Five Unexpected Items Every Study Abroad Student Should Pack

Congratulations! You’ve made a wonderful and exciting decision to change your life, move across the world, and be a student inside and outside of the classroom. Quite a few people told me I was “brave” when I decided to study abroad, but it felt more overwhelming than “brave.” Unlike a summer job away from home, studying abroad means you’re moving your life. You’re not only on an adventure, but you’re still a student. I was kind of lost when it came to the essentials of what to pack, but I’ve assembled a list of five unexpected items every study abroad student should pack that have my experience abroad easier and cozier.

  1. My Mug (or your own comfort item from home)

This baby is my piece of home. As an avid drinker of tea, I knew I would need a mug upon arrival. No question. While I knew I would buy some mugs as souvenirs from adventures, I had a feeling that bringing one from my home collection would be comforting. And I was so right, thanks past Kendall! While you may not drink tea as much as I do, find something small to bring with you that will remind you of home. I find that an item I use daily is easy to convince yourself to bring.

  1. Bluetooth Speaker

I wholeheartedly believe that every college student should have one of these. There is something quite comforting about listening to a film or music through speakers instead of your phone or laptop. They are also great to bring to parties or get-togethers with your new friends! Conveniently, you can find these quite cheaply and they’re usually quite small and don’t take up a lot of space. You may not need this, but I’ve used this speaker so many times that it has definitely paid for itself.

  1. Clothing Essentials

Do not over-pack. Repeat: do not over-pack. I only brought the essentials of my clothes, just enough to get through two weeks. You want to have extra space in your suitcase to bring back that beautiful sweater from Ireland or that blanket you found at that flea market. Don’t waste it with that dress you may or may not wear. Dress simply (yet still yourself) and give yourself some space to collect some items over the semester.

  1. Command hooks

In the last few years, I’ve lived six places. Home has become rather temporary, but I’ve found that my space and how “homey” it is really affects my mood. Putting command hooks on the walls to hang things up changes the whole space. I hang everything from twinkle lights to scarves to my American flag! I’m a very visual person, so having things on the walls makes everything a little more organized. Plus, these are small and easy to pack and you can always restock the sticky backings.

  1. Poster Putty

Again, putting things on the walls changes the whole space. I have a collection of photos that I bring with me wherever I go. Putting these up with poster putty is a sweet reminder of past adventures and amazing relationships I’ve collected over the years. I’ve also used poster putty to put up maps and posters I found on trips. A few of my friends have borrowed from my poster putty stash this semester since they can’t seem to find it here and didn’t think of bringing any with them. Think ahead and stash some in your suitcase!

Things You Will Be Tempted to Pack but Can Usually Purchase After Arriving

  1. Hangers
  2. Winter coat
  3. Mirror
  4. Blanket
  5. Laundry detergent
  6. Dishware
  7. Cookware
  8. Organization supplies
  9. School supplies (pens, notebooks, textbooks)

I didn’t bring any of the above items with me and purchased them all at second hand and charity stores. It was totally worth not packing them from home, trust me.

Make packing easier on yourself and imagine what you can purchase after you arrive at your new home. Research what might be different or unavailable in the country you’re studying in ahead of time in case you need to bring something. For example, I know that tampons are hard to find in China, so a friend of mine packed loads before she studied there for the summer. While familiar items are indeed necessary for homesickness, studying abroad is about getting outside of your comfort zone! While it may be different, it’s totally possible to find cheap and quality items.

What makes you feel at home in a new and strange place? Comment below!

Profile photo of Kendall Varin


Kendall Varin

I'm a native Idaho girl who decided to branch out from my roots in the Pacific Northwest. The last autumn semester of my senior year I was very studious (and slightly adventurous) in Scotland. Having lived six places in the last two years, I don't plan to stop there. I'm convinced my life’s purpose is to meet and love as many people from all over the world as I can. Follow my blog as I post about confidently traveling solo, studying literature in a different country, and how little it takes to truly feel at home! For a little Scottish appreciation, make sure to check out my Instagram too!


Leave a Reply