What To Bring To Your In-Person REU

The most common question I get from students this time of year is “So what do I need to bring with me?”   Here is a quick checklist of what you should bring and why.

  1. Pack clothing that is comfortable and appropriate for both the program and the weather

    West Coast. Weather can fluctuate so dress in layers.  Coming to the San Francisco Bay Area? You’ll meet Karl the fog. Going to SoCal? You won’t meet Karl the fog but you will see smog.  San Diego or Santa Barbara? June gloom, it does get foggy but then it clears up quickly and it’s gorgeous you won’t want to leave. Going to Arizona State or the University of Arizona? it gets hot!!! You may have heard that you can fry an egg on the sidewalk in Arizona in the summer.  Well, actually no you can’t.  Eggs need 158 degrees to cook through and sidewalks although very hot usually reach out 145 degrees. Although with global warming I could be wrong…

    Canada, Washington State or Portland no umbrellas pack a light raincoat instead.  You don’t want to look like a tourist, right?

    East Coast hello humidity and possibly rain but it won’t be cold, just humid.  If you’re in the middle of the country or in the South East you’ll find that humid weather means it can rain at any moment so it’s not terrible to pack an umbrella.

    Somewhere in the middle is hot and/or humid.  Regardless of where you are, bring sunscreen and possibly a hat and definitely sunglasses 
  2. Business casual clothes for the poster session/networking events.
    Chances are you’ll give a talk at the end of your REU. It will likely be a poster session and possibly a technical talk so be sure to pack something to wear.  You might even have an additional outing where business casual. What is business casual?  Collared shirts or dressy blouses.  Dress socks!  Don’t be that person that wears dark dress pants  and white socks.

    If you decide to invest in a suit or a blazer be sure to cut those strings off.  The white strings on the back of the jacket,  When you see these you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. 

    Close toed shoes!! This is a big one. I’ve had a lot of students say but I’m not working in a wet lab or this isn’t a requirement in my lab.  Okay, I get it but sometimes you may be touring a lab and imagine you get to the lab and this is a requirement so guess what everyone gets to go into the lab and you’re stuck waiting outside because you don’t have closed toed shoes.  It happens and it’s not fun for that person.

  3.  A shower caddy!! Yes, a shower caddy.  If you’re staying in the dorms then you’ll likely be happy you brought one.  Don’t forget flip flops too. 
  4. Maybe a pillow (or not).  Check and see if the dorm or housing you’re staying in has linens (sheets, towels, pillowcases, pillows) they probably do but ask just in case. Fun fact: one year I had a student complain because he didn’t like the thread count in the dorms! I’m not kidding.  Don’t be that person! Unless you have severe eczema and need cotton sheets or a breathable material don’t be that person who complains about the linens on the first day. 
  5. Travel Laundry bag and quarters!! Yes, at some point you will have to do laundry and the likelihood is you’ll have to pay in quarters.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky and they’ll take a debit card but you never know so bring quarters just in case. 
  6.  Packing cubes.  Did you know that some airlines charge baggage fees?  As someone who travels a lot packing cubes are a game changer for me. Maybe right now you have plenty of room in your suitcase. Changes are after a ten-week summer research experience you’ll have more stuff.  Admit it, you know you’re planning to buy a college sweatshirt from whichever school you’ll be visiting this summer. Buy the packing cubes so you don’t have to pay the extra money on baggage fees. You can use that money on Boba instead! 
  7. Your Driver’s License or other official Identification.  This might be a
    no-brainer but believe me I’ve had students forget this.  You might be thinking,” I’m not driving this summer.” Although this might be true you’ll still need identification.  So please be sure to bring this!!  Passport? If you have one, why not?  Again, if you’re going to any high security labs and such you may need to provide this. I once had a student who forgot his ID, his brother wasn’t too happy when he had to drive to drop it off and with gas prices these days…
  8.  A reusable water bottle. You’ll thank me for this one.  Many campuses either a) don’t sell water because they want to be eco friendly, or b) do sell bottled water at a huge markup.  Invest in a water bottle and if you’re a coffee drinker like me buy a tumbler.  You’ll save a lot of money and stay hydrated and awake! 
  9. A lock for your e-scooter, bike, etc. If you are bringing a car be sure to let the program coordinators know and ask for a permit if possible.  On the subject of locks the school you’re at probably has a gym so if you plan to utilize the gym you may want to BYOL Brink your own lock.

  10. Confidence. You’re really excited to begin but as the date approaches good old imposter syndrome can start to kick in. Don’t let it happen.  You got this!!  You have the aptitude and the drive to succeed in this new and amazing experience. Also fun fact: they do not expect you to know everything!!  Believe me, it’s an undergraduate research experience so don’t be shy about asking questions.  If you don’t understand something just ask. Remember the more confident you are the easier it will be for you to ask questions and to reach out for help when you need it.

    Oh wait, since you’re going to be working with people all summer long be sure to check out my audio book (also available in Kindle or Paperback) Rose Colored Lenses: A Survival Guide for Navigating Personalities in the Workplace.”Good luck!!

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