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5 Things I Wish I Didn’t Pack to Study Abroad and Why

by Emma James
AIFS Abroad student at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France

I’m a chronic over-packer, so trying to fit my entire life for four months into a single suitcase was a struggle. While approaching the end of my semester abroad, I’m coming to find that there were definitely some unnecessary items that I brought. Packing less leaves more room for cool souvenirs and leaves you with a little extra money by avoiding overweight baggage fees. For those preparing to study abroad, I’d advise you to read this post carefully!

1. Too many shoes

In an attempt to be “Italian chic,” I brought a lot of shoes that weren’t so comfortable or practical. After just a few weeks of being abroad, I realized that I should’ve left a couple of those 4-inch pairs of booties back in the States and opted for an extra pair of tennis shoes. No matter where you live you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, especially when you go out of the country and are trying to figure out how to get around a new city. AIFS also offers some very cool excursions, so I suggest leaning more towards the minimal and practical side of shoe wear (especially since wearing tennis shoes with everything is very “in” right now).

2. Lots of electronics

Now before you stop reading this post because that line sounds a little crazy to our generation, just hear me out. I, along with quite a few other people in my program, brought a laundry list of electronics: camera, laptop, iPad, phone, Kindle – the whole nine yards. The reality is that more electronics means more chargers and more cords, which also means taking up more space. Honestly, all that you need for studying abroad is your phone and either a laptop or iPad, whichever you prefer, to use for schoolwork. A camera is also useful if you are taking a photography class or if you’re a camera fiend, but I would also caution you from bringing a wide range of lenses and such that just take up excess space.

3. Tons of heavy sweaters

This goes for both girls and guys! Yes, it’ll be chilly for a while and, yes, you want to stay warm, but layers are a much better option than lots of heavy, bulky sweaters. Not only do they take up a lot of room in your suitcase but they also weigh a lot, limiting what else you can bring even further. Lots of long-sleeved shirts, cardigans, and t-shirts that can be layered together will give you the warmth you need for the cooler months, as well as a lot more combination options!

4. Excess toiletries

While there are some little things that you may need, such as contacts or a specific medicine, I promise that going abroad isn’t like going to live under a rock! Stores carry a range of brands of shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, towels, loofahs, and honestly anything else you could possibly think of. Italy specifically has grocery stores that carry my favorite Herbal Essences hair care supplies and has a Lush store near Campo di Fiori with the best smelling products ever. I have been able to find everything else I need at the abundance of grocery stores and pharmacies. Trying to bring loads of big liquids and bulky towels just takes up valuable luggage space. Buy the products you’ll need abroad while abroad, and then just toss any excess before you go back home!

5. Hairdryer/flat iron/curling iron

Seriously, don’t even think about it! All American plugs require an electricity converter, and while this works for laptops and cells phones and such, it can be dangerous if you try to use a hair accessory. The voltage required by American blow dryers and hair styling irons versus the voltage required by the Italian ones is completely different, so when I tried to use my favorite flat iron when I got to Rome, it immediately sparked and died. So when traveling abroad, save yourself the space (and money you’ll have to spend back home buying a new item) and just buy your products in your new city!

This post was contributed by Emma James, who is studying abroad this spring semester with AIFS in Rome, Italy.

5 Things I Wish I Didn't Pack to Study Abroad and Why | AIFS Study Abroad
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