Around this time last year I was getting ready to leave for a semester abroad in England. While all of my friends were out buying school supplies for the new semester, I was rushing around for last minute items to finish my packing prep. It is hard to pack for a semester (or year) abroad. You need to make sure you have what you need for the changing seasons as well as assimilating into a new culture. You have weight limits you need to consider as well as lots of traveling ahead of you. College isn’t like elementary school where you get school supplies lists. You just sort of have to wing it and studying abroad is the same way.
So what the hell do you pack?
I tried to narrow down the essentials and come up with a list of things that definitely need to be packed into that bursting suitcase, and what can stay home for a few months.
When traveling abroad you are going to need a way to charge your electronics. Plugs are different all over the world and your American plugs will not fit in sockets in the U.K. or Europe or Australia. Voltage can also differ from place to place so not only are you going to need something to change plug, you are going to need something to change voltage as well. This handy piece of magic is a one stop shop for everything you need, anywhere in the world. It is great because you only need the one piece, and you are good to go. If you have a Mac Book or iPhone or any Apple products in general, I would recommend getting the Apple specific converter kit as well. Works like a charm.
An Extra Suitcase
(photo via LL Bean)
This may sound crazy but hear me out. If you are studying abroad in the UK or Europe, traveling to other countries on the weekends is incredibly easy. And even just traveling around your new home country is something you will want to do. However, you will not want to lug around the massive suitcase you brought everything over in. Pack and extra small duffle ( like this one from L.L. Bean) or backpack that can be packed flat in your bag for weekend adventures. It will be easy to throw on buses or trains, and wont take up too much space in your luggage. Plus, when you have all of those souvenirs you promised your friends you would buy, you have a way to carry them home.
Red Solo Cups
You think I am kidding, but I am totally not. Especially if you are studying abroad in England or Australia the fastest way to make friends is to break out these American movie staples the first week of term. It’s an ice breaker and it’s silly and it’s so totally American that they have a level of novelty we don’t even realize. And hey, having extra cups on hand is always a plus.
I know you may need them, I get that. But they space they take up in your suitcase is valuable and trust me, you need it for other things. I brought my hair straightener to England and it last one week before it finally shorted out. They don’t enjoy having converted volts running through them and they will die. That is a fact. Buy an inexpensive hair dryer and/or straightener when you get there. It will save you a lot of hassle. You can save money by sharing with a friend or roommate as well.
Shampoo is heavy. Really heavy. Do yourself a favor and pack only what you need to get you through your first week. You will save weight and space by not bringing full bottles of shampoo and conditioner overseas with you. You will probably only need to purchase shampoo and conditioner etc. once while you are over (well, once per semester) and if you bring over travel sized bottles, you can fill them and bring them along for your weekend excursions.
You’re not a tourist. You are living in this country. The best place to get to know your surroundings is just to be in them. Guidebooks can be helpful when you want to see the essentials in a short amount of time, but when you are living in a place for a few months, exploring on your own and with friends is your best bet. Plus they are bulky and heavy and that space can be used much better. You’ll have all of the resources you will need once you get there and the local students will be much better guides.
What is on your packing list?
Photos via Amazon unless otherwise noted