Study abroad packing list, what to pack for study abroad

What to Pack for Your Study Abroad Semester


We have a more updated packing list (including a free printable checklist) in our new article What to Pack for Study Abroad.

It’s a week before you leave for your study abroad semester and you have your two new suitcases sitting in front of you, open, waiting to be filled. You have a closet full of clothes and a whole room filled with everything that you use in your day-to-day life.

Then you realize that you have NO idea what to pack for your study abroad semester.

This scenario happens to every student right as they are about to go abroad. It seems impossible to fit everything that you’ll need into one or two suitcases and one carry-on bag. But it can be done. Here’s a guide for what to pack for study abroad, including a list of what to bring with you and what to leave behind.

What to pack for your study abroad semester - a packing list for your study abroad semester, including a free printable packing list (one for guys and one for girls). Don't forget anything when packing for study abroad with this packing list!

Two tools to help you pack

1. Space bags – They will make your bulky sweaters and jackets more compact by sucking the air out of them, giving you more room in your luggage. They’re also great for when you travel on the weekends with just a carry-on bag, as you’ll be able to fit more into it. Just be sure to get the ones that you can use without a vacuum.

2. Portable luggage scale -You’ll be glad you invested in one of these when you see your friends paying $100 or more for their overweight luggage. You’ll use it flying to and from your abroad destination, but it will also be helpful when you’re flying budget airlines that often weigh your carry-on bag before you board and that will charge you if it’s too heavy.

what to pack for study abroad, what to pack for study abroad semester, packing list for study abroad

What to pack for study abroad — clothing

Of course, you’ll need the basics. Bring pieces that can be worn for both day and night, and that can be layered when the weather gets colder. This list will need to be adjusted depending on what the climate is like where you’ll be studying abroad. And don’t forget– you can always buy something you need when you get there, so don’t overpack.

You’ll be happy you brought:

•  More underwear + more socks = less laundry
•  Comfy but classy travel clothes — tights, leggings, sweaters, dark jeans, etc.
•  At least one business-appropriate outfit, in case you have a presentation or attend a professional event
•  Nice shoes — guys, some clubs won’t let you in with tennis shoes on
•  Comfortable shoes for walking — if they keep your feet warm, that’s a bonus
•  Old flip flops to use as shower shoes for your hostel stays
•  A swimsuit for your trips to the beach or pool
•  Running shoes and workout clothes to help you keep off the study abroad 15, which are sometimes  hard to find abroad at decent prices
•  Cold weather gear, like the items on this list
•  Cross-body purses and secure wristlets — to prevent theft
•  One pair of sweats — practically no other country in the world besides the US views sweatshirts and sweatpants as acceptable public attire, but bring one pair for lazy, chilly days around your apartment

Things you think you’ll need, but you won’t:

•  Anything you haven’t worn in 3 months or longer — sell it before you go
•  Expensive jewelry and accessories — they’ll break, get dirty, or get stolen
•  Flip flops and Uggs — they both scream “American!” and therefore “rob me!”
•  High heels —  if you often find yourself stumbling out of the club after a few too many, stick with wedges or flats. If you’re graceful in your stilettos, even on cobblestone, only rock them if they’re inexpensive, as rough roads and crowded bars abroad will ruin them.

Toiletries and extras to pack for study abroad

Leave most of these things at home and purchase them when you get abroad, unless you have specific brands of products that you MUST use. Shampoo, conditioner, etc. are heavy and take up valuable suitcase space, so bring travel sizes of the basics for your first couple of days, like toothpaste, and then hit the local supermarket for the rest.

You’ll be thankful you brought:

•  Refillable 3 oz. bottles, like these GoToobs
•  Your preferred cosmetics
•  Feminine products — they can be very expensive in some foreign countries
•  Over-the-counter drugs — if you have a preference
•  Contraceptives — again, if you have a preference
•  Prescribed medications

You can skip:

•  Hair dryer – you can pick them up for cheap once you’re abroad, with the correct plug.
•  Flat iron that isn’t dual voltage – don’t even try to use a converter with it or you’ll fry it. If you’re picky, bring one that fit in an adapter (some don’t, so check beforehand) or just buy one once you’re abroad.
•  Extra linens and towels– just buy them there if they aren’t already in your accommodation

packing list for study abroad, what to pack for study abroad, things to pack for study abroad

Electronics to bring abroad

In the age of smartphones and iPads, it’s hard to leave our electronics behind. Some of them will help make your study abroad semester better, so pack ’em up.

Pack in your carry-on (to prevent damage and theft):

•  Laptop and padded case
•  Smartphone/ iPad / iPod — to use with wifi, which is free in most hostels and cafes
•  Camera — read up on our 5 favorite cameras for study abroad
•  Kindle or a book in English — for reading on the road
•  Power adapter— skip the converter, they typically don’t work
•  Portable hard drive — to back up your photos and schoolwork
•  Combo lock — for locking your stuff up in hostel lockers

Read up on how to protect your valuables while you’re abroad so you don’t get stuck with broken electronics– or ones that get stolen!

More posts that will help you pack for study abroad:

8 Smart Pieces of Tech to Get Before Going Abroad
15 items You’ll Be Glad You Purchased Before Going Abroad
Should You Use a Suitcase or Backpack When Traveling?
20 Essential Accessories for Easy Weekend Travel

Get your FREE printable study abroad packing list:

We’re currently updating the free guide for this post,

check back soon for it.

Jess is the Editor-in-Chief of The Abroad Guide. After studying abroad in Belgium during her junior year of college, she caught the travel bug. Her experiences include volunteering in Nicaragua, backpacking through Europe, and a year-long adventure in Italy, and she's now settled in London.

4 thoughts on “What to Pack for Your Study Abroad Semester

  1. Keighley

    At the end you mention briefly that converters don’t usually work and that power adapters are better. What’s the reasoning behind that?

    1. Jess

      Great question Keighley. Although converters are meant to work with appliances that aren’t dual voltage, they often don’t– are they are known for ruining expensive hair tools (I had to say goodbye to my flat iron). It’s best to use power adapters with dual voltage appliances, and if your appliance isn’t dual voltage (like a hair dryer), then it’s a good idea to purchase one with a European plug beforehand (or get it while abroad). The good news is that most computer and phone chargers are dual voltage so you won’t have to worry about that with them– just use a simple adapter. Does this all make sense?

  2. Beth

    A few thoughts:
    1. If you’re from Texas and it’s your first time abroad, seriously, check the climate for where you’re going. I had to buy so many clothes when I went to Paris because I’m used to Texas Fall and Texas Winter. Even now, I’m planning to go back (yay it’s like a homecoming) to visit, and I’m confused and upset that I need a jacket in June. Hint: Europe actually gets cold. You need real sweaters if you’re going in the fall semester. As fun as it is buying a new wardrobe at H&M, it sucks when it’s suddenly cold and you don’t have time to go to the mall because it’s a class day.

    2. Bring an XL size travel towel. Even if you buy towels there for your dorm/apartment, it makes hosteling cheaper when you don’t have to rent your towel. And buy the XL because it will be closer to the size of normal bath towel (it will cover your entire body).

    3. The cheap umbrella from Old Navy is the best umbrella I’ve ever bought. My gosh. I’ve had mine since I studied abroad in 2013, and it’s still going. It’s flipped inside out multiple times and I haven’t had to replace it yet. I just bought a new one, just in case it finally breaks sometime soon, but I’ve definitely gotten my $10 out of it. Definitely recommend.

Comments are closed.