on my practical experiences as a student and working professional (after one or two years) in Boston. I am a female grad student from India. I tried to be very general with no bias towards the needs of an Indian or a woman. I have kept in mind the general mentality of people coming to the US especially from countries with lower currency equation against USD. I have also consulted with friends from other countries and referred a few articles to ensure consistency in thoughts, ideas and experiences.
Things to keep in mind when you pack: –
- Only pack things which you cannot get in the US, or things which are very expensive to buy here.
- Resort to carrying only health care, personal care or kitchen items unless you are a sports/ music personnel carrying equipment or instruments.
- Do a quick research on the kind of shops available near your university/ apartment locale to get an idea on the quantity of items you need to carry (you don’t want to carry bags and bags of rice or flour from your homeland!)
|Items you need||Where to get it? How much to bring?||Suggestions:|
|General medication which you can get over the counter. For e.g., cough syrup, antacids, menstrual pain killers, healing balms, ointments, relief spray, band-aids, sprain bandages, multivitamins or health supplements etc.||You can get a bottle or 2 of syrups and 2-3 strips of tablets from your country for initial days.
You can get all of these in places like CVS or Target or Rite AID in the US.
|These are perishables.
|Prescribed medication for existing medical conditions like Asthma, migraine, diabetes etc.||From your home country. Do not change the dosage or medicines without your doctor’s consult.||Carry doctor’s prescription on board. Pack it along with your medical kit. Refer TSA website for the medication you can carry.|
|Eye- glasses (at least 2 pairs)
Contact-lens (based on its disposable nature)
|Please do a personal research based on your needs. If disposable, it is advised to check
online at Wal-Mart vision center
|Eye glasses are expensive in USA; average price is around $150 – 200 USD.
Contact lens are priced similarly, but some disposable lenses are cheaper in the US.
Personal Items and Toiletries: –
|Cosmetics – They are available easily in any drugstore, supermarket or exclusive stores||Pack small quantities for initial days. There are plenty of stores to purchase them in the US. The prices are comparable for most international brands.||If you develop any allergic reactions in skin or hair, please consult with a dermatologist|
|Soaps, shampoos, hair care, perfumes, deo – These are available in plenty of flavors, sizes, shapes and colors in any supermarket. Get this from your country only if you are prone to allergic reactions or have very sensitive skin.||Pack small quantities for initial days. There are plenty of stores to purchase them in the US. The prices are comparable for most international brands.||If you develop any allergic reactions in skin or hair, please consult with a dermatologist.|
|Shaving kit and wax strips||Pack small quantities for initial days. There are plenty of stores to purchase them in the US. The prices are comparable for most international brands. You get Gillette, Old Spice, Axe and Tag in the US market.||Waxing parlors are about $80 in the US|
|Undergarments- Get at least 15 pairs.
Also, just couple of pairs of Jeans and T-shirts, one formal dress or shirts and trousers (you won’t need this, just backup) a couple of
pajamas and shorts
|You may buy these in US
eventually, but it would be hard for the first time until you find a store.
|Students in the US do laundry 1-2 times a week. Laundry dryers are used over hanging clothes. Also clothes are cheaper in the US if you shop at the right time and in the SALE section.|
|One bath towel and one hand towel||Cheaper and better in the US|
|One leather or any wind cheaters or jacket, sweater and a formal suit (optional, not
needed) you do not need to wear a suit unless you are in an executive position in the US. Also, it is not mandatory to wear a suit to the career fairs!
|Just for the first few days to get accustomed to the cold weather if you are from a tropical region.
You get better ones in the US. Also make use of the Labor Day/ Columbus day or Thanksgiving Day sale.
|It usually doesn’t start snowing in Boston until December. The cold weather may begin as early as October.|
|Pressure cooker with extra gaskets and whistle, saucepan, skillet, plates, bowls, silverware, strainer, bottle/can openers, scissors, knives||The quality of pressure cookers is better in India. The rest you can get in places like Walmart or Target in the US.
Get electric cookers/kettles only from US.
|Get this only if you plan to cook.|
|Spices and readymade foods||There are variety of spices available in the local markets. Get these along only if you are acclaimed to homemade foods.||Check with your airlines about the restrictions|
Word of advice:
- Do not carry anything that is illegal for any reason. Remember the reason you are coming here and act responsibly.
- Remember to carry all your documents (both original and few copies) – Passport with visa stamped, i20 (all copies if you had received an i20 previously), original driver’s license.
- Carry some cash in USD. Do not rely on your Forex cards, international credit cards or traveler cheques. You will need to pay for your cab and other expenses in cash until you set-up your bank account.
- It is not recommended to carry any electrical appliances from countries like India or China, as they don’t work in full efficiency in the US.
- Carry some plain notebooks/ notepads, stapling machine and a scientific calculator. It is a little expensive in the US. Other stationary items are mostly available in the university library.
- You can get a local sim card at the airport for a few days. Optionally, you can manage internet calls in you are using Wi-Fi.
- Electronic items like laptops and smartphones are cheaper and of better quality in the US than anywhere else. You get great deals during holidays!
- Refer https://www.cbp.gov/border-security to know what is allowed on board.
- Always ensure you have your documents, laptop and phone safely. Carry all the important stuff in your backpack and some clothing and toiletries in your cabin bag (In case your flight gets delayed)
Most of the items that you need for basic or even sophisticated living is available in the US. You will eventually figure out the best deals and places to buy stuff once you land here. You don’t have to panic if you missed anything, because it’s the United States! Also, there are good courier and postal services that charge nominally to send/ receive stuff other countries. So, hop on with all joy and enjoy your journey!
– Nivetha Ganeshjeevan