Things to Get Before Studying Abroad

15 Items You’ll Be Glad You Purchased Before Going Abroad


There are always a few important items that could slip your mind when packing for a semester abroad. While you were choosing your trendiest outfits to fit in with the locals, you probably forgot to pack a universal adaptor to use when you travel on the weekends; forgetting that not every country in Europe takes the same type of plug. Here’s a list of smart things to get for study abroad that you’ll be happy you picked up before you hopped on your flight.

This article is in partnership with Traveling Tranquilo, a brand that empowers travelers by helping with proper preparation and packing so you can focus on your travels, not your stuff. Their No Borders Bundle includes everything you need to be a pro packer while you’re abroad. Our sponsors keep the 100%-always- free content coming on The Abroad Guide.

*This post contains some affiliate links (this doesn’t affect the price you pay).

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These must-have items are common for study abroad students to forget to bring with them for their study abroad semester. Get these items before you leave for your semester abroad.

things to get for study abroad, what to get for your study abroad semester1. Portable charger

Lets face it, no matter how little we try to use our phones while traveling there is usually a need for them somewhere down the road and that need usually comes when our battery hits 10%. With these portable chargers, all you do it charge the extra battery before you leave and it will provide you with about 20 hours of extra charging time, and there’s no need to run around the airport looking for an outlet that might not exist. This one from Anker is highly rated on Amazon and can be used to charge your camera as well.

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2. Hair-dryer and flat iron with dual voltage

Nothing is worse than plugging your straightener into a converter and all of a sudden seeing the red light turn off. I have tested many different straighteners and blow dryers abroad, and have broken most of them. Yes, you can buy a travel-sized hair dryer that will take 30 minutes to dry your hair, but I found that the most efficient hair electronics are the ones either with the correct plugs or that are dual voltage.

Electronics that operate with dual voltage can be used abroad with just an adapter and not a converter.

Get a travel-friendly hair dryer on Amazon

Get a travel-friendly flat iron on Amazon

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3. Journal

A journal is a necessary item for all travelers. You do not have to be the next J.K. Rowling to keep an interesting journal– hey, it’s just for you! You can write one interesting thing that happened each day, you can write down funny quotes, or you can have friends you meet along the way write down words of wisdom. There is no better souvenir than a collection of your own stories.

For some simple, budget-friendly options, get a journal from Amazon.

What to Buy for Study Abroad Semester - Backpack travel set
4. No Borders Bundle from Traveling Tranquilo

You’ll definitely travel on the weekends while studying abroad, and the No Borders Bundle includes a few key items you’ll need for easy weekend trips. It includes a carry-on-sized backpack, as well as a daypack (to wear during the day when you’re exploring), a multi-charge power bank and a universal power adapter with multiple plug-in points.

But the two smartest items in the bundle are the phone case that has icons on it you can point to when you hit a language barrier, and the packing cubes, which, if you’ve ever tried to pack a ton of stuff into a carry-on bag, you’ll know they’re great for organisation and compression.

Check out the No Borders Bundle, or create your own custom bundle.

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5. Neck pillow

Neck pillows are a traveler’s best friend. We all will at some point take at least one long bus/train ride during our travels abroad and what better way to spend those long hours than having a comfy place to sleep and rest your head. I recommend getting a neck pillow that has a hook at the front like this Memory Foam version from Amazon. . That way, it can conveniently hang on to your bag and you don’t have to worry about carrying it.

Get a neck pillow on Amazon

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6. Raincoat

Whether we want to admit it or not, it rains in every city around the world. Would you rather walk around in Florence looking like a tourist in a plastic poncho, or wear your stylish raincoat that still looks cute in pictures? Raincoats don’t take up much room in your suitcase and even if it just rains once, you will be happy you brought one.

If you’re not a raincoat kind of person, at least invest in a travel umbrella. Yes, there are many people on the city streets selling umbrellas, but these last for a total of five minutes before disintegrating into at least two pieces or more. Other than these cheapos, it’s very difficult to purchase a decent umbrella for under ten dollars, so buy one before you go and pack it.

Get a women’s raincoat on Amazon

Get a men’s raincoat on Amazon

Get a travel umbrella on Amazon

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7. American snacks

As much as you are excited about indulging in the delicious Italian pizza or Madrid’s famous churros, there will come a time when you’ll crave your favorite American snack. It doesn’t hurt to pack a jar of peanut butter, a box of funfetti cake mix, or some mac’n’cheese in your suitcase. They might add a couple extra pounds to your bag, but just think– after you eat it all, you’ll have some extra room to bring home all of your souvenirs.

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8. Swiss Army Knife

A Swiss Army Knife has all of the essentials a traveler could need built into one little gadget (i.e. corkscrew, scissors, knife, nail file, and bottle opener). Remember to pack this in your checked luggage so it doesn’t get taken away at security.

If you forget to grab one of these before you fly, it’s the perfect excuse to get to Switzerland and purchase one from the source. In Switzerland they even sell them at hostels, from key-chain sizes to the heavy-duty ones. You can get them engraved – so they’re a perfect souvenir for the guys (or girls!) at home.

Get a Swiss Army Knife on Amazon

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9. Books

Reading is the perfect way to entertain yourself, whether that is on a long bus ride or on the beach in Mykonos. If you enjoy reading from an e-reader check out the Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon, it’s easy to travel because it’s so small and lightweight.

If you prefer old-school paperbacks, it’s a good idea to bring one or two books to start your trip with and then you can use those books to exchange with travelers you meet along the way. Most hostels also have a book exchange shelf somewhere so if you can’t find it, ask the front desk. You can drop your already-read books there and pick up a new one someone else has left behind– for free!

Here are some travel-themed books we like to get you started.

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10. Universal Adapter

It’s important to do your research about which plugs the country you are going to uses.  Just to be safe, I always travel with this universal adapter from Amazon like the one shown above that has different adaptors for each region of the world. Consider getting two in case one breaks during the semester, and because you’ll probably need to charge multiple electronics at the same time quite often.

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11. Reusable Water Bottle

If the tap water is safe to drink where you are visiting, you can save money and stay hydrated by using a reusable water bottle. Water bottles also have many purposes; you can store many things inside like your toothbrush when traveling or they can make a great flask. You can also buy a plastic foldable bottle from Amazon if you want to save suitcase room.

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12. Go-Pro Camera

GoPros are one type of camera that we suggest getting before going abroad (we have 4 others that we love too). These wide-angled cameras are small and waterproof, which can take awesome pictures and videos of your intense white water adventures or your bike ride down through that rainforest.

See the latest GoPros on Amazon

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13. Portable Speakers

Your music can follow you wherever you go with portable speakers. They are compact and light, which make them very easy to travel with but they can also be very loud. If you are at a house party you can easily whip them out and plug them into your computer or cellphone and be DJ for the night. Beaching it on the Amalfi coast and need some good vibes, no problem!

If you’re looking for a recommendation,  I prefer the X-Mini speakers (from Amazon) shown above.

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14. American Medicine

If you are used to taking a lot of Advil to cure your hangovers or Nyquil to fight a cold, do not forget to pack those. It can be hard to find exactly what you are looking for in foreign pharmacies, and especially while traveling, as communicating needs in Croatian or Swiss German may be a tad difficult. Get the pill form whenever you can to minimize weight and you’ll be very happy when that cold hits and you still have your go-to medicine to make you ready to take on another day of travel. They even have travel medicine kits that would be perfect for a semester abroad.

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15. A Deck of Cards

This is among the simplest and cheapest items you can bring, but I promise you will not regret it! A deck of regular cards or perhaps UNO provide for easy entertainment while traveling anywhere and can be used on planes, trains, and buses. Plus, they always come in handy when you are playing drinking games with your friends.

This article is in partnership with Traveling Tranquilo, a brand that empowers travelers by helping with proper preparation and packing so you can focus on your travels, not your stuff. Their No Borders Bundle includes everything you need to be a pro packer while you’re abroad. Our sponsors keep the 100%-always-free content coming on The Abroad Guide.

Photo Source: Terminals & Gates via Flickr

Alyssa is a recent graduate from the University of Florida. After studying abroad in Florence, Italy for the summer, Alyssa could not stay away from Europe so she decided to spend the year studying in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Spending the day with Alyssa includes jumping off cliffs, exploring mysterious new places, and watching the sunset along the sea. You can read about all of her adventures on her blog.