You’ve finished the paperwork, made the trek to the embassy for your student visa, followed the instagram accounts of your favorite travel inspos and doodled “adventurer” and “not all who wander are lost” on every notebook you own. However, a few days before takeoff you start to realize that travel sites tend to have #packinggoals and not realistic packing tips. What if you need a formal gown during those 3.5 months away from your closet filled with prom memories? What if your host country just *doesn’t have* your required hair product? How on earth are you going to fit four months of your life into one checked bag and a carry on? The internet is full of everything from already-created packing lists to the do’s and do not’s of study abroad packing, so here I add a few highlights I’ve gleaned over the years and from some of my favorite blogs.
While you can find some general tips in this post, here are my tips specific to study abroad.
Let’s start from the feet up.
Shoes: Maximum of five pairs. Sandals (1) that are comfortable for lots of walking and waterproof for rain or beach. A good walking boot (2) that’s comfortable for lots of walking, nice enough looking so that it’s able to be dressed up or down and waterproof for walking through rain. Dress shoes (3) — either comfortable flats or heels depending on your preference. I prefer flats because let’s face it, heels and cobblestone European streets just don’t mix well. Sneakers (4) for the everyday walk or hiking trips. And for the optional fifth, choose between running shoes, flip flops, or another specialized shoe depending on what sort of program and which country you’ll be in. Don’t forget socks that match with the types of shoes you bring!
Clothes: Mixing and matching is your best friend. Pack as if you were traveling for a one week vacation with a few nicer outfits thrown in. Choose outfits that reflect what you’re used to wearing. While it might be nice to think about changing your entire style when you’re abroad, you’re going to want something familiar during an unfamiliar transition and often bringing clothes you’re not used to can add a physical discomfort to the initial emotional one. That is to say, don’t only pack dresses if you’re not comfortable in dresses even though you’ve heard they’re the style in your host country.
Do the shopping for specific items before you leave. Things that you’re picky about and will have to wear every day (shoes, coats, ect) are harder to find, especially in an unfamiliar location, so you should get those before you leave. Things like dresses and shirts — everyday items that don’t need to be specific or special — are much more fun to be purchased overseas.
Coats: Layers are your friend! Check the weather averages before you leave so you know the average temperature of the months you will be there, but in case you under or over estimate how you will react to the temperature, make sure you pack a few different types of layers. A light sweater, an undershirt, a wool sweater, a windbreaker and a heavy jacket are all ideas of layers to make sure you have. While you might not need that winter parka, having multiple options that you could pile on in place of the parka is important.
Face and Hair: Pack a travel-sized bottle full of each of your products. That quantity should last you for a week or so until you figure out where to purchase the things you need in your host country. The travel bottles will also be useful later on if you choose to travel during your semester.
Specific makeup products are often hard to find while abroad. If you’re a stickler about your brands, bring enough of the product to last the entire 4 months. If you’re not a stickler about brands, all types of makeup can be found abroad, they just might be slightly different than what you’re used to.
Suitcase choice: As mentioned in my general packing post, choose bags that will be easiest to maneuver once you’ve made it off the plane. If you’re using public transportation, think about how easily you can lift your bag up or down stairs. If you can fit it, think about packing an empty duffle bag in your checked luggage, so that if you need a smaller bag for weekend trips or to fill with souvenirs on the way home, you have it.
For more general packing hacks, check out this post here and take a quick google search for study abroad packing! This simple search can be overwhelming but the internets are full of new and worthwhile ideas.
Good luck, congratulations for making the difficult decision to study abroad, and go have the time of your life!