Kaitlyn | Tall Girl Meets World

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The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List

The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List

When I was preparing for my semester abroad, packing was definitely the trickiest task on my plate, and I can imagine you're feeling the same way at this point. Trying to decide what to bring and what to leave at home, what you'll need, what the weather is like, among so many other questions. Well, fear not, because I am here to help you out with the daunting task of packing. 

Before you start packing, it's important to check out the average temperatures of the months you will be studying abroad to get a sense of the types of clothing you should bring with you. Also, check out the airline's baggage restrictions, so that you don't end up having to leave your carry-on bag behind because it's too large or having to pay oversized baggage fees (these can be pretty pricey). Once you've checked these out, you can start to pull out the luggage and the clothes you want to bring with you. 

The following list that I'm about to share with you is a great guide for a cooler climate with a winter season. Obviously, if you are going somewhere warm and tropical, you probably won't be needing a winter coat and mittens, so you can adjust this list accordingly. Since I studied abroad in southern Sweden during the fall semester, I made sure to pack lighter clothing for the early September warmth, and thicker clothing for the chilly December weather.

Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List | Tall Girl Meets World

Now, packing for a semester in Sweden wasn't too difficult for a Canadian like myself. Living in Ontario has introduced me to weather that can be incredibly hot in the summer to well below freezing, knee-deep snow in the winter, so I'm used to dressing for a wide variety of weather. However, the main challenge came down to limiting myself from over-packing for one semester. 

I've split the following list into three sections, and it is based off of the use of one suitcase, a carry-on, and a "personal" bag (like a backpack or purse). If you're only going for one semester abroad, you really shouldn't need more than one suitcase. I know you're probably thinking, "How on earth will I fit all of my clothes, let alone my laptop and everything else I need into a suitcase and carry-on?!" Trust me, you don't need as much as you initially think you do.

After splitting my initial list into about a quarter, I still found that I didn't end up wearing a lot of the clothes I brought with me. You'll likely end up finding a few outfits that work really well, and sticking with them. By using the list below, you should be able to fit everything into your three pieces of luggage without too much issue. So, here we go...

Suitcase 

  • Two week's worth of underwear, socks, and other undergarments 
  • Three pairs of jeans / pants
  • A pair of shorts 
  • One or two skirts (for girls) 
  • A nice dress (for girls)
  • A suit or nice dress shirt and pants (for guys)
  • Six to eight shirts
    • Bring a variety from your favourite, comfy white tee to dressy tops for going out
  • Two sweaters
    • Perfect for staying cozy during the chilly months!
  • Two pairs of pyjamas
    • One set for the warmer months and one for the cooler months
  • One or two workout outfits
    • Only bring these if you seriously intend to workout abroad, otherwise it'll just take up extra space
  • A raincoat and a lighter jacket
  • A warm jacket or winter coat
    • Bring it if you can fit it in your luggage & have one, otherwise you can always buy it there
  • A comfy pair of sneakers
    • You'll do a lot of walking, especially if you intend to travel while you're abroad, and you'll want comfortable shoes for that! 
  • A nice pair of shoes
    • Heels or flats for girls and dress shoes for guys
  • One or two other pairs of shoes for everyday wear, if you have as big of a shoe obsession as I do
    • I brought along ankle boots for the fall and sandals for the warmer months 
  • Rainboots and/or winter boots
    • I'll leave this to your discretion, but I studied in a rainy area, so the rainboots were helpful and doubled as winter boots for me
  • A bathing suit
    • Even if you're going somewhere cooler, you never know when you may need it
  • A towel
    • You can get super absorbent mini-towels for traveling if you want to save space
  • A hat, scarf and mittens for the winter
    • You can bring these with you or pick them up in your host country
  • A backpack
    • Good for traveling - only bring if you aren't already using one as your carry-on or personal bag
  • Jewelry
    • Not the expensive stuff, as you'll want to keep that on you while traveling, perhaps in your carry-on luggage
  • Toiletries: shampoo & conditioner (if you can't live without a certain brand and need to bring the larger bottles - otherwise, just buy them when you're there), toothpaste & floss, hair ties & bobby pins, sunscreen, contacts (if you wear them), razors, feminine products, makeup, and anything else you may need 
  • Souvenirs from home to bring to your host family (if you have one) and new local friends
  • Decorations/memories from home to keep with you in your new room
    • I hung photos of my family & friends from home on the walls in my residence room using clothespins & twine

Carry-On

  • A week's worth of clothing
    • Undergarments, a couple shirts, a couple pairs of pants and/or shorts, and one or two pairs of shoes (you can take these out of your suitcase packing list to lighten the load of your main luggage)
  • Glasses and contacts (if you need them) 
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries: bar of soap wrapped in a facecloth (saves space and doesn't take up your liquid limit), toothbrush & mini toothpaste, deodorant, face cleanser wipes, spare hair ties & bobby pins, mini bottles of shampoo & conditioner (handy for traveling later on as well), makeup (keep in mind the limits of liquid you can bring with you), etc.
  • DVDs, books and magazines
    • Bring some form of entertainment, but keep these limited as you don't want these to weigh your bag down
      • If you have something like a Kobo reader, it would be handy to load this up with a bunch of new books, so you would save the space and weight of actual books 
      • You can also put these in your personal bag if you prefer

Personal Bag

  • Passport
  • A folder of important documents
    • For more info on important documents to bring, check here
  • Local currency for the country you are going to
    • About $200 worth for your emergency stash, food, etc.
  • Laptop
  • Cellphone & iPod 
  • Camera & memory card
  • Chargers, outlet convertors, batteries, headphones
  • Medication
    • You may need to bring a prescription with you, as some medication is banned from certain countries without doctor's permission
  • A travel journal and pens
    • Good for filling up time and keeping memories
  • Snacks like granola bars
    • Fruits are not a good snack to bring, as they are not usually allowed on planes
  • Gum (to keep those ears from popping in the air) 
  • An empty reusable water bottle 

While this list is a great guideline for the items you'll need while abroad, you'll want to adapt it to fit your needs, and you may need to take away or add items. The most important thing to remember is that you should try to limit yourself to prevent from over-packing. If there's something you forgot, there's a likely chance the country you are studying abroad in will have it. Otherwise, you can get your family or friends to ship it to you from home. Just be aware of shipping costs, as it was over $200 for my parents to ship a package of home goodies from Canada to Sweden, so it can be really expensive in some cases! 

Packing Tips

  • Make sure you're able to comfortably manoeuvre all of your luggage beforehand
    • I brought a duffle bag as my carry-on, but I would have preferred a small rolling bag to accompany my larger one, as it would have been easier to roll two bags than try to balance a duffle bag on my shoulder
  • Pack as lightly as possible, but don't limit yourself so much that you have to buy too much when you arrive (that can get too pricey) 
  • When packing your toiletries, put a piece of plastic wrap between the bottle opening and the lid, so they don't spill in your bag 
  • Embrace the natural look
    • This means you should leave behind your hair dryer, curling iron and straightener, as they will only weigh you down, and they might not even work with your new country's voltage 
    • If you must bring them, by all means do, but just remember to check if they'll work first, otherwise buy them there or give your hair a few months off of the styling tools
  • Put your name and contact information on all of your bags in case they get lost, so they can be returned to you at a later date 
    • Side note: it's also a good idea to put a distinct item on your bag that will identify it from other ones (such as a ribbon or strap), especially if you're using black luggage, because chances are there are many other people using black luggage that looks the same as yours 
  • Use packing cubes!
    • If you don't know what these are, click here
    • These handy little zippered pouches keep your bags neat, so when you arrive at your destination, your clothing hasn't shifted around, and you can also use them as laundry bags during your time abroad (bonus!) 
    • I bought myself a set from Amazon Canada, and I used them for study abroad, and I even use one when I'm packing for a weekend at home
  • Know the baggage limits of the airline you are taking beforehand so you don't have to pay a hefty amount of oversized luggage fees
  • Keep your passport and valuable items with you (in your carry-on bag or personal bag) 
  • If you don't wear it now, you likely won't wear it abroad, so leave it behind

So, I think that's everything I have to share with you for now. If you want to make sure you aren't forgetting to do anything important before you leave, check out my post on preparing for study abroad located here. If you have advice on packing tips or other items to bring, feel free to share your wisdom in the comment sections below. Also, if you have any questions for me pertaining to packing for your time abroad, or anything related to studying abroad, you can also leave me a message in the comments below or shoot me an email through my contact page, and I will certainly help you out!

Congratulations on your decision to study abroad. I know that you will enjoy this incredible experience. Just don't forget to keep your mind open to new challenges, diverse experiences, and new foods if you want to fully enjoy the experience! 

For more study abroad advice and tips, check out my Pinterest board here. To check out some of the awesome places I had the opportunity to travel to during my time abroad, click here

Until next time, 

Kaitlyn xo 

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