Black woman with braids, sitting on floor packing and writing in notebook

10 Things You Need to Pack for Study Abroad

Your semester abroad is around the corner and you're ready to get packing (literally). Here are 10 essential items you should bring in addition to your everyday necessities.

While only about 10% of college students in the US study abroad, this number has more than doubled in the last 15 years and is likely to continue to increase due to the continuously globalizing workplace. Once students finish the process of applying to their study abroad program and find out they’ve been accepted, the main thing to do next is research the country to determine what to pack. While there are many basic packing lists available online, below is a list of 10 essential items you should also bring in addition to your everyday necessities. 

1. Immune system supplements

Going to a new place can be hard on your immune system, so one method to prevent sickness is to drink an immune system supplement such as Airborne or Emergen-C. While these are not 100% effective, many people take them before flying or as soon as they feel symptoms of a cold. All you need is some water and the tablets dissolve quickly.

2. Mini umbrella

No matter what season you study abroad, it’s likely it will rain at least once during your program. Instead of bringing a giant umbrella that’s heavy and takes up lots of space in your suitcase, try to bring one that’s small enough to fit in your backpack or purse. You’ll appreciate having an umbrella when it suddenly starts raining and everyone else frantically tries to find somewhere to buy one.

3. Photos of your life back home

While almost everyone has a number of photos on their smartphone, it might be a good idea to print photos of your family, school, friends, special life events, etc. to share with your new community. You may also want to bring extra copies of photos to leave with your host family or friends as a way for them to remember you.

4. Stationary supplies

Writing hand-written notes for people’s birthdays or thank-you notes at the end of your program is a sweet way to convey your gratitude and all that you have learned during your stay. If you aren’t good at making hand-crafted letters, there’s always cheap stationary available at dollar or craft stores.

5. Toiletry essentials not found abroad

These include specific medicines or brands of products you absolutely have to take that are not available in your study abroad country or not easily delivered. Because it’s not always practical to take a semester or year’s worth of something with you, you should research what can or can’t be purchased abroad and only take things you absolutely need. Remember, part of studying abroad is being able to try new products!

6. Business clothing

Many study abroad programs offer internship experiences or chances to connect with potential employers, so it’s wise to bring at least one business casual outfit. Students should research business formality of the culture in which they’re studying abroad before purchasing a complete set of new clothing. In general, it’s better to be too formal than underdressed.

7. Outlet adapters and extra chargers

There’s nothing worse than being a Millennial and not being able to use your electronics! Depending on where you’re going, an adapter is necessary in order to use most gadgets (e.g., phone, computer, hair straightener). And a portable power bank can come in handy on day trips when you’ve drained your cell phone battery and can’t find an outlet. These items can be purchased online or at electronics stores at affordable prices.

8. Gifts for your host family, program coordinators, and teachers

While gift-giving traditions vary in each culture, giving a small token from your hometown to your host family, program coordinator, and teachers at the beginning or end of your study abroad program is a nice way to show your appreciation. Some gift ideas include local products produced in your state, toys for your host siblings, or some of your favorite items, to name a few.

9. Copies of important documents

These include a scanned copy of your passport, international insurance plan, prescriptions (e.g., medical and vision), emergency contact information, and so on. Just because we all have smartphones that usually carry these pieces of information doesn’t mean those devices won’t fail. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. Keep these documents in a thin folder in your carry-on and leave it in a safe space when you arrive at your final destination.

10. Emergency money

Emergency cash should be kept on you at all times, in a separate place from your usual spending money to avoid temptation. While the amount will differ depending on local prices, at least the equivalent of $50 should cover most day-to-day situations, like not having enough money for the local subway or running out of lunch money. Students should plan whether to obtain their country’s local currency before or after arriving in the country.

What do you think is essential to pack for study abroad? Let us know in the comments!

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About Naomi Hong

Naomi Hong graduated from Occidental College in 2018 with a degree in International Relations and Japanese and a minor in Economics. She currently works as a concierge/front desk agent at a luxury hotel in Southern California. She's passionate about hospitality and travel and hope to continue my career within the hotel industry. She also enjoys writing articles about career advice, studying abroad, and learning new languages. 

 

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