The best advice we can give you is to pull everything out you plan to pack, lay it out, and then take half of it away. Year after year students declare they over-packed in a big way. That outfit you think you’ll wear “because you’re in Europe”? Not going to happen, if you don’t wear it at home, you won’t wear it abroad.
Take clothes you already love to wear, and realize you will buy more while you’re abroad, especially if you’re abroad for a semester or year.
Good travelers take as little as possible and still have everything they need. Depending on how long you plan to study abroad, your necessity list will vary in length.
Essentials to pack are:
- Comfortable walking shoes
- One nice outfit
- Umbrella or rain coat
- Prescription medication you might need
- Battery operated alarm clock
- Passport, airline ticket/itinerary, entry letter or visa paperwork (only on programs which require this)
- Digital camera
- Music player
Peer Advisors have this to say in hindsight:
What's one item you didn't take on your study abroad program and you wished you had?
Katelynn: I wished I had brought a travel-sized umbrella to fit into the bottom of my bag. I ended up buying one over there and I had to lug it around everywhere.
Hannah Shea: A small microfiber towel that is portable - it helps when not every hostel provides towels or you don't want to use their towels OR a little duffel bag that is able to hold enough for a 5 day trip.
Carlee: I wish I would have taken one towel (just one).
Kadi: Extra bag packed in with my suit case for coming home.
Cara: One thing I wish I would have taken to London was rain boots. Or a pair of shoes that could have prevented my feet from getting soaked. I had a rain coat and a couple of umbrellas, but it all came down to what was on my feet. By the time London Away came and our class traveled to Edinburgh I was fighting a slight head cold. I did not stop me of course, but dry feet would have been nice.
What's the best thing you took with you?
Katelynn: I'm so glad I had my good pair of boots. They were thick soled and made trekking all over Europe much easier. Not to mention I always looked cute. They were a perfect alternative to a pair of clunky tennis shoes.
Hannah Shea: Good walking shoes - tennis shoes preferably...even if they aren't stylish or have bright colors.
Carlee: My essential item was a big back pack.
Kadi: Jackets, WARM not BULKY jackets.
Cara: The best thing I took to London with me was extra duffel bag. I put it in the bottom of my suitcase and I used it whenever we traveled away for the weekend. It was easier to keep up with and when I brought extra things home it was my saving grace.
Top three "essentials" you recommend to future students?
Katelynn: My three essential items were my iPod- to shut out loud people in hostels. My Vera Bradley "wallet purse"- it was the perfect size to carry all of my important paperwork and was discreet when traveling. My book bag- when the weekend comes, those school books can be swapped for a toothbrush and spare outfit so you can hop a train without a huge duffle to slow you down.
Hannah Shea: A combination lock for when you travel; lots of interchangeable clothing that can be layered and worn with each other = less clothing you have to bring; A credit card, debit card or some form of "plastic" that can be your backup cash for emergency situations.
Carlee: I would advise students to bring thick socks, a big back pack, and one warm coat.
Kadi: Bring a GOOD camera. Bring a traveling Backpack (they come in handy ANYTIME you are traveling during a break or on the weekends)! Bring your own supply of toothpaste, feminine products, and deodorant bc even though you can get it over there you will be glad you brought it and plus you'll have extra packing room on the way back. Trust Me!!!
Betsy: A good thing to have is a small bag or backpack that you can easily tote around anywhere you go. Something that you could fit a water bottle and camera in at least. Also, an empty duffle bag that you can stuff in your luggage on the way there, and stuff with souvenirs for your trip home. A camera! Good, comfortable shoes to walk in. Comfortable, practical clothes. And depending on where you are going, at least one outfit for different types of weather (raincoat, thick jacket, appropriate shoes, etc.). With that said, pack as lightly as possible!! Lots of luggage is a pain for you and everyone else involved.
Cara: A camera, a journal, and an opened mind. The camera may be an obvious choice, but having a back up for the camera or memory card was really important for me. If I did not have time to stop and discovered more details about something I saw I would just take a picture so that I could remember and look up more information about it when I had the time. A journal was a huge bonus for me. I took about five or more minutes at the end of each day to sit down and write my adventures down with details so that I would have my thoughts and feelings about each day with me forever. You could always use a blog or type it up too. Finally, having an open mind just allows for you to take in everything and not miss out on experiences you probably would have enjoyed.
For safety reasons you might adjust your clothing style to avoid being the target of pickpockets and other unwanted attention. Ditch the baseball caps and overly American sweatshirts. Ladies, carry a purse that can be carried across your body (not just hanging on your shoulder) and keep it in front of you when in crowded subways or venues. Men, put your wallet in your front pocket. Remember that clothing styles vary all over the world – just look around your university for diverse wardrobe choices! There’s no way to generalize what people wear in a certain country, but you can research trends prior to your departure to blend in a little better, and to respect the customs in your host country.
Electricity runs in a different voltage outside of the U.S. Everywhere else in the world operates in 220V while in the U.S. we use 110V. This means your American-bought electronics will not work without proper precautions. Good news is most electronics these days (computers, laptops, tablets, cell phone chargers) already contain an internal converter that allows for international travel. Hairdryers, hair straighteners, and other items do not. The device will say “110V ≈ 220V” if it is capable of handling dual voltage. In these cases you will only need an adaptor to use your device abroad – an adaptor plugs into the foreign wall socket and then allows you to connect in your American plug. Adaptors do not convert electricity. For those appliances unable to handle dual voltage, it’s generally best to plan on purchasing a local one when you arrive.