Bring It Or Leave It: A Study Abroad Packing Guide
Let’s face it, if you have not had at least three panic attacks when thinking about packing for your study abroad trip, then you must be doing something wrong. If you are like me, just picking out something to wear on a daily basis is a struggle. When I am in the process of packing, every piece of clothing has miraculously taken on a new importance and appreciation and before you find someone telling you that your ugly Christmas sweater is not a good look for going out in Florence, take a step back and look at what you actually do wear on a daily basis. The main question to ask yourself while packing is “Can I buy this there?”. Whether your experience abroad will last two weeks or a whole year, this list will guide you on what and what not to bring.
Now, let’s get basic.
Clothes, but not all of them.
This is biggest struggle for some of us, but this is the time to pry yourself away from your six pairs of “favorite” shoes and opt for just two or three practical styles. Take along some basic shirts and pants according to the climate for layering. You never know how creative you can get with minimal, coordinating pieces of clothing. Of course, a nice jacket or dress for special occasions is good to have on hand as well.
Toiletries, but small sizes.
This category, along with clothes, is one that is easy to get carried away with. Do a bit of research to make this part of your travel prep easier. For example, Japan doesn’t sell Western-style deodorant so I made sure to pack some extra. I also made sure to add some pain reliever for emergencies before I found a good substitute. For prescription medications, check your study abroad country’s rules and regulations when it comes to what and how much of your meds you can bring.
For the rest of your bathroom products, keep it to carry-on sizes. You can reuse your travel size bottles for weekend getaways in between your studies. Bring the basics, and buy what you need there.
Copies of all your important documents (duh).
Light, easy to pack away, and important!
About $300 worth of your country’s currency is a good starting place for cash if you don’t have a debit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees.
School supplies and extra books.
This was the biggest mistake I made when I went abroad. I brought books that I thought would aid me in my studies. Now, I have accumulated an extra stack of books to bring home. In the end, it will just add weight to your luggage. If you are attending a university abroad, you are almost guaranteed to collect some books.
All of your makeup and jewelry.
Stick to a few classic pieces and colors.
Keep the weather in mind when you are packing. Style conscious students might want to read up on the local trends in the area to see what is in and what might make you stick out. Your new country also might dress more modestly than you are used to.
Expensive and sentimental items.
It is best to leave these items in your home country in a safe place. One less thing to worry about!
Of course, everyone’s study abroad experience will be different. Whether you are spending a year studying in Europe or just a few weeks backpacking though South America, everyone’s packing priorities differ. For the most part, I packed light for my six month study abroad in Tokyo and was left with a large space in my suitcase for things I accumulated throughout my stay. I purchased items as I needed them. Be smart, think ahead, and remember it is okay to be a little basic when it comes to packing!