Maymester Advice, Packing, etc.

IMPORTANT: BRING YOUR PASSPORT AND VANDERBILT STUDENT ID!!! Many of the tickets I’ve booked will require you to show your ID.

We’ll be in the UK for close to a month, which means some strategic packing to make sure you have what you need but can also move around quickly and handle your own luggage. Some suggestions, based on my own experiences.

  1. Bring NO MORE than two bags, one of which you can throw on your back. A rolling bag is also a great idea.  How ever you pack, ask yourselves these questions:
    1. Can I pick up everything on my own to climb two flights of stairs in an underground station?
    2. Can I move quickly enough to board a train or subway car?
    3. Can I walk with my bags up to 1/2 a mile on city streets, some of which might be cobblestones?
    4. Is there an easy-to-reach (ideally waterproof) pocket to place my passport?
  2. RAINCOAT!!! Did I mention we’ll be in the U.K.? And that I’ve never seen Edinburgh except through the haze of raindrops? Make sure you pack an adequate raincoat (not just a windbreaker) that repels water, preferably one that extends past your waist. You can’t go wrong with a hood as well. Finally, make sure you can layer a sweater underneath; particularly in Scotland, it can still be quite cool in May.
  3. Water-proof walking shoes/boots. Hopefully, you already have some version of this from walking around campus, but be sure that whatever you have, you will be comfortably walking around the city all day. Some women’s rain boots don’t have adequate support, and the last thing you want is blisters while walking in the rain.
  4. Travel umbrella…something lightweight you can throw in a bag.
  5. Universal adapter for plugging in you cell phone or laptop computer.
  6. Ear phones for travel and walking tours.
  7. Re-usable shopping bag.  Many shops in the UK now charge for plastic bags; grab one of those bags you can fold up and put in a pocket in case you run across a fruit stand and want to grab some snacks for your room.
  8. Clothes for touring…what will you be comfortable wearing on the train to Glasgow for 7 hours? Walking around city streets, sidewalks, and cobblestones? Walking around an old castle, and perhaps navigating a muddy trail to get there?
  9. Clothes for attending theatre…no need for heels or sparkles, but think about being presentable and fitting in with a mixed crowd attending a cultural event.  Many Londoners will leave from work to have dinner and attend a show, so business casual is a good goal, but something that is also comfortable and walkable. Jeans are also fine more the most part; lots of students will be attending shows as well. Some of the smaller venues will be super casual, but we’ll also be attending an opera at the Theatre Royal Glasgow, so you’ll want at least one outfit that is a little more classy.
  10. A reliable time-keeping device (I know, no one wears watches anymore…) You regularly will be responsible to getting yourself to our many ticketed events, and you will NEED to be there on time.  For theatre performances, on time will mean being in your seat at least 10 minutes before the curtain, because part of your assignment will include observing national spectatorship
  11. Individual Woolite packets and a Tide Stick (or some equivalent). Spending your off-time at a laundromat is kind of a bummer; washing select items in your bathroom sink each night means you get to have more fun.

Some other advice:

  • Tipping at restaurants…between 10-15% is customary in the UK.
  • Be adaptable. Watch and listen to people around you, and follow their cues about crossing the street, catching a train, patiently lining up to have bags searched at museums and theatres.
  • Brexit. We will be visiting the UK at a politically and economically fraught time. If the topic comes up while chatting with locals, your best bet is to listen generously.  Thank them for their perspective, and remember that you are a visitor to their culture.