The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List
When I was preparing for my semester abroad, packing was definitely the trickiest task on my plate. 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’m here to help you out with the daunting task of packing.
Before you start packing, check 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 you don't have to leave your carry-on bag behind if it's too large or have 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 I'm about to share with you is a great guide for a cooler climate. 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.
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 medium-sized suitcase, a carry-on, and a personal bag like a backpack or a large 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 many issues.
Two weeks’ worth of undergarments
Three pairs of jeans / pants
A pair of shorts
One or two skirts (girls)
A nice dress (girls)
A suit or nice dress shirt and pants (guys)
Six to eight shirts
Bring a variety from your favourite, comfy white tee to dressy tops for going out
Two or three pairs of pyjamas
One or two workout outfits (only if you intend to work out abroad)
A light jacket
A warm jacket or winter coat
A comfy pair of sneakers
A nice pair of shoes
A pair of shoes or boots for everyday wear
Rainboots 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
One bathing suit
A super absorbent towel
A hat, scarf and mittens for the winter
A backpack (best to use this as your personal carry-on item
Decorations / memories from home to keep with you in your new room
One weeks’ worth of clothing
Undergarments, a couple of 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, contacts and sunglasses
Toiletries: bar of soap wrapped in a facecloth (saves space and doesn't take up your liquid limit), toothbrush and mini toothpaste, deodorant, face cleanser, moisturizer, hair ties and bobby pins, mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner (I use reusable bottles to limit waste) or a shampoo bar, makeup (keep in mind the limits of liquid you can bring with you), etc.
A folder of important documents
For more info on important documents to bring, check here
Local currency (about $200 worth) for the country you are going to
Camera and memory card
Chargers, outlet convertors, batteries and headphones
You may need to bring a prescription with you, as some medication is banned from certain countries without a doctor's permission.
A travel journal and pens
Snacks like granola bars, dried fruits or nuts
An empty reusable water bottle
While this list is a great guideline for the items you'll need while abroad, you will 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’re 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!
Make sure you're able to comfortably manoeuvre all of your luggage beforehand
Pack as lightly as possible, but don't limit yourself so much that you have to buy too much when you arrive
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 may not 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. 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.
Use packing cubes
These handy little zippered pouches keep your bags neat so when you arrive at your destination, your clothing hasn't shifted around. You can also use them as laundry bags during your time abroad (bonus!).
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!
If you want to make sure you aren't forgetting to do anything important before you leave, check out my post on preparing to study abroad. If you have advice on packing tips or other items to bring, feel free to share your wisdom in the comment sections below.
Congratulations on your decision to study abroad! I know you will enjoy this incredible experience. 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.