What to Bring
Besides the obvious, like clothes and shoes, here are some items you won’t want to forget.
Small items with you just to make it feel like “home”, such as family and wedding pictures or a favorite stuffed animal for your child.
Heavy coats and rain jackets with hoods. You may also find that having some kind of boots are helpful for the consistently wet weather as well as a sturdy umbrella (although you can easily pick up those items once you’ve arrived as well). If you have small children, you will want a rain cover for your stroller, but again, you can easily find them here too.
Long johns, cuddle duds, leggings, etc. for walking longer periods of time in the cold, as well as for the indoors as the temperatures are kept lower than expected.
Don’t forget your camera! You will definitely want to take pictures of the beautiful cities and countryside in Scotland. Be sure to bring its cables and chargers as well.
UK adapters for laptops and DVD players (you can buy them here, but they will probably be cheaper in the US).
Voltage converters if you are bringing any small electrical appliances (you won’t need one for laptops). US voltage is 120. UK is 220-240. You will fry any appliance, such as a hair dryer, if you run it on an electrical outlet adapter alone without a voltage converter. Voltage adapters can be very heavy, so it is usually better just to buy items like hairdryers once you get here.
Installation/back-up disks for your computer including model numbers.
References from your bank, employers (both spouses if applicable), and previous landlords.
Resume/CV related information.
Important documents, such as your marriage certificate, social security cards, passports/visas, letter of acceptance to the University, a copy of last year’s taxes. You may also want to consider leaving copies of all important documents with someone in the US.
Some families have found large plastic totes (secured with luggage straps) have discovered this a cheaper alternative to purchasing large pieces of luggage. Plus, on arrival the totes can be stacked and/or used for storage purposes. Additionally, normal luggage can mold in outdoor storage sheds/compartments, but this is not the case with plastic totes.
Things you may not have thought about bringing
Many of us have learned the hard way what we wish we had brought with us for those first few days and weeks in a new country.
A few pens/pencils and paper for when you first arrive and have nothing to write with or on.
Map of Aberdeen city (even a printed internet copy with street names listed). This is helpful for the first few days when you may not have access to the internet and/or phone.
If you know where you are going to live prior to arriving, print off walking directions from your flat to the nearest supermarket (Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrison’s, Tesco). This will be a great help in navigating upon arrival!
Family recipes you’ll want to use while here.
Contact information of your doctors, dentists, eye doctors from your current country should you ever need to obtain medical information from them, as well as copies of past prescriptions for medicines, glasses, contact lenses, etc.
Some GBP (£) to get you started when first arriving (if you prefer not to get it from the airport).
One or two small kitchen utensils you may not want to part with that will help make it feel like “your” kitchen, including some lightweight US measuring cups/spoons.
No matter how you do it, be prepared that shipping anything to the UK is costly.
International moving companies – There are an abundance of international moving companies if you are interested in shipping a larger amount of stuff, such as a pallet or at least 100 cubic feet, but be prepared for it to cost you $1000-$2000 and take three or more months to arrive. To get price quotes from several different companies, you can check out websites, such as www.intlmovers.com and www.123movers.com. If you decide you would like to use an international shipping company you can learn about your rights and find a licensed shipping company through the Federal Maritime Commission.
FedEx – It is not recommended that you or loved ones ship to you using Fed Ex. If you do choose to ship with them, note “personal effects” on the box and be prepared to offer information confirming you’ve owned the items previously and that you are in Scotland for education purposes. FedEx is notorious for charging import duties on items that are pre-owned and has caused serious headaches for more than one student family.
US Postal Service – The least expensive way to ship smaller boxes and packages is surface through the US post office. Be very careful what you choose to ship and realize that unless you pay more to send it air, it may take more than the 6-8 weeks they suggest. Also, be aware that, should you choose to ship a brand new item directly from the manufacturer/seller into the UK from outside the EU, you may be charged a customs “duty tax” and/or a VAT tax on the item(s), which is often collected on delivery of the box or package. For more information about duty & VAT tax rules please visit the HM Revenue and Customs website here.
Airline extra baggage – Because shipping is so expensive, check with your airline to see what they charge for extra baggage. Chances are good that even if you have to pay $100-$150, it will cost you much less to do it that way than it would to ship a box of equivalent size and weight.
What to Leave
To help you avoid bringing things you will not need, here are some pointers.
Warm weather clothing is not needed. Forget the shorts and flip-flops. Summer temperatures rarely get out of the low 70s and mostly hover in the upper 50s or 60s.
Most flats for rent come fully furnished, so bringing household items, decorations, and linens simply isn’t necessary. You may find that you have to purchase several things for your new flat simply because “furnished” means something different to each owner, but for the most part, you will have everything you need on a basic level. Many students arrive with only their airline baggage allowance of suitcases and that’s it. There are an abundance of fairly inexpensive household-type stores, charity shops, and other organizations that can help you stock your place with other necessary items. Generally speaking, plan to spend anywhere between an additional £100-300 up-fitting the flat to your needs and liking.
Items for your children like toys and books are pretty easy and inexpensive to stock up on once you arrive. Bring a couple of items for those first few days (and for the plane ride), but you can quickly stock up once here.