I had a meltdown in the middle of Target’s travel-size toiletries section because I did not have a comprehensive packing list. Before I spent four glorious months in Ireland, I was clueless on how to pack my suitcase. It is hard to compress four months of expectations into a 32 inches x 12 inches x 18 inches piece of baggage.
A couple of days before my flight, my dearest mother and I headed to the local Target superstore for some last-minute preparations. We scurried down the well-lit aisles, perusing the latest trends in American innovation. I was already rabidly excited about my semester abroad, but the nerves and stress were starting to get to me. My mother, a saint of woman, had regimented the sections of my suitcase like an over-caffeinated Marine officer. The only thing we had left to grab were a set of miniature toiletries for my pre-travel in London.
My mother gleefully picked up three ounce bottles of shampoo, exclaiming at their diminutive cuteness. She began badgering me with questions, peppering me with volley after volley of specific queries. Questions like, “Will you want one or two bottles of conditioner? What are the specifications for liquids on the airline? Do you want to avoid the perils of dandruff in Europe?” ricocheted off my besieged brain. I turned toward her at the moment she was holding up an especially flowery-scented deodorant container and fumed, “I don’t care about conditioner, deodorant, or the high-level dandruff protection I’ll get from my shampoo. I need to get out of here.” After a couple of minutes of breathing in and out of a brown paper bag, I recomposed myself and solved my toiletry trouble. If I had had a packing list, I could have avoided a medium-sized panic attack.
Packing is daunting, but it is a hurdle that can be leaped over with grace and poise. To help you avoid the stress of brainstorming a packing list, I have included a list of the absolute essentials for study abroad.
Before you pack your entire college apartment into a suitcase, focus on the absolute necessities you will need. One large, rolling suitcase should provide ample room for most of your clothes. Include a smaller, carry-on piece of luggage for long-break opportunities. Lastly, take a small backpack or draw-string bag for the reading material and snack food you will want on the plane. This last piece of luggage can also double as a portable bag for overnight or weekend trips.
One important thing to remember is the carry-on conditions for discount airline providers like Ryanair and easyJet. Check out some great examples of carry-on bags here.
Depending on the weather patterns of the country you are traveling to, the clothes you choose could differ greatly. Shorts and t-shirts will predominate for those of you heading to the Mediterranean, while sweatshirts and jeans will stuff the suitcases of study abroad students in Austria or Germany. Prepare for extreme swings in temperature. Bring clothes that are comfortable, light-weight, and that you do not mind ruining. Although you may be tagged in 2,000 Facebook pictures while you are abroad, you do not need to look like a runway model in each photo.
Warm clothes: Although sweatshirts, sweatpants, and sweater may take up a lot of room in your luggage, they are worth having around.
Workout clothes: While you are abroad, it is easy to overindulge in the limitless lager and uncountable cuisine offerings of your host country. If you like to stay active, make sure to bring shorts, running shoes, and performance gear. Avoid the Abroad 15 add workout clothes to your packing list.
Rain Jacket: Rain clouds are study abroad students worst enemies. When the sky begins to thicken and churn with ashen bullies, quickly open your bag and remove your rain jacket. If you can avoid getting soaked, some say Paris is only more beautiful in the rain.
One Pair of Dress Clothes: You never know when you might be invited to a royal dinner or dance. Do not turn down a blushingly bold princess because you are dressed like the village pauper.
Wool Socks or quick drying socks: Feet get cold.
Hiking Boots: Footwear choices are the primary mistake of most study abroad students. If your dreams are chalked full of day traipsing through romantic alleyways and museum corridors, you need a good pair of hiking boots. Although they may look a little clunky, unprepared travels will be choking on the foreign dust you have been churning up with your lightning-quick legs.
Don’t forget no matter what!
1.) Important documents: Passport, Visa, Copies of all
3.) Prescription Medicine
5.) Computer: Writing a blog is the best way to share your experiences with friends and family back home in the States. Also, you will want to keep up on all the relationship changes back at your college.
6.) Camera: You do not need a titanium-alloy, robot-controlled, or luxury camera to take memorable pictures. It pays to invest in a digital camera.
7.) First Aid Kit: When our group would hit the local nightclub, I could not help but get out on the dance floor. Although my mom forced me to take a Jazz dance class in fourth grade, I am not exactly flaunting Usher or Justin Timberlake moves. The best way to describe my style of dance is a whirling dervish of elbows, hips, and hair. Oftentimes, I would scrape up against an unsuspecting wall or pillar and cut myself. A few packages of bandages are always good to have close by.
8.) Foreign Currency
- Reading material for the flights
- Toiletries: You can usually pick up most toiletries in your host country, but come with travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, ibuprofen.
- Gifts for host families
- Alarm clock
- Thin light-weight, quick-dry towel
- Water Bottle
- Guide Book
- Playing Cards – Shake off the exhaustion during an overnight layover or train ride. Play a couple of rounds of your favorite card game with your friends.
- Picture of your family/dog/friends - You are going to get homesick. Pack that special picture, so you can snuggle with it when you are feeling lonely.
- Money Belt – Do not be the traveler with a target on your back for pickpockets. Clueless American travelers are a pickpocket’s paradise. Here is the money belt I used to protect my crucial documents.
When your airplane touches down in your host county, you will immediately realize that you forgot to pack a myriad of objects. Luckily, European shops offer much of the same fare as stores in the USA. Whip out that fresh, vibrant foreign currency and make some purchases. Good luck with your packing lists!