After a lengthy winter break that left me rested and recharged, I stuffed two suitcases and boarded the flight to my new home for the next few months- London, United Kingdom.
I had been looking forward to study abroad since 2013 when my oldest brother, Peter, studied at Oxford his junior year. It became a part of what my college experience was going to someday be. This topic came up especially when talking to adults…
“Where are you going to college?”
“Oh, you must be so excited. Any plans?”
“Definitely going to be studying abroad junior year!”
Well, the time came for abroad and I applied for and was accepted into the Syracuse London program. The last step before leaving for Europe was packing.
Packing is hard. If thought packing enough shoes and outfits to last me my two week trip in Oregon/ LA was a challenge, I clearly didn’t see what was coming. I ended up bringing two suitcases (it all fit in one but was overweight and ultimately would cost the same amount as bringing another bag, so I followed through with the latter) and went through quite a few rounds of narrowing things down. Although I probably brought a few things I didn’t need and regret leaving other pieces at home, here is my best advice for future abroad-packers:
- Pack the clothes you already wear at home. If it’s been sitting in your closet for years and you haven’t worn it, chances are it isn’t worth taking valuable space up in your suitcase.
- Bring the basics. Margot Lee is an outfit repeater in London because the girl doesn’t have a choice. That being said, I would much rather wear the same black turtleneck two days in a row than a yellow and blue striped sweatshirt once a week. You can always accessorize, its hard to tone down or modify a statement piece that will be easily recognizable to other people.
- HEATTECH! Ugh. Can’t say enough good things about this product by Uniqlo, but if you are headed somewhere where it gets cold, stock up on Heat Tech before you go because not only are they basic (see #2), but they really are magical and will keep you so much warmer than your typical cotton/ polyester-blend top.
- Pick one category of “fun” clothes. For me, its pants. For one roommate, its jackets, another, purses, and the last, shoes. Not only does it make it easier to share clothes, but it will make choosing outfits a lot easier when you only have one focus point to worry about. (Note: ideally every night you could dress to the 9s and have completely different fun outfits, but realistically, you won’t be able to pack that way. Save those outfits for home and limit yourself a little for abroad.)
(How to Pack for Study Abroad)
So you’re facing the daunting task of packing. Although it will differ from country to country (and time of year), here is the general list I would use:
PACK IN YOUR CARRY ON
- Second form of ID
- Computer & Charger
- Phone & Charger
- Downloaded movies
- Eye Mask & Earplugs
- Face Lotion
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Spare Outfit
- Hand sanitizer
- Prescription Meds (it is EXTREMELY difficult to get prescription meds to Europe so make sure to stock up before you leave and bring with you!)
- Cash & Credit cards
- Makeup/ Face wipes
- Fuzzy Socks for good measure
- 1-2 large suitcases
- 1 carry on luggage (this is what you will bring on your weekend trips). I got the “bigger carry on” from AWAY.
- (If you have space, bring a duffel bag for longer trips, but I didn’t have one and I was fine)
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 3 pairs of “fun” daytime pants
- 3 “going out” pants
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 skirts
- 3 leggings
- 2 ‘wearable’ sweatpants
- 1 “biker” workout shorts
- 1 black/ 1 white HeatTech turtleneck (see above)
- 2 white tank tops
- 3 simple long sleeves
- 4 tee shirts
- around 10 “going out tops”/ “fun tops”. I find mine are all pretty flimsy and small (sorry mom) so I got away with bringing around 15.
- 1 zip-up hoodie
- 2 casual hoodies (the plainer the better)
- 1 tan sweater
- 1 fun knit sweater
- 1 jean jacket
- 1 puffer/ raincoat (my shiny one is from here)
- 1 leather/ faux leather jacket for going out
- 1 “nicer” jacket- can be a trench, blazer, colored puffer, bomber… coordinate with your roommates and share!
- Q-Tips (god bless q tips)
- Face lotion (I’d just buy generic body lotion there)
- Face Wash
- Bring just your basic makeup from your everyday routine plus ONE fun eyeshadow palette.
- 6ish makeup brushes & beauty blender
- Makeup remover and/ or makeup wipes
- Fake tanner & glove (if you’re anything like me and get insanely pale over the winter)
- Chargers for electronics
- Converter- I got mine from Amazon and it is AMAZING (works in most places in the world)
- Bathroom tools: nail clipper, 1 razor & 2-3 new heads, tweezer,
- Feminine hygiene: you will definitely be able to purchase this wherever you go but it might feel better going into the semester knowing you are prepared.
- Hair Brush
- 1 pair black boots (*cough cough* Doc Martens)
- 1 pair “chunky”/ fashionable sneakers (I had small adidas trainers which were great when I needed to pack light)
- 1 pair regular sneakers
- 1 pair booties/ “going out shoes”
- 1 pair sandals
- (This is pretty much all I wore but if you have space you can bring a pair of nicer heels. I only wore mine once. )
- 1 scarf- doubles as a blanket for long plane rides
- 1 case for your jewelry (something like this should do the job)
- 1 cross body (I used a fanny pack)
- 1 small purse with a zipper
- 1 backpack or tote bag
- 1 pretty silky scarf- you will definitely be able to buy more abroad
- Underwear: I would hope you’re already bringing this but my POINT HERE is that you should bring more than you might have planned. You will want to feel prepared especially if you don’t know your washer/ dryer situation before getting to your destination. Washing cycles can get confusing with travel so you’ll always want to be prepared.
- Bras: I hate wearing bras but it did come in handy to have a nude strapless bra for some outfits. Other than that i stick with bralettes.
- Socks: Bring a lot because I ended up losing half the pairs to about half the socks I brought with me.
- 3 bathing suits: This will probably not be enough if you’re studying somewhere warm, but I knew my time in the sun was limited so I only needed 3.
- Workout gear (sports bras, workout tanks, etc)
- 1 reusable water bottle
- Electronics (chargers, headphones, converter, PORTABLE CHARGER (!!))
- Sleep-y goods (read this blog post if you’re worried about sleeping)
- Approx. $100 worth of the currency- you can easily get more once you are there, but it will put you at ease knowing you have money just in case you need it. You can order the currency to your local bank!
- If going somewhere where English is not the primary language, bring basic American medicine. I’d recommend ibuprofen, allergy medicine, vitamin C, and eye drops.
- Copies of important documents (passport, VISA, license)
- Journal (spend some time before your trip jazzing up your journal and organizing it by month so you’ll stay motivated to keep it updated!
THINGS NOT TO BRING
- Electronic hair tools- your converter won’t be able to convert the high wattage so unless you want to buy a more expensive converter, I would just buy a tool at the beginning of your semester that has the right wattage/ prongs
- School supplies- this will take up too much space to bring so just buy them there
- Shampoo & Conditioner- something you can buy once you are there
Moral of the story: Pack basics, learn to mix and match your clothes, and don’t overpack! You can probably get whatever you need in the city you’re staying in. I hope you found this helpful 🙂
If you have any other advice or questions, leave them in the comments below!