Packing list for study abroad

| 01/02/2011 | 19 Comments

What to pack? It is always the most difficult question. I did give already some ideas before what NOT to bring. Now here another one based on former study abroad students experiences. Also it really depends on your program and length of the stay.

General Packing Tips

  • Clearly identify your luggage inside and out with your name and destination / overseas address. Colored tape can make it easy to identify among similar baggage.
  • Place a strap or piece of rope around your suitcase to secure it in case the lock breaks. Also most of the airports offer a service “wrap your bag” for a fee.
  • Check airline regulations for weight, size and number of bags. You do not want to end up paying lot of money for few extra kilos.
  • In your carry-on, keep a change of clothes, toiletries, valuables, important documents (passports, visas, arrival instructions) and medications in their original containers.

Miscellaneous Items

  • Approximately 100USD  in local currency for when you first arrive
  • Map of your host city
  • Guidebook of your region and of the places where you will travel
  • Photocopy of your passport information pages + VISA.  Also leave a copy at home.
  • International calling card and access numbers for the countries where you will travel. Or SIM card which allow you to call foreign numbers. Alternatively a smartphone with wifi access and skype, so you can make calls from an open network at the airport (some have).
  • Phone numbers to cancel credit cards in case of theft.
  • Mp3 player.
  • Camera
  • Journal
  • Addresses and photos of family and friends
  • Favorite recipes (note metric  Celsius conversions)
  • Small items to use as gifts (e.g., pictures, key chains, magnets)
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Small sewing kit
  • Money belt
  • Day pack (for short trips; this could double as your carry-on)
  • If you plan to travel, Swiss army knife with bottle opener, corkscrew,  can opener, absorbent fast-drying and small-to-pack towel (available Amazon for example.)
  • If you bring a laptop, inquire about international voltage converters at an electronics store.
  • Power strip so you only have to purchase one converter (if you plan to bring several items that require plug-in to an electrical outlet)
  • Your advisor’s email address and phone number or the local university/college International Office contact.


  • Consider both the physical & social climate; dress accordingly.
  • Dark colors do not show dirt as readily.
  • Take durable, drip-dry, no-iron clothes.
  • Take items that have multiple uses and (for colder climates) can be layered.
  • Comfort and practicality are the keys for both clothing and shoes.
  • Bring one professional outfit in case of a site visit to a company or job/internship interview.
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes.


  • Don’t overstock on toiletries; most things are available in major cities abroad.  Women may want to bring a preferred brand of tampons or pads, as they may not be as readily available abroad.
  • Transfer liquids from breakable containers into plastic containers; use tape to seal the lids when traveling or pack them in ziplock bags to separate them from clothing.
  • Prescription drugs for the duration of your time abroad (in your carry-on).
  • Extra eyeglasses.
  • Pocket pack of Kleenex.


DO NOT bring more than two normal-size suitcases and a carry-on. Honestly, if you’re only going for one or two semester you only need one normal-size suitcase.  You will have to transport all of your own luggage and most students pack more than they need.  You will be able to buy many of these things in your host country so you should pack just enough to get you through until you can go shopping.

Remember that most electrical appliances will not work because of the different electrical current.  Generally, laptop computers will work but you will probably need an adapter.

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Category: tips and tricks

Comments (19)

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  1. cameron says:

    Thanks for this useful list – we also advise our students to keep a scanned copy of all important documents (passport, visa, academic qualifications etc) at home with family or close friend so they can be emailed to you in an emergency. Hope this helps

  2. Kevin says:

    The study abroad fair is the perfect opportunity for students to explore their options, speak face-to-face with program representatives and begin planning their journey abroad.

  3. Plastic bags, clothes that don’t need to be put in the drier, leave the American wear at home ie. sweatpants, uggs, etc.

  4. Jhon Harris says:

    Thanks for the useful really helps students.

  5. Em K. says:

    While I can agree that it is easy to pack way too much (from a previous study abroad experience), depending on the exchange rate and your budget, it may be more affordable to simply pack an extra suitcase (and pay for that extra suitcase if not included) versus buying a lot of stuff you were unable to fit in your luggage. EX. Though the US dollar and Australian dollar are rather close in exchange rate, the cost of buying clothing in Australia is much much higher than in the US, thus not justifying the cost of leaving needed clothing at home. Otherwise a great list, definitely useful!

  6. Prossy says:

    Thanks for the list. I had no idea on how to plan my packing.

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