Whether you’re studying abroad for a short-term program, a semester or a full year, moving to a different country can be as stressful as it is exciting at times. For many students, one of the biggest challenges that stand between them and stepping foot off the plane in their host country is packing. How much of each item do I bring? What if I don’t have what I need? Is my suitcase is over the weight limit?
There are a lot of questions that surround packing for your time abroad but don’t worry, we’ve been through it a time or two. Here are our top tips for packing for study abroad.
Tip 1: Prepare For Travel
First thing’s first, you have to get to your study abroad destination. In the excitement and frenzy of preparing for study abroad, many students forget about the travel portion of their experience. Be sure to prep your carry-on with all your essentials, including original versions and extra copies of any important documents such as vaccine records and your passport, and a comfortable outfit to travel in (if your trip is longer, consider bringing a change of clothes).
If you can, plan your packing and select items from your suitcase to bring in your carry-on. Don’t bring extra items specifically for travel that will sit on your shelf untouched until it is time to return home.
Tip 2: Less Is More
We know how tempting it is to bring as much as possible with you abroad. However, it’s important to remember that you will be able to find anything you need once you arrive. Ditch bulky, heavy items — how many pairs of shoes will you really need? — and excessive tech gadgets. And as for toiletries, consider bringing travel-sized bottles of your shampoo, body wash, etc. to get you through the first week or so in your host city and stock up once you’ve settled in.
One way to know if you’ve packed too much is if you cannot manage your luggage by yourself. Chances are you’ll have to navigate an airport or two, public transportation, and possibly a flight of stairs into your housing, so it’s best to keep your luggage to what you can carry with your own two hands.
Tip 3: Consider Your Climate
This one might seem obvious, but if you’re studying abroad in a location with a climate or seasonal pattern that is different than what you’re used to at home, do your research. Additionally, if you are studying abroad for a longer period of time be sure to think about what you’ll need towards the end of your program. It might be cold and rainy when you arrive but by the end of your semester, you might be planning some trips to the beach. Think about the big picture and determine what you need to bring with you and what you can pick up during your time abroad.
Tip 4: Be Practical And Stay Comfortable
It might be tempting to buy a whole new wardrobe filled with special, statement items for your study abroad, but we don’t recommend it. You might think you’ll wear that super trendy piece a ton, but you probably won’t. It’s a better idea to bring your favorite most-worn pieces that you know you are comfortable and that you’ll get the most wear out of. Consider versatile basics that you can mix and match to get a ton of different outfits throughout your time abroad, and set aside some budget to do some shopping while you’re there.
Tip 5: Research Your Host Culture’s Customs
As with all cultural differences, it’s important to remember that not all cultures have the same attitudes towards clothing and personal style as we do in the U.S. For example, some countries frown upon wearing athletic clothes outside of the gym while other places are far more conservative all around. Some universities require students to wear uniforms while other locations have an unspoken rule to dress up for class. Research these cultural expectations and plan accordingly. While it might be discouraging to not wear your sweats to class like you would at home, remember that one sure-fire way to stand out as an American tourist than to be underdressed!