Woman trying to close overfilled suitcase

Studying abroad? What I learned to pack and not to pack

move in dayWhen you study abroad, everything is different, the culture, the people, the food, and for many people the language. You might not always realize it, but different western countries have different products. In the last 2 years I’ve noticed several differences between the Netherlands, where I was born and raised, and the USA, where I came 2 years ago to study. I didn’t pack certain things because I assumed these things would be  sold here in the US. In addition, there were things that I packed, but found were available in the U.S.  I hope my mistakes will help you know what to bring and what not to bring when coming here to study.

Things you should bring:

  1. Food. You can never bring enough of your traditional home countries food. You might not think you value food that much until you can’t buy it anymore. Most of the students I know miss first their food, than their pet and after that their family. ;-) There are some food that you are prohibited from bringing into the US.  So make sure you read up on this before packing it.
  2. Pictures. Pictures are a great way to decorate your room. You can bring them on a computer or already printed, but it is a great memory about all the people at home.
  3. Travel adapter. Though you can buy chargers here as well, it is probably cheaper to buy a travel adapter.
  4. Something typical from your country. It is always fun to share something about your culture. This can be food, traditional clothing, or in my case wooden shoes.
  5. Souvenirs. It is nice to give your new host family or roommates a nice present.
  6. Some cash. It is always useful to have some cash, just in case  your credit card is not working or that you need a deposit to start a new bank account here.
  7. Basic medicines. It is always good to have some aspirins or cold medicines. You might need them before you are able to go to the grocery store.
  8. A good attitude. Though this doesn’t put any weight in your suitcase, it is always good to bring it. You can make a whole new start and no one knows about the person you were. This can only bring good things to you. Be open and willing to get to know others.


Things you shouldn’t bring too much of:

  1. Clothes. You don’t need to bring too many clothes. I am sure you’ll buy some here because everyone does. Name brand clothes are usually cheaper in America than in Europe. If you buy too many clothes, you  won’t be able to pack them all without having to buy another suitcase. My advise is to bring some clothes for good weather and some for colder weather.  Layers are important.
  2. Body products. Don’t bring huge bottles of shampoo, toothpaste and other things you use. Day to day products are available here as well, and you can use the space in your suitcase much better right? Though I do want to point out one difference I noticed, the deodorant Americans use is different from the deodorant that I am used to.  Americans use some kind of soap block, where in the Netherlands we use rollers or spray, so be aware of that, or bring it. For other things, bringing travel size articles is good enough.
  3. Electronic devices other than your computer and phone. There is no need to bring a straightener, hair dryer, rice cooker and other things like this. Some of these devices can’t be used on travel adapters, and they are available here as well.
  4. Translators. Unless your English is not good at all, don’t bother bringing dictionaries or translators. It is heavy and takes a lot of space in your suitcase. If you need to find a translation for something, you can use Google or another online dictionary.
  5. Eye solution for lenses. Though you should consult your eye doctor about this, but I found the same solution for my eyes in the grocery store. It could have saved me about 4 kg. in my suitcase. Though you shouldn’t forget to bring new sets of contact lenses.

I hope my suggestions are useful.  So many of my friends had to buy extra suitcases or ship their belongings home. This can get very expensive.

Good luck and happy travels.


Club and Advisor of the Year

European club voted club of the year!

The week before finals, Student Life organized an awards banquet to recognize all the great clubs and organizations for the year.  Club and organization leaders and advisors are invited to this event and are given certificates and awards to show appreciation for their contributions for that year.

My friend Jytte (Vice-president of the European Club) and I (president of the European Club) got chosen by the European club advisor, Lansing, to attend the dinner. At the awards banquet, they also give out an award for the best event, best advisor and best club of the year.  My dream was to win one of those awards.

From left: Lansing Bryan, Jytte Hendrikse, Kiki van Essen

From left: Lansing Bryan, Jytte Hendrikse, Kiki van Essen

At the very end of the banquet, those prizes were given out.  I was really nervous. The first prize that was given out, the one for the best event, was won by the Ministery of Madness, an improv club at Green River. They organized an event to raise money with humor. Than it was time for the second award, the one for the best Club of the year. The presenter told a story about a club that organized events like ice skating, berry picking, roller skating and a museum trip. When I heard the description, I  knew that we had won! The European Club got the best club of the year award!!! I was so happy!  After we got the prize, the presenter told us to stay on the stage, because she wanted to announce that the European Club Advisor won the Club Advisor of the year! The European club not only has the best club,  but also the best advisor! :)

If you would like to join our club next fall, let me know.


Big tree

Hiking at Mt. Rainier

photo 1In late May, I went to see all the beauty that mount Rainier offers with some friends and someone that knows Mt. Rainier very well.  I went up the mountain last year with my host family, but it is always nice to go somewhere in a different time of the year. The roads and some trails just opened after being closed for the winter. When we were getting close to the mountain, there was a lot of snow next to the roads. It made me feel as if we were back in the winter again.

Bruce, our guide for the day, took us first to a place with HUGE trees. To get to those trees, we needed to cross a bridge over a river. Some of the trees were chopped or fallen down. There were wooden paths through these trees.

We drove on and stopped at some other awesome places. We saw a very deep cliff that is photo 3made by water that goes through it. The log was really deep and very spectacular.

A little bit further on, there was a big waterfall. Bruce thought that the path down to the waterfall was still closed, but we were lucky and were able to get down. Though the way down was a little scary because wtarethere was still half a meter of snow on the trail. The waterfall was photo 4gorgeous.

We really wanted to go hiking as well, but because it started to get a little late and everyone got a bit tired and hungry, we decided to go to Bruces house and spend a little time on the lake that is behind his house. That was so awesome because there are a lot of big houses on the lake, so we were amazed by the beautiful homes. We spent the rest of the evening playing pickleball.  It is a mixture of badminton, tennis, ping pong and some other racket and ball games.

boat group     tom

alki beach jumping

Nordic Heritage Museum and Alki Beach

The groupLast Saturday, the European Club organized an event to the Nordic Heritage Museum and Alki beach. As the president of the European club I of course joined. A total of 19 people came on the trip, and I think each one of them enjoyed it.

First we went to the Nordic Heritage Museum, a museum that shares Nordic culture and tells the history of the first Scandinavian people that settled in America. The museum was pretty fun. There were many exhibits like stores, neighborhoods  and other things rebuilt from the old days.

After the Nordic Heritage Museum, we drove to Nouveau Bakery, a really good French bakery, to get yummy sandwiches and other pastries. I really enjoyed the macaroons there.

After we all got our sandwiches, we went to eat them on Alki beach, which is a beach with view on the Seattle skyline. The weather predictions were not that good, but luckily we kept dry and we even had a little sun.Nordic Heritage Museum