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Study Abroad

What to Pack

Everyone gets excited when it’s time to pack for a trip abroad, maybe too excited. Half of the things that you think you absolutely need, you most likely will not. Remember, wherever you are traveling, there are convenience stores and laundry mats! You will sometimes find items cheaper abroad than in the U.S. Pack travel sizes and pack essentials. It is important to research local dress customs and pack accordingly. There are many destinations where you want to pack very conservative clothing as to not stand out. Anywhere you travel, if you stand out as a tourist you are an easy target for pickpockets. Pack smart!

Pack lightly! If you cannot carry your luggage, you’ve packed too much. A great tip when packing is to pack once, take everything out, ask yourself if you really need and pack again. 

Leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs while abroad. You do not want to have to buy another suitcase only to find out the fees for another bag are $140.  Check luggage allowances before departure. Leaving room in your suitcase beforehand will allow you to buy even more beautiful souvenirs for everyone back home (and for yourself, too).

Items you should buy abroad (and leave abroad)

  • Bed linens (often will be supplied by housing services), towels, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razors, sunblock, and school supplies.

*It may be useful to pack travel size deodorant in your carry-on for long flights.

Hair dryers, curling irons, and hair straighteners should all be bought abroad. Countries run on different wattage/voltage systems and hot electronics do not have built in converters or surge protectors. Often times these items overheat and can blow fuses. To avoid breaking your expensive hair styling tools you should buy these abroad or purchase them from online stores before you leave. Most of the time, it is cheaper to buy these items abroad.

If you are going abroad and are expecting cold weather, save room in your luggage by wearing bulkier clothing on the plane.

When you are thinking of how many jeans, shirts, skirts or shorts to pack remember to pack with layers in mind. You can always take articles of clothing off if you are hot but you can never add if you are cold. You are also going to want to buy clothing while you are abroad. Most people who go abroad start to dress like a local because their fashion is way cooler and ahead of all the fashion in the U.S. Not kidding! Europe, China and Japan are usually one or two seasons ahead of the U.S. in fashion. It is also exciting to look like a local and wear traditional or ethnic clothing.

For students studying on short-term programs, you may want to get in touch with other students you are traveling with as you can share some items such as adapters, hair dryers, shampoo and conditioner. Since most programs are either on the go or in areas with limited WiFi access you may want to consider leaving your larger electronics such as lap tops at home, as your hotel room, hostel or homestay may not have a safe in the room. Depending on where you are traveling, finding a laundry mat or a quick dry cleaning service can be difficult so make sure you pack clothing that was easily. A friendly tip – if you do not have access to a laundry mat and you absolutely need to wash your clothing, pick up some handwashing clothing soap. You can bring a small bottle before you depart or pick one up abroad. Washing your clothing by hand in your shower or sink is better than not washing your clothing at all. Leave your clothes hanging up to dry overnight and they will be good as new!

Regardless of how long your trip is, the most important item in your suitcase will be your walking shoes. A sturdy, comfortable pair of walking shoes is absolutely essential as you will have long days of exploring your new city. Many older cities have uneven, cobblestone walkways that can be dangerous if you are not wearing the correct footwear.


I know what you are thinking. How will I fit all of my shoes? The answer - Leave them! While abroad you are going to be doing a lot of walking, I mean a lot of walking. The point is, you don't need to over pack on the shoes. Pack only essentials - walking sneakers, comfortable flat or sandal, and one pair of low heals. I say low because if you are traveling Europe and you are going out at night with some friends, you will trip and fall all over the uneven, cobblestone walkways and end up hurting yourself, and your shoes in the process. Trust me, it’s not worth it.


Many males tend to under pack. It is important to pack nice “going out” clothing but not to overdo it. Many places will not let you in unless you are dressed to impress. Sneakers are not allowed in many night clubs. Some essentials guys should add to their packing list:

  • A nice pair of pants
  • A dress shirt
  • Loafers
  • Comfortable sneakers or boots for colder climates

Happy Packing!