When I first started writing this post, I thought to myself that it was timely. At the time, I was packing my two suitcases. Nearly one month later, I realize how wrong I was. In part because those two suitcases became three very quickly. More importantly, you won’t know what’s best to pack until you’ve already packed and made the journey. Both of which I’ve done.

Evidently, that method worked solely for my writing process. The point of this post is to help you learn what to pack BEFORE you make the journey. Standing firm in my decision not to detail every object in your suitcase or mine, this is my compromise; 20 items you shouldn’t get on the plane without.

1. Seasoning: In case you’ve missed my other post on the subject, I’ll repeat: French food will taste like nothing you’ve tasted in the Caribbean. And you likely won’t find a similar flavour palette in your nearest French supermarket. While you can hold out hope for an Asian or African market, you may find yourself as the only person of colour in town. So you can forget about an entire market. Pack a bottle or two of the flavours that transport your mind home. For Jamaicans, that means Adobo, curry, jerk, browning. But – and I can’t emphasize this enough – don’t use your makeshift spice rack as an excuse to never try French food.

2. Adapters: Specifically Type C and Type E/F adapters for France and wider Europe (in case you plan to travel). Before buying, compare the voltage of the adapters to the voltage of your devices, and ensure that they are compatible. Please be advised, I’m no expert and I barely passed Physics. However, I do know how to prevent an accidental fire. Devices like phones and laptops are low voltage and most adapters work fine with them. For appliances like blow dryers and flat irons, it’s worth investing in a voltage converter too.

3. Sweaters: Coming from a tropical climate, sweaters will become your primary wardrobe. Don’t let French people tell you otherwise.

4. Boots: Nothing fancy, but one strong pair to withstand the rain and winter.

5. Sneakers: Read my previous point again. Barring winter and the rain, sneakers will suffice as your footwear of choice.

6. Socks: Both the kind you wear in your shoes, as well as the thick kind that will keep your feet warm at home.

7. Jeans: While I advise you to explicitly ask about the dress code at your school, I feel confident in saying that jeans are appropriate as your daily wardrobe. Along with sweaters, sneakers and boots. Thankfully, France doesn’t have the same culture of “work clothes” that exists in Jamaica. I can’t quite imagine balancing business attire and professionalism with warmth.

8. Bed Linens: This point looks like a no-brainer, but I forgot them during my first stint as an assistant. Yet, I was lucky because my school provided A LOT of support – sheets included. Lightning however, doesn’t strike the same place twice. And you shouldn’t assume that you’ll be so lucky at all. If nothing else, it’ll provide the comfort you need on your first night away from home.

9. Towels: Am I about to use this point as a continuation of my last one? Absolutely. Because the same rules for bed linens apply to towels. Furthermore, don’t waste money buying something you could’ve just packed. It won’t take up more space in your suitcase than the rest of your clothing. And much like bed linens, pack two towels so that you can alternate.

10. Medicine: I’ve previously explained why you should get a clean bill of health and bring any special medications with you. However, this applies to over the counter medication as well. You’ll be hard pressed to find Cetamol or Panadol. And you’ll want to avoid the trial and error when you’re fighting a cold or have allergies.

11. Warm sleepwear: You know that pair of sweatpants at the back of your drawer? The ones you never wear because when you do, you sweat more than a sinner in church? As Oscar Wilde said, every sinner has a future. And those sweatpants will be in yours.

12. Tights/Thermal Underwear and Tank Tops/Undershirts: The key to staying warm isn’t thick clothing, but layers of (relatively) thin clothing.

13. Scarves: Do you need me to tell you that your neck will get cold?

14. Gloves: Some time between December and February, it will get cold. So cold that you think the blood in your hands are becoming semi-solid. Followed by losing feeling altogether.

15. Haircare Products: If you’re as picky about your haircare routine as I am, I suggest you buy in bulk and start rationing for the next 7 months.

16. Skincare Products: Same rules for haircare products apply for skincare. Additionally, the reviews I’ve heard about French lotion strike fear in the hearts of men. So grab a few bottles of that too.

17. If you’re a glasses wearer, your old/spare pair of glasses.

18. Jacket: This is tricky, because if you come from a warmer climate you probably don’t know how to buy a winter jacket. You may prefer to buy one in France once you have some insight. However, you will also need a light/medium jacket to carry you through autumn. In fact, don’t even pack it. Wear it on the plane and thank me later.

19. Toiletries: For a trip as long as TAPIF, presumably it’s better to buy them when you get there. However, you would be wrong. The second you land at CDG, Orly or whichever airport, I can all but guarantee that your first priority will NOT be to find a supermarket. You won’t be mentally prepared to interact with people, explore a new place, face unfamiliar things and do so in a foreign language. What you will be is exhausted. So it doesn’t hurt to bring your essentials – toothpaste, toothbrush, bar of soap – until the dust settles.

20. Souvenirs/Gifts: I’ve said my piece on bringing souvenirs. Moreover, I’m willing to concede that they don’t have the same significance unless you’re a gift person like I am. Nonetheless, whether it’s something for your students,, the teachers you worked with or just your prof ref, a gift to show your gratitude for the experience is always appreciated. As Koffee said, gratitude is a must.

One more for good luck: A USB flash drive. Don’t waste suitcase space packing endless material to show the students. Go digital.