As if assembling clothes and other school necessities weren’t hard enough, packing for an international college is all the more difficult, as luggage and other shipping costs add up quickly! Luckily, most items can be purchased after arrival, and perhaps they will even be cheaper. Just think wisely and only buy the items that are truly needed. Then, in time, if space—and budget—allow, you can pamper yourself and buy things you don’t truly need.
Things to bring from home
The items below are the essential things you don't want to leave behind when you travel to the US. But as a general rule: If it's not something you can easily pick up when you get to your new school and is crucial to your travel, bring it.
- Passport, student visa, and/or required proof of identity. Check with your university to see what they recommend international students bring.
- Mementos and items of personal significance. While you absolutely do not want to bring irreplaceable family heirlooms or other valuables that would be best left behind, you’ll be glad you brought pictures, posters, and other things that remind you of home.
- Travel adaptor. Find ones that work with your devices (or one adaptor for multiple devices, if possible) and with the outlets in the country in which your school is situated.
- Appropriate clothing. Pack a reasonable amount of clothing that will prepare you for the typical weather wherever you’re going. Though you can always buy clothes upon arrival (especially if you’re going somewhere vastly differently from home!), they can be expensive, and you likely own things you already enjoy wearing, so fill up your suitcase!
- Bath towel and toiletries. You’ll probably use these the very first day of your arrival, so have them ready!
Related: International Student Insurance Options for University
Things to buy after arrival
The list below are things that can absolutely wait until you get to school—especially so you can see what kind of space you have in your dorm and what your roommate may have already purchased for communal room use. Save yourself the trouble by not bringing it overseas, but be sure to tuck this list in your back pocket to refer to when you get there.
- Slippers and shower shoes. If you have a shower in your own room, you can forget about the shower shoes, but the slippers will come in handy. The same goes for a bathrobe—and if you don’t use it as a bathrobe, it’ll still keep you warm.
- Multipurpose cleaning wipes. They are light and don’t take much space. Your new room may be small, but it’s sure to be more comfortable after a quick clean to make you feel more at ease.
- Extension cords and multi plugs. These tend to be surprisingly useful, but you should check with your school first and see whether they are allowed.
- Sewing kit. At least scissors, string, and a needle! You may not need to do much mending, but when that one particular occasion arises, you’ll be the hero.
- First-aid kit. At least bandages, pain relievers, and other necessities! It’s important to take care of yourself, but should a small injury occur, it’s good to have the basics on hand.
- Hangers. Your school may provide them, but if not you’ll be glad you bought them. You’ll be amazed at how useful they’ll turn out to be.
- USB drive. Keep one with you, just in case you need to do work in a library or university computer center.
- Tableware. A cup, a bowl, a plate, a fork, a spoon, and a knife...just in case you want to nibble something in your dormitory. You might want to try buying the disposable versions as well; easy cleanup and they’re helpful when friends make a surprise visit.
- Storage boxes and shelves. These can always be bought later on, so no need to rush. With many affordable and replaceable options available, shelves will also save you a lot of space and hassle.
- Books and academic resources. Books are heavy (which also means costly) in transport and easy to obtain via school or community bookstores, or through the Internet. Plus, you may not know what texts are needed for your courses until you arrive. (However, a few favorite books or treasured resources can come with you from home!)
Related: The Key Categories of Packing for College
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should be helpful in giving you a better idea of what to back or what not. You may have reason to bring or not bring something on either one of these lists, as everyone is going to be a little different. But as you’re packing your bags and getting ready to go, refer back to this list if you’re just not sure if you should bring that one item or not.
You can find more advice to prepare for your new foreign college in our International Students section.