You’ve chosen your destination and your program and you’re super stoked about your upcoming study abroad experience. Now for the tough question: What to pack for study abroad?
It’s an overwhelming thought that will be in the back of your mind until takeoff. Then you’ll worry if you packed enough or too much. That’s okay! Take it from someone who spent five months studying abroad and is currently traveling the world with a couple of backpacks, it’s hard to be perfect with packing, nearly impossible.
In this post, we’ll help you figure out what to pack for your study abroad adventure so that your mind can focus on more important things like what you’ll be eating when you’re abroad!
Besides listing some things we actually use, we also provide a couple of essential tips. Be sure to read them for some practical tips to help you avoid those darn packing mistakes and scroll down to download your free PDF packing list!
Still on the fence about studying abroad? Read about some tips from my study abroad experience in Italy in our tips for studying abroad post.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Walking is essential when studying abroad and it’s arguably the most important packing item we list. When in Europe, Asia, wherever, you will walk! And then you’ll walk some more! You want something that provides comfort and looks good too. But most importantly, you want durability!
Timberland Women's Nellie Double Waterproof Ankle Boot
I wish I had these boots while studying abroad but I have these for our current travels and I wear them. All. The. Time. I can’t stress how important it is to have a durable pair of comfy boots. I had a cheap pair while studying abroad and the soles fell off while I was walking through the streets of Siena.
Timberlands are good for walking around a new city!
They’re also great for hiking!
TOMS Women's Juttie Ballet Flat
Comfortable and Stylish TravelPants
Levi's 711 or 712 Jeans
I sometimes struggle with buying jeans that are comfy and make me feel good but I have had the most success with Levi’s 711 and 712 jeans. One weird thing about these jeans (and all jeans in general) is that in my experience the darker wash of the same style and size of these jeans are snug and not as comfortable as the lighter wash. Whatever you choose, 711 or 712 are versions of slim/skinny fit that you can be comfy in and still look stylish.
95 Degree Yoga Pants
Coats and Jackets
While I studied abroad I brought one lightweight jacket and I was FREEZING! I ended up buying a cheap, big winter coat that worked well for my time abroad but if I could do it all again I would have brought the two jackets below. Both are lightweight and work well together or separate.
Columbia Women's Pardon My Trench Rain Jacket
Wantdo Women's Lightweight Packable Down Jacket Hooded Insulated Coat
For the spring and fall semester of study abroad, you want to pack something warm! Whether you’re meeting winter at the front end or back, there will be a cool/cold period during your study abroad. If you’re studying abroad in the summer then, most likely, no worries! You have more room to pack something else. Always check the weather averages of your destination!
Other Packing Essentials for Study Abroad
These are things you may not have thought of. For example, if someone hadn’t told me that deodorant was different in Italy I would have been stinking up a storm. Luckily, I packed enough deodorant to last the entire semester.
Degree Women's Antiperspirant Ultraclear Black + White
Pretty self-explanatory, you need some smelly good under those arms. However, deodorant isn’t the same abroad as it is in the US. Having studied abroad in Italy and then again having traveled Europe for the summer, good deodorant is hard to come by. It’s cheap back home and does the job so pack enough before going abroad!
Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera
High Sierra Backpack
Not only is this a great backpack to use for the trip abroad, it’s an awesome backpack to use while you’re there! If you have a weekend off and want to train or fly to another country, then this backpack will serve all your needs! It’s not a hard, solid suitcase so it can be maneuvered into tight spaces. It’s also better to walk with this on your back than rolling a suitcase on cobblestone streets!
I’m a big fan of High Sierra! As long as you have a 30 to 50-liter backpack you should be able to pack what you need for weekend trips.
Pro Tip: If they try to tell you at the airline ticket counter that the backpack is too big to carry on then do whatever you can to fit it in their luggage size stand. If it’s mostly clothing then it should fit without an issue. Clothes are squishy!
For your computer, for your phone, for your tablet, for your…whatever. There are a lot of electronic devices on us nowadays and you’ll need a travel adapter if going abroad! Odds are the plugs are different than the US. We think it’s smart to have a multi-country adapter in case you venture off somewhere during your study abroad then you’ll have a way to plug in!
In Addition, Here’s a Study Abroad Essential Packing List
2 weeks of socks
2 weeks of underwear
Flip flops or sandals
Short sleeve shirts
Long sleeve shirts
What Not to Pack for Study Abroad (dependent on your country):
I bought 4 hats when I lived in Italy for 5 months.
If your program overlaps with any cold season then I would buy scarves abroad. I can’t tell you how many stands and marketplaces sell scarves. This was the case especially in Italy, but you can find these stands all over Europe. I wasn’t much of a scarf lover until I studied abroad in Italy.
If you’re like me and you like to wear hats then don’t worry about packing any for study abroad! They’re like the scarves and you can buy them anywhere for cheap!
More than One Suitcase
You really don’t need to bring your entire life with you when you study abroad. You’re also likely to acquire a fair amount of stuff on your travels. One suitcase and a large backpack should be plenty for everything you want to bring.
Summary of What to Pack for Study Abroad
We hope this list has been useful for you. Whether you’re studying abroad for a semester or a year, it’s a smart idea to pack essentials and be as efficient as you can. Try packing a few times before your departure date and choose what goes and what needs to stay home. Odds are you’ll have over packed! No matter what you pack for studying abroad, it’s going to be an awesome experience. Get your free study abroad packing checklist!