How to prepare a move to another continent in less than one week— pandemic edition

A conspicuous part of being an early stage academic is the itinerant lifestyle often associated with it. Besides its fun and adventurous aspects, moving countries is also invariably a demanding task. For perfectionistic overthinkers like myself, the mere act of preparing the luggage can spiral into an excruciatingly elaborate reverie of highly improbable scenarios that make you second-guess your every choice of clothing. If you add a global pandemic on top of that, things can get particularly gruelling. Of course, those small hurdles are quickly forgotten the minute you finish settling into your new home. Nonetheless, the stress-inducing capabilities of a moving ordeal amidst a global health crisis should not be underestimated. If you find yourself having to go through something similar, fear not! I happen to have successfully (although not-so-seamlessly) experienced this same process, and am now on the other side. Since experience is the best teacher, I though it would be useful to list a couple of tips that I’ve learned while trying to organize my move in about one week.

1 – Diligently check the COVID-19 regulations to enter your destiny country.

Each country has developed its own set of regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many places now require negative tests and/or mandatory quarantine periods upon arrival, even if you’re fully vaccinated. So, it is very important to keep yourself up to date with the travel requirements of your destiny country, and make sure to cover all necessary arrangements prior to your self-isolation period. Also check if the immigration requires any specific form or declaration, and make sure to bring extra copies.

2 – Make a painstakingly detailed list of everything you plan to take with you.

Arranging the luggage in this kind of situation can be fairly overwhelming, especially if you are required to self-isolate for a handful of days after you arrive. To ease the fear of forgetting that one plug adapter into which your laptop’s power cord fits, or that particularly comfortable pair of socks that are currently in the laundry basket, I advise you to do what every organisation-enthusiast like myself love to do: make lists. But take it to the next level. You should list every single thing you want to take with you, in as much detail as you can. Although it can feel like you’re being too precious at first, trust me: this will make the actual arranging of the luggage much more straightforward.

3 – Look for bureaus de change outside the airport

Admittedly, exchange offices at airports are fairly convenient: they are usually open 24h and can be easily found nearby international boarding gates. However, these amenities do not come without a (literal) cost. More often than not, the exchange fees in airport bureaus de change are heavily overpriced. If you don’t mind the extra trip, it may be worthwhile to look for alternative locations.

4 – Ask other compatriot expats what they think is essential to bring

Cultural differences are expected, and even desired, when moving to another country. It is part of the expat experience and makes the everyday life more exciting. However, sometimes there is no need to deprive yourself of that specific item that you grew accustomed to and that you can’t easily access in your new home. Before leaving Brazil, I asked people on Twitter what they wish they brought with them overseas and was very surprised with the volume of responses I got. Apparently, our much-appreciated “Havaianas” flip flops can be something of a luxury item abroad, based on the over 50 replies I received adamantly advising me to bring an extra pair.

After a long wait, I finally managed to travel all the way across the Atlantic and safely arrive in my new home in Leiden, where I will soon start my PhD. I must say I am beyond happy to be here and can hardly wait to share more of my life as a doctoral candidate.


Alfred Hopkinson

Great post and good advice, it will be handy for me getting ready to travel.

Patrícia Rocha

I want to be like you when I grow up!

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