How to SST-uff a Suitcase

When packing bags to go on SST, the first thing that comes to many minds is to pack your whole dorm room in one suitcase, even if it means sitting on it in order to zip it. But Goshen College student Hilary Myers thinks differently after losing her luggage on her way to Jamaica for SST in the fall of 2008.

Originally, Myers packed everything so it would fit just right in one bag. When she got to the airline counter in Chicago, en route to Jamaica, she was told that her checked bag was a bit over the 50-pound limit for most international traveling.

Myers fixed the problem by buying another bag to hold some of the items that made her original bag overweight. But this wasn’t the end to her troubles, as she arrived in Jamaica–without her original bag. Myers lost some scarves from a high school trip to Italy and her favorite swimming suit, among other things.

“It depends on what you consider valuable, but really, I would have taken my bag over any of the new clothes or money that the airlines reimbursed me for later,” Myers said.

So if you’re headed on SST soon, you may want to take the following packing suggestions:

-Talk to international students or former SST-ers who have gone to the same country you’ll be visiting. Is there anything specific that you need to pack? Or not pack? What’s the weather usually like?

-Think about the kind of bag you’re planning to use. If you’re only planning on rolling it through airports—no problem! But what about cobblestone streets or a muddy path up a mountain? Instead of packing in one huge bag, think about the easiest way to be able to transport your things. A smaller bag and a backpack might be wisest.

-The first step in packing is to lay all of your clothes out that you plan to bring. It’s a good idea to pack clothes that you’re able to mix and match. “Pack one of each item so that you have room to bring [souvenirs] back,” Hilary suggests. You likely won’t need it all, or miss it.

-Another way to save on luggage space is to roll your clothes. Don’t worry about wrinkling. Stack a few shirts together before rolling; this will cut down on the number of wrinkles.

-Packing becomes difficult when you have many oddly shaped items to fit in one small space. This is when you can put your Tetris abilities to the test! Make the most of your space: fill the inside of your shoes and help to keep their shape by stuffing bottles inside them. You can’t take a water bottle on a plane, so empty it and stuff it with clean socks!

-One way to save some space is to pack your shampoo and conditioner in smaller, travel sized containers. Then, once you arrive in a major city, you can simply go to a store and buy a local brand.

-The TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration) gives a “3-1-1 Carry On” suggestion. It says that one can take up to three ounces of a liquid or gel in your carry on if it’s placed in a one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-lock bag. Make sure you only carry one zip-lock bag per person, and it’s readily available to place it in a security check bin, or you’re likely to have problems. When in doubt, place any liquids in your checked luggage.

-Many times, when traveling at high altitudes in planes, liquid bottles will expand and spill all over. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, squeeze some air out of the bottles to give a little breathing space. It wouldn’t hurt to place the bottles in plastic bags either.

-Hair driers are luxuries that people in many counties don’t think of using. Think about if you really need to bring one. Once you get to your SST assignment, you may realize that you don’t even use a hair drier. It will take up space in your suitcase and may cause awkward breakfast conversation between you and your host family. If you can’t live without it, just make sure you check the tag on your electric gadget to see if you need to bring an adapter! Peru, Tanzania, Cambodia and China use 220 voltage, so if you’re headed there- bring an adapter. Jamaica and Nicaragua use both 110 and 220 voltage, and Senegal uses only 110 voltage, which is similar to the U.S., so an adapter won’t be needed.

-Getting a little sick when you’re adjusting to your country on SST is normal… so don’t forget Pepto-Bismol tablets. But if you’re really nervous about getting sick, bring a small bottle of Tylenol, a packet of Band-Aids, and any prescription drugs you might need. Anything else you should be able to buy locally when you arrive in the main city.

-Take note of the kind of products your SST country specializes in. Buy a scarf in Cambodia if that’s where you’ll be, or a hat and mittens in Peru. It will make a good souvenir that you’ll be sure to use, and you won’t have to pack it, as long as you have space to bring it home.

-Worried about losing important information if your passport or identity gets stolen? It may be a good idea to e-mail yourself the information and phone numbers to call in case you need to cancel your credit card.

-You should carry anything of value with you physically and “always make sure you have your address on the outside of your luggage and on a piece of paper on the inside!” said Hilary Myers.

Kelsey Shue
Written by Kelsey Shue

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