What to Pack

This MAY be your first time flying, EVER! And if that’s the case, there are some basic things to keep in mind as you begin packing for your adventure abroad.

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Knowing what to pack for your program abroad can seem like a daunting task. Most likely, your program provider or home institution has a list of items they share with participants preparing to go abroad each year. However, this MAY be your first time flying, EVER! And if that’s the case, there are some basic things to keep in mind as you begin packing for your adventure abroad. Additionally, there may be some items that pertain to your identity that will be important to bring with you. With that in mind, here are some of our recommendations for what to pack.


Luggage

The amount you can pack will vary depending on the airline you travel with, and sometimes the destination as well. Luggage restrictions vary by airline, so be sure to check with yours before you start packing. A few reminders:

  • Airlines generally allow two pieces of checked luggage, in addition to carry-on and ‘one small item’. The small, personal item usually refers to a purse, backpack or briefcase, but check with your airline to make sure the bag you have in mind fits their description.
  • The luggage(s) you check cannot exceed the weight and dimension limitations stated by the airline - so if you can, weigh your bags before you go to the airport. The last thing you want is to realize you overpacked and have nowhere else to put your stuff.
  • Attach an identification tag with your contact information on each piece of luggage. Keep in mind that your cell phone may not work in your new country, so providing an email address, or the contact of your new host family somewhere will also be a good safety precaution in case your bags get misplaced.
  • Bring a backpack or other small bag to use on short excursions.
  • Keep any valuable and important items in your carry-on luggage. This includes your passport/ID, visa, money, credit cards, tickets, cell phone, laptop, jewelry, medication, etc.
  • Bring a change of clothes in your carry-on, in case your checked baggage gets lost.
  • Pack copies of important documents in your carry-on luggage, but keep them separate from the originals. Make sure you have the contact information of important people - from your host family/institution, to your program director, to your study abroad office.

In addition, proper packing is more important than ever due to heightened security measures.  Check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for the most up-to-date information on regulations and screening processes.


Clothes

There is no perfect formula for deciding what clothes to pack. You are unique, and what you will pack will be different from other students. To help evaluate how much and what kinds of clothing you will need, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where am I going, and what season will I be there?
  • What will the weather like there during that time of year?
  • How often will I (or my host family) do laundry?
  • What kinds of activities will I be doing? Think about things like hiking, visiting museums, going out, interacting with the locals, etc.
  • What are the social and cultural norms for clothing in this city, and what types of considerations do I need to think of with respect to my identity?
  • Do I want to blend in with the locals?
  • Am I planning to buy clothing when I arrive?
  • What are the current restrictions of my airline and the TSA?
  • What will I be able to purchase abroad?
  • Will towels and bedding be provided?
  • Are there any occasions where I will need dressier clothing?

Your answers to these questions will help you decide what kind of clothing will be appropriate for your trip. Use the list below as a starting point for what clothes you will take:


Tops

  • Shirts (polo, dress shirts, t-shirts)
  • Sweaters

Bottoms

  • Jeans
  • Pants (slacks, khakis)
  • Skirt/dress
  • Shorts

Underwear

  • Undergarments
  • Long underwear

Footwear

  • Cotton socks, wool socks
  • Shoes, sandals, heels, hiking boots, water shoes
  • Flip flops (for the shower)
  • Indoor shoes/slippers (in some cultures, this may be expected!)

Outerwear

  • Lightweight jacket (with zip-out lining for cold weather)
  • A heavy sweatshirt
  • Sweater
  • Waterproof jacket

Accessories

  • Warm hat, beanie, scarf
  • Umbrella

Pajamas

Recreational clothes

  • Work-out clothes
  • Bathing suit

Cultural Products

Some products you use at home may not be available abroad. This is particularly true for products specific to your culture. If you think you may have a hard time finding certain products abroad, be sure to pack what you’ll need for the duration of your trip. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Hair products
  • Facial products
  • Feminine products
  • Religious products
  • Cultural toiletries

Electronics

It’s hard to imagine going abroad without your every day, trusted electronics, such as your cell phone or laptop. As a student, it might be a basic requirement to have a laptop in order to complete homework assignments, or a cell phone to help you navigate your new home.


However, we do not recommend bringing expensive electronic equipment abroad. If you decide to bring electronics - from digital cameras to hair products, you will likely need to pack an outlet converter because the voltage used in other countries differs from the U.S. Here is a suggested list of electronics you might want to pack, as well as considerations for each item:

  • Laptop
  • Cell phone
  • Portable cell phone charger (so you can recharge your phone after taking a day of taking a million pics!)
  • USB/Flash Drive to store important photos/documents
  • Digital camera
  • Extra batteries
  • All your device chargers!
  • Power Strip (so you don’t have to search for multiple wall outlets!)
  • Converter

Unfortunately, even with a converter, your electronics still may not work properly. For many appliances, it’s more convenient and safer to purchase them once you arrive in your host country.


It may be hard to imagine living without the electronics you use everyday, but remember, don’t bring anything you can’t afford to lose.


Hygiene/Medical

Many countries will have similar hygiene or medical products that you can buy once you arrive, but depending on where you study, everyday products you take for granted may not be readily available. Here are some suggestions for hygiene and medical products to bring:


Academic/Cultural Support

If you’re going to study abroad, then you may be required to pack some of the basic items necessary to be a student. Although some of these may be provided to you, or can be easily purchased once you’re in your new country, you may be particular about what you like to use. Regardless, here are some suggestions:

  • School Supplies - Notebooks, pens, highlighters
  • Textbooks or audiobooks
  • Language phrase books
  • Maps of your new city, school, etc.

Tips for packing

Now that you have an idea of what to pack, here are some of our basic tips for how to pack. Keep in mind that you may end up buying tons of new clothes or souvenirs for your friends and family back home. You always have the option of buying another suitcase while you’re abroad, but that might not be the most cost-efficient solution. (Especially if you already packed 2 suitcases!). Here are our basic packing tips:

  1. Pack light. Trust us! You’ll have an easier time getting around.
  2. Leave space in your luggage so you can bring home souvenirs.
  3. If necessary, you can ship items home or have them shipped to you. However, this can be expensive, so only do this if you feel it is worth it.
  4. Resealable plastic bags can help keep your luggage orderly and provide protection against spills. Plastic bags can also be handy for storing things like a wet swimsuit.
  5. If you feel that you have unnecessary stuff when you’re packing to return home, consider donating or throwing away the things you no longer want.
  6. Take a journal so you can keep track of your activities and to reflect on your experiences abroad.

Want additional packing advice? Check out some of our articles:

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