How to Pack for Study Abroad

I have always been a chronic over-packer, no matter how many trips I’ve been on. I literally packed SIX large suitcases when I went to college in Connecticut (I seriously brought my whole life and honestly don’t regret it lol). I do, however, know how to pack efficiently (which is a whole other topic in itself that we can get into another time). When I was preparing for my study abroad in Torino, Italy I really wanted to try and make do with one large suitcase (for a few reasons).

I can’t even tell you how many “What to Pack for Study Abroad” and “How to Pack for Europe for 5 Months” articles I read in the past year. Along with being a chronic over-packer, I’m also a chronic planner. I love to plan things out way in advance. This was especially a problem for studying abroad because I committed to Italy about five or six months before our departure. So I had five to six months to just sit there and contemplate what to bring.

I constantly went between two mindsets; one, “I need to figure this out right this second” and two, “I have months until I leave I shouldn’t be worrying about this right now”. Because of this I sort of had an idea what I wanted to pack, and thought packing would be easy (yeah I know that’s like the most ridiculous thing to think for a chronic over-packer). It wasn’t until I started packing did I realize how much limited space I had!

The Planning

Here are some important factors to consider when planning what to bring;

  • The climate of your destination
  • The “social norm” of clothing (ex. Italians dress nice and rarely wear the iconic leggings/t-shirt/nikes combo)
  • Quality of shops/clothes at your destination (ex. Italy is known for fashion, so I knew that I would end up shopping for new clothes there)
  • DO NOT bring clothes you aren’t in love with. Period.
  • Remember to bring “comfort” clothes. By this I mean that favorite sweatshirt that you put on to remind you of home, or that one dress that brings you back to a fun memory

About a week before I was set to leave, I decided it was finally time to start packing. I started by setting aside certain things that I knew I couldn’t live without. This included my favorite pairs of jeans, favorite tops, basically my favorite pieces in my wardrobe. At this point, the pile looked really small. I was like “wow I probably won’t even fill up one big suitcase” (I’m serious, that thought went through my mind).

What I didn’t really plan for, in my head, was my sweaters and jackets. I’m studying during the fall semester, so I needed to think about warm weather and cold weather clothes (I am in Northern Italy, right at the base of the Alps so the weather almost mirrors Colorado). I am obsessed with fall/winter clothing and have over 15 sweaters/jackets, so obviously this was a major problem. I picked out my absolute favorites, and came up with EIGHT sweaters (but obviously I realized that was way too many so I had to reevaluate and bring less).

Essentially, this is everything I packed in ONE large suitcase and ONE duffle bag.

Clothing

  • 5 pairs of shoes (tall rain boots, comfy booties, everyday comfy sneakers, tennis shoes, sandals)
  • 3 pairs of jeans (1 light wash, 1 dark wash, 1 black)
  • 3 pairs of leggings (1 regular black, 1 black with mesh, 1 black with 3 stripes down the side)
  • 3 skirts (1 black, 1 brown suede, 1 plaid)
  • 2 dress (1 casual/cute, 1 nice)
  • 2 pairs of shorts (1 running, 1 hang out/comfy)
  • 4 short sleeve t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve t-shirts
  • 12 cute shirts (2 sleeveless/spaghetti strap, 4 short sleeve, 5 long sleeve)
  • 5 sweaters/cardigans (2 sweater cardigans, 3 sweaters)
  • 4 jackets (1 rain jacket, 1 warmer jacket, 1 patagonia fleece, 1 fuzzy fur jacket)
  • Various undergarments (as many socks/underwear I could fit, 3 sports bras, 3 bralettes, 2 bras)

Toiletries

Toiletries is something based on your personal preference. If you have problem skin and need certain products, you should bring those with. If you’re not particular about products (hair and skin wise), I highly suggest you only bring travel size bottles and then buy products when you get to your host city. Even if you’re thinking “I don’t want to have to buy more stuff when I get there”, just realize that full bottles of product add a lot of weight real quick. I am pretty particular with hair and skin products, so I decided to make room for them. Also, I highly suggest bringing a first aid kit from home! It doesn’t take up that much room and I already had to use a bunch of the stuff I brought! (And if you are going to a country where the official language is not English, it will be really hard to find exactly what you want at the pharmacy). This is what I brought:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Air dry cream
  • Dry shampoo
  • Makeup
  • Face sunscreen, brightening pads, adapalene gel
  • Travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Hairbrush
  • Nail clippers/file/buffer
  • Razor
  • First aid kit (neosporin, band aids, dramamine, melatonin, tums, ibuprofen, mucinex, alka seltzer, airborne)
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume
  • Jewelry

Other

These items are things that are random but definitely still essential to bring or at least think about!

  • Command hooks/string/pictures (by far the easiest way to decorate and takes up close to no room!)
  • Face towel (I knew this wouldn’t be the easiest thing to find)
  • Soft fiber hair wrap
  • Bible, daily devotionals
  • Journal (read my blog post about why you should keep a travel journal)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Nikon camera
  • Polaroid camera, film
  • Essential oils
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses
  • Mini speaker
  • Headphones (3 different kinds)
  • 2 world adapters

There you have it! Every student’s packing journey will be different, but hopefully this insight into how I packed for my study abroad will help you!

Lexi Dageenakis studied abroad in Torino, Italy. This blog originally appeared on Lexi’s blog, Be That Girl. You can read more about her study abroad journey there.