Some things I was glad I packed:
- Travel sized versions of important toiletries (e.g. shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste), and full sized versions of my skincare routine.
- My pillow. I’m particularly picky about my pillows (essential to a good night’s sleep in my opinion!) so having a good one that reminded me of home home went a long way in making me feel more comfortable in my new home.
- Comfort food. It was a last minute decision, but I’m so glad my friend convinced me to bring some before I left. Even though there are lots of neat and tasty treats you can buy here in Kazakhstan, there’s something about having a sense of familiarity when you are craving sweets that makes the transition better. Besides, the labels are all in Russian, so a lot of shopping has been pure guesswork at this point.
- Plug adapter and EXTENSION CORD. By far one of the best tidbits of packing advice I read online. Saves you from having to buy multiple adaptors. Just make sure the plug for your extension chord is compatible with your adaptor before you leave… mine was not. #travelnoob
- Unlocked cell phone. As soon as I arrived, the school provided me with a sim card with a pay-as-you-go plan. Calling and texting is super cheap in KZ, the teachers tell me they spend an average of about 5 USD a month on their plan.
- A good quality camera. Excellent for documenting my travels and sharing it with friends and family, but extremely useful for taking pictures of important landmarks so I don’t get lost!
- Photographs from home. I printed out a few of my favourites before I left and packed them with me. It’s nice having some personal things make an unfamiliar place feel more like home. As an added bonus, pictures are light and barely take up room in your luggage.
- Over-the-counter medicine. I packed a few of my favourites like Tylenol, Buckley’s, and Neocitrin. Lately, I’ve noticed many students who have been absent due to illness, and a fair bit of sneezing and coughing at the school. I’ve actually caught the sniffles myself so it is comforting to know I have a supply of some medicine essentials to keep me functional. Going to the doctor’s in any foreign country can be difficult if you do not speak the language.
- A fitted blazer. A must for any professional wardrobe. The fit is key; if the blazer fits too big or too small it will look sloppy and unprofessional. (Shout out to my homies Dan and Shlow for helping me shop for wardrobe essentials before I left for Kazakhstan!)
Some things I wish I brought:
- A good quality travel back pack. When I read that the people in Kazakhstan value being “well dressed over comfort,” and then received confirmation that this is in fact true of everyone at the school I’m working with, I thought, “Screw it. I don’t need a backpack anymore! My student days are over! I’m getting a good quality purse instead.” So much regret…
- A good-quality, broken-in pair of runners. I decided to bring my lightweight sports shoes to avoid having to carry my bulky runners, but since I’ve arrived here I joined a running group comprised of a few international staff, and after going out on a couple of runs I realized that having a solid pair of running shoes makes a big difference in keeping your joints healthy and limiting the amount of blisters you will get!
I’ve been able to purchase all other things I need here for low to mid-range prices so thankfully my list of packing regrets is not sky-high. To give you an example, I was able to purchase the items below for about 20 USD in total, which amounted to less than $2 an item.