While preparing to study abroad for a whole semester one of the biggest first steps is packing. What to bring, what you won’t be able to get abroad, preparing for multiple seasons and other questions cross your mind — there’s no doubt you’ll want some pointers.
Here are a few packing tips for studying abroad that I have learned:
1. Pack as little as possible
Of all the tips you will hear about packing for studying abroad, you’ll hear this again and again from others who have been through the process. But, it is true: you will benefit from packing as light as possible. While you are trying to navigate to your living accommodations right off the bat, when you are wanting to shop (and you will) and going on weekend trips you will be happy you packed light. Most study abroad locations will have access to shopping of all kinds, so you do not need to overpack. You will want to shop at new stores and new countries. Your accommodations will most likely be a lot smaller than what you are used to in the United States, which is standard. Space will be limited. Lugging three suitcases up to your accommodations or through the airport during the weekend will get old very quickly. For an endless amount of reasons, underpack!
2. Try a capsule wardrobe
This tool will really help when you are packing light. Capsule wardrobes are clothes that all go together and can make up multiple outfits. Instead of one shirt going with one pair of pants, the shirt can go with three pants and the pants go with every shirt. Ideally, every clothing piece goes with multiple other pieces in the wardrobe. This is a really popular idea that many bloggers use and can be found on Pinterest. Packing a capsule wardrobe will help you save space in your luggage, make sure you are getting the most out of the clothes you bring, and is a way to get creative with your outfit choices.
3. Pack favorite foods and necessities
I knew I would have a problem overpacking with clothes when I went abroad. To try and combat that, I filled my luggage with food. Not frozen food or fruits, but things like goldfish, granola bars and ramen noodles. The first reason I did this was to stop myself from filling my bag with clothes, I figured if I filled it with food that would save room for later shopping I did while abroad. I also thought it would be helpful to have some of my favorite comfort food with me. You cannot find many brands that you are used to, even though there are very similar products. I also didn’t want to start from scratch with my food supply in my apartment. Sometimes ramen noodles does the trick when you don’t have the time or funds to have three big meals out a day.
4. Bring full-sized and travel-sized toiletries
Another one of my tips to help you to save space in your suitcase for later is to bring lots of toiletries. When packing for studying abroad, bring the full size of your favorite toiletry products that you can’t live without. You will use these products for four months while and then will be done with them by the time you need to pack up for home. Also bring travel-size toiletries. It is hard to find this size abroad and it’ll be helpful to have them while traveling with only carry on luggage through airports. Some people only bring travel size and that will run out quickly.
5. Remember the seasons
Make sure to check the weather in your new country. Many people studying abroad in Europe imagined summer weather the second they arrived and were unprepared when packing their clothing. Jackets, sweaters and pants need to be considered just as much as bathing suits and flip flops when packing. 50°F may seem a lot warmer than winter in most states, but it is not t-shirt and shorts weather.
6. What bags to bring
To Spain, I brought three pieces of luggage with me: a large suitcase, a small roller that was the approved carry on size, and a weekender bag. I would recommend this combination. You personally feel that you can’t really get away with not having at least one big bag and cannot comfortably live out of a backpack for a whole semester. That suitcase just stays under my bed in my apartment.
My two other bags have been very helpful for my travels though, I am able to choose what one I want or bring them both. Again, before traveling make sure your bags fit in the regulation carry on size in the area you are going. You don’t want to be charged extra or to be made to check your bag. I also find it super helpful to have a weekender bag that has the option to attach to your roll luggage. This helps to navigate through airports easier. That being said, I also recommend luggage with 8 wheels to maneuver with ease. On all my bags I have locks for a little increase of safety, this has come in handy when luggage has gotten lost.
Are there any other packing tips for studying abroad you have found helpful? Let me know!
This post was contributed by Maiya Mindoro, who spent her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Barcelona, Spain.