Packing for a semester abroad

I have studied abroad for two semesters. My first was in Florence, Italy and the second in Dublin, Ireland. Going abroad is an exciting adventure, and the first step is deciding what to bring. Having been abroad twice, here are my tips on how to pack for a semester abroad. At the end, you can find my actual packing list.

1 Get a big suitcase

This may sound obvious, but I know many people who originally intended on bringing two carry-on sized suitcases for four months abroad. For me personally, this idea seems impossible. Even if you don't fill the suitcase on the way there, there's a good chance you will buy things you'll want to bring home with you. I bought the largest suitcase I could find, and it was absolutely stuffed when I came home.

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2 Consider the weather you're going to be experiencing

I had to pack a range of clothes for my semester in Italy. When I first arrived, it was 35 degrees Celsius. When I left, it was 4 degrees Celsius. I started in summer clothes and ended in winter. Which means I had shorts, bathing suits, and sandals mixed with sweaters, scarves, and warm boots. Pack for how long you will be in each of these conditions as well. If it's only going to be could for the last two weeks of your semester, don't make 50% of your clothes for cold weather.

It was warm in Nice

3 Plan outfits rather than just picking individual items

Make sure your clothes match and work together. I made the mistake of bringing specific shirts and accessories that I love wearing at home just to realize they don't match anything else I packed. Pick items that go with everything, like neutral shirts and jeans.

5 Consider how often you want to be doing laundry

If you only have seven outfits, then you'll need to be doing laundry once a week. If you have fourteen outfits, then you can wash every two weeks. In Italy, my clothes took two days to dry on our drying rack. I always had to factor that in when doing laundry, as it meant I couldn't wait until I had absolutely no clothes left to do laundry.

We had to dry our clothes on drying racks in our bedrooms in Italy

6 Roll, roll, roll!

I cannot stress this enough--roll your clothes when you pack them! Rolling has your clothes taking up less space, and it is easier to stuff them together like this. Bonus: space bags! Stuff your clothes in those, and then roll them again! It squeezes all the air out, making room for even more stuff.

7 Don't go overboard with shoes

Both semesters abroad, I brought eight pairs of shoes. Don't be like me, because each semester I only end up wearing the same three pairs and the rest just gather dust. I recommend four pairs of shoes: one pair of sneakers, one pair of something for the weather, one pair of going out/professional shoes, and one pair of casual shoes. So for my time in Dublin, this would be my gym shoes, LL Bean duck boots, my healed black boots, and my black converse. In Italy, it would have been my vans, sandals, leather boots, and gym shoes.

8 Things not to pack

Don't pack pillows, sheets, towels, blankets, or any other bedroom items. I can guarantee that wherever you're going abroad will have these. Many programs also provide these items, or will tell you where to get them.

9 Things you don't expect to pack

They won't necessarily sell your favorite cosmetics in your study abroad destination. I get really dry skin, so I packed my favorite lotion. I also packed two large bottles Advil and Benadryl to save myself the hassle of going to the pharmacy and trying to find an equivalent. Depending on where you're going, it might be a good idea to bring an empty water bottle. In Italy, I had a really hard time finding school supplies in large quantities, so I'd recommend packing some pencils, notebooks, and a planner. Another important thing--a small package of tissues, because you never know if your accommodation will have toilet paper when you move in.

My packing list

  • Shirts
  • Sweaters
  • Pants
  • Shorts
  • Cardigans
  • Jean jacket
  • Tights
  • Dresses
  • Gym clothes
  • Bathing suits
  • Professional attire
  • Heavy coat
  • Jackets
  • Pajama shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Sweatpants
  • Sweatshirts
  • Scarves
  • Hats and mittens
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Baseball hat
  • Phone charger
  • Phone
  • Laptop
  • Laptop charger
  • Outlet converters
  • Wallet
  • Backpack
  • Purse
  • School planner
  • Notebooks
  • Pens and pencils
  • Headphones
  • Glasses
  • Contact lenses
  • Makeup
  • Perfume
  • Hair ties
  • Portable charger
  • Gym sneakers
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Rainboot
  • Sandals
  • Professional/going out shoes

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