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Packing Tips for Study Abroad

(photo by Hannah Zoppi, Athena Alum – Paros Island, Greece)

If you are nervous about what to pack for your study abroad experience, you are certainly not alone. No matter the location or duration, one of the biggest concerns for students is: “How on earth do I pack for living in a foreign country?!” Fear not! We have compiled advice from those who have experienced all that is studying abroad to make a comprehensive and hopefully reassuring list of what you should, and should not take for your experience abroad. Broken down into four categories, use this as a guideline for your packing to ease your worries. 

LUGGAGE

There are several important things to remember when packing for your flight due to airline restrictions and common airline blunders. Generally, you are allowed one or two checked pieces of luggage and one carry-on bag/suitcase.  Here are general guidelines for what to pack in these separate pieces. 

Carry-on

  • Spare change of clothes in case your checked luggage gets lost or has a delayed arrival. 
  • Paper copies of your passport, visa and credit/debit cards separate from the original documents. Obtaining these while abroad (if lost) can be very difficult. 
  • Valuable items such as tickets, directions, money, credit/debit cards, laptop, medication etc. 
  • Remember to watch the amount liquids in your carry-on as well. There are restrictions on how many ounces of liquid can be allowed in airlines due to heightened security. 
  • $100 in local currency to get you through the first day/evening. 

Checked Luggage

  • It is really important to check your airline’s regulations on the number of luggage pieces and the weight of each piece. Most often, you will be charged if you are over the weight limit or have too many pieces. 
  • Packing a smaller bag inside of a bigger piece of luggage will be helpful for in-country travel and convenient when you come home with all of your souvenirs!
  • Also consider how far you will be carrying your entire luggage collection upon arrival in your host country, when you will be tired and jet-lagged from travel. 

CLOTHES

This is possibly the biggest source of stress for some students, and rightfully so. You do not want to be cold, hot, underdressed, overdressed or simply without your favorite sweater. We have some packing suggestions, but remember that even if you do forget something it can most often be purchased in-country. 

Things to consider when packing your clothes:

  • Where are you going?
  • What seasons will occur while you are there?
  • What is the weather/climate like? 
  • What kind of activities will I be participating in?
  • What are the cultural clothing expectations for the host city?
  • Do I want to blend in?

Tips for Packing Clothes: 

  • Most countries will have you walking more than you are accustomed to on a daily basis, so maybe reconsider those stilettos! When walking all day, or all night, you will most likely want comfort. 
  • For personal hygiene reasons, bringing a pair of flip-flops for the shower is a great idea. 
  • Typical American college students usually dress far more informally than college students in cities outside the United States. If you want to blend in, leave the hoodies and sweatpants at home. (One pair for bedtime is of course fine.)
  • Rolling your clothes can save a lot of space. 
  • Leave the expensive or valuable jewelry/items at home. It is not worth losing them in a foreign country!

*Many times when students pack their bags they feel the need to bring their entire closet. For your own sake, avoid this common trap! Gather what you think you need, and then try eliminating half of it. You will be surprised by how much you do not need once you’re in-country. This is especially true with jeans. Jeans are heavy, hard to wash and dry (often dryers are not even available in your host country) and are sometimes perceived as ‘unfashionable’ (if that is one of your concerns). One or two pairs should be plenty. 

Clothes you do not want to forget:

  • Socks
  • Long Underwear
  • Scarf (easy to carry around and use for warmth)
  • Undergarments 
  • Rain gear (a jacket and one umbrella will be fine)
  • Bathing suit (depending on where you’re going)
  • Wool Socks
  • Heavy Sweatshirt
  • Lightweight Jacket
  • Clothes to sleep in
  • Recreational clothes
  • Workout clothes
  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • One nice outfit (just in case)
  • Shoes (comfortable and practical)
  • Belt
  • Location and season appropriate gear 

ELECTRONICS

Different countries have different outlets and voltages for their electronics, meaning that there is a great chance of ruining your electronics should you plug them in abroad.  Considering this, it is a good idea to leave most of your electronics at home.  

  • Hair dryers and flat irons can be purchased rather cheaply in most countries. 
  • For your laptop, check which adapter you’ll need for your specific host country.  Sometimes students can get away with using internet cafés or computer labs by using a USB drive to transport their documents. 
  • If you do bring electronics like your ipod/mp3 player, camera, laptop etc. Remember to bring chargers and adaptors for each of them! 
  • Also, consider purchasing insurance for your more valuable electronics (such as your laptop, camera, etc.) in the event that they are damaged or stolen.


TOILETRIES

Most toiletries can be purchased in-country, if you do accidently forget something. But try to remember the things you use every day so you can spend your money to sample local cuisine or take a day trip! It is also really important to remember your medication or prescriptions as those are very hard to obtain abroad and equally hard to have shipped to you from home. 

  • Medical Prescriptions
  • Contact Lenses (back up ones too) and solution
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Bandages
  • Pain Reliever
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Anti-diarrhea medication 
  • Insect repellent
  • Nail clippers
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste 
  • Deodorant
  • Q-tips
  • Travel packets of tissues  
  • Sunscreen
  • Ziploc bags (surprisingly convenient) 
  • Any special medical or hygiene products that might be difficult to find abroad

 

We hope these guidelines were helpful in preparing for your experience abroad and making the packing process a little less stressful. Safe travels! 

 

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