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There are so many things to prepare for before heading abroad for medicine, that many of the standard travel items one would think to pack for a typical vacation are often forgotten. Here is a list of things I forgot, friends forgot, or that I wish I had known to bring before I moved to the Caribbean. (Note: this may not all be applicable to students moving anywhere cold!)

General

  • A beach towel AND a shower towel
  • An eye cover (the blinds here are never dark enough, and it is always sunny)
  • Food from home (in most Caribbean countries, you’re not going to find your protein bars, protein powder, certain brands of chocolate – here they don’t even have dark chocolate – or any ethnic foods of preference)
  • Razors/razor blades of choice to last however long before you get home
  • An extra pair of runners – for those days when you get to hike up a volcano after blocks!
  • Converters – check the voltage on the island. Many places won’t sell the adapters/converters required for north american outlets, but the reverse. Bring them with you from home. Also note that hair dryers and straighteners will blow up when plugged in a typical adapter, and require a 3000 watt transformer. So either plan to air dry your hair, buy a dryer there (make sure you CAN), or move somewhere that has both local and American style outlets.
  • Hair products – chances are they won’t sell what you prefer here – think hair gel, pomade, spray, preferred shampoo/conditioner brands, etc.
  • Workout/sports gear – tons of my friends said they wished they’d brought the following: frisbee, tennis gear, cleats, workout armband, weights, jump rope, football, etc. 
  • Vitamins – it’s not easy to maintain a complete diet while adjusting to the first few months of school, so come prepared with your multivitamins
  • Coffee/french press/thermos – not all locales sell coffee beans. Ask current students about what type of stock is available and whether or not there are cafes nearby where you can buy it freshly made, or if you’ll need to make it at home
  • Dress clothes/going out clothes. You might not think you’ll need them. Maybe you won’t, but I did! Med students do go out, about once or twice a month, and when they do, everyone likes to look fab. Also, in many international schools, the classes are smaller and students are required to put together presentations that demand professional dress.
  • Sweater(s) – chances are, if it’s hot outside, it’s freezing inside. Take it from me, the AC can be both a friend and an enemy. I did not pack nearly as many pairs of pants or long sleeves for this reason alone
  • Extra laptop charger/extension cord
  • Blank notebooks, pens, highlighters
  • WHITEBOARD – when it comes to every class, especially biochem, it helps to have a mini whiteboard to write, erase, and re-write notes on. You can order wall sized whiteboards on Amazon that fold into pocket size and can be taped on the wall.

Ladies specifically:

  • Tampons! They most likely will not carry the brands you are used to. Bring your own!
  • More clothes
    • it’s amazing how much your wardrobe can help switch things up, when every day is the same. I brought the bare amount of clothes possible the first time around, which was totally depressing. Changing up my wardrobe is about the only thing I have to look forward to on my repeat days of class, lunch, class, studies & sleep. Plus, when you don’t feel great about school, it’s nice to at least feel like you look good!
  • Straighteners, curlers, foam rollers, etc.
  • Birth control – most places will sell two or three familiar brands of birth control, however if you plan to maintain your preferred method (i.e. pill, patch, injections*) be sure to stock up beforehand or investigate what’s available to you from the clinics near school
  • PMS drugs – stock up