What does one pack for a semester (or year) of to study abroad?

The Christmas before I left for Spain, I received two large purple suitcases. In those suitcases, I had to fit all the contents on my life for the next four months, a task I thought impossible. But guess what? I succeeded and you will too.

Know the Culture
Take into account the kind of culture you are going to live in. For explain, in Spain it was not acceptable for men to wear jeans out to discotecas or nightclubs; slacks and a button down were the norm. Pack clothes that you can mix and match. I packed only a couple of pairs of pants and different tops to wear with them.

Check the Weather
Find out what the weather going to be like while you are abroad. In Spain, it was pretty cold for the majority of the semester, but started to warm up towards the end. Therefore, I packed mostly warm, winter clothes. Packing clothes you can layer is always a good idea, too.  One thing you don’t want to skimp on is the number of socks and underwear you bring.  I was lucky enough to have a host mom who did our laundry, but that is not the case for every program.  If you know you aren’t going to have time to do laundry at least once a week, make sure you have enough undergarments to get you through your traveling.

Stick to the Basics
The key lies in the mentality of simplicity. Ladies, I will tell you right now, you will not need to bring all 37 pairs of your high heeled shoes. Guys, you know that t-shirt collection you have? You might have to narrow down the v-necks as well.  A friend of mine studied abroad in Australia, and when he flew back to the U.S., his suitcase was too heavy. He had to start putting on all the clothes from his suitcase. On the plane, he and his friends looked like giant marshmallows with their 15 layers of shirts and sweatshirts and three pairs of jeans.

Forget the Excess
Only bring things with you during your time abroad that you have deemed necessary. Don’t bring any shampoo or soap or things like that, just buy it once you get to your location. Ladies, if the voltage of your host country isn’t the same as it is in the U.S. – DO NOT BRING YOUR OWN HAIR APPLIANCES. They will fry and break. My roommates and I just went in on a hair dryer and straightener and shared; it was cheap and worked out nicely.

Pack Some Essentials

  • an umbrella
  • alarm clock
  • smaller backpack/duffel (for weekend trips)
  • towel wrap (for traveling; some hostels charge you for towels)
  • sleep sack – it’s essentially a sleeping bag made out of a sheet that folds up really small and protects against bed bugs (yes, they are real!)
  • camera/charger
  • scheduler

Helpful Reminders

  • Rolling your clothes takes up much less space (Don’t forget, you most likely WILL buy clothes, gifts, etc. during your time abroad. Shipping things home gets very expensive, so don’t forget to leave room for your new purchases).
  • If you take any medication, make sure you get enough for the entire time abroad, trying to refill prescriptions abroad is a hassle and the host country may not have the same type/dosage as in the U.S.

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