Hand with pencil on list of things to pack, with toy plane, camera, notebook

The Quick, Essential Packing List for Studying Abroad

You're in for a wild study abroad adventure, but first you have to finish (read: start) packing. Here's a quick outline to help you out!

I’ll admit it: Packing to study abroad was awful! When I was preparing to study abroad, I only had two bags to work with for four months of school, and my mom told me she was not paying for any extra luggage, so everything had to fit and meet the proper weight restrictions. I started by limiting the clothes I brought, but I wasn’t sure what would be considered essential. After going abroad during college, I learned there were some items I should have packed and some I definitely shouldn’t have. So to help you not make the same mistake, here’s an essential list of what you should pack for your semester abroad and what you can wait to buy when you get there!

What you should pack to study abroad

This is not a comprehensive list, because there may be additional things that are essential to you but wouldn’t be essential to someone else. So while the point is to restrict what you bring, don’t overlook anything majorly important that isn’t on this list. But here’s what you should definitely bring from my experience:

  • Charging adaptor
  • Smaller weekend travel bag 
  • Travel containers (empty plastic containers to hold shampoo, etc.) 
  • Portable charger
  • Lock for your bag
  • Your laptop
  • Portable water bottle
  • Plastic bags for travel snacks
  • Travel purse/wallet with pocket for passport
  • Travel credit card (find a bank in the US that works in other countries) 
  • Your cellphone (here are a few things you should know about bringing your phone before you go)
  • An appropriate amount of clothes (you can always do laundry)
  • Any necessary medications you take regularly

Related: 7 Exciting Reasons You Should Study Abroad

What you should buy when you arrive

Some of the things on this list may be surprising, as they could be considered more expensive items to purchase when you already own them. However, in trying to pack light, these are all bulky or inconvenient things to avoid:

  • Hot hair tools (there’s a good chance the American plugs won’t fit in foreign outlets)
  • SIM card for phone
  • Transportation card
  • Shower products
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Cheap walking shoes (you’ll want to throw them away at the end of trip)
  • An umbrella
  • Decorations for your living space
  • Food (no big goodie bags or care packages from parents)

Related: 9 Tips to Make Your Study Abroad Experience More Successful

Remember, less is more when it comes to packing and traveling to another country. If you forget anything, it’s not like you’ll be in the middle of nowhere. Any country you visit will have convenience, grocery, and clothing stores, so you can always purchase something once you’re settled in. But your study abroad experience is about just that: the experience. So don’t fret too much about what you do and don’t have with you! 

For more advice before you go off on your great adventure, check out blogs using the “study abroad” tag. 

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About Mackenzie Pierce

Mackenzie Pierce is the Assistant Director of Strategy & Project Management, working on the CollegeXpress team to manage our social media platforms, the student vlogger program, and various marketing campaigns. In her free time, you can find her competing in and watching sports, planning her next big trip, or training her dog, Bentley.


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