Packing for studying abroad is pretty much the most daunting task you face as a student traveler before leaving your home country. And finding a comprehensive packing list geared toward students studying abroad? Good luck with that. Well, until now, that is—because here it is. This isn’t just a theoretical list written by someone who’s never actually studied abroad. This is what I’ve actually brought with me for my semester in London, along with a list of the things I decided to purchase once I arrived.
For reference, I’m a 21-year-old female, so guys—you can probably ignore about a third of the items on this list. (I’m sure you’ll figure out which ones.) I’m also studying in London between the months of September and November, so if you’re traveling to a warmer country, you may need to tweak the packing list a bit. But this is a pretty good place to start.
What I Packed
4 pairs of pants
- I recommend bringing two pairs of jeans and two pairs of other types of pants, such as different colored jeans, khakis, cargo pants, etc. Pants need to be washed so rarely that having only a few pairs should get you through the few months you’ll be away.
1 pair of sweatpants
2 pairs of yoga pants
1 pairs of shorts
1 pair of tights
All of your underwear
- I hate doing laundry, so I made sure I had the room to fit all of my underwear so that I can avoid doing laundry for as long as I possibly can.
5 pairs of socks
3 gym outfits
- Shorts, tops, and sports bras
- You may decide to bring more regular shirts and fewer sweaters. I just happen to love sweaters.
2 tank tops
- Cardigans are the SMARTEST clothing item you can bring to study abroad. If you leave in the fall like I did, you will probably have a few good weeks of warmer weather before the winter cold starts to set in. Cardigans are great because you can still bring your favorite short sleeve t-shirts and tank tops to wear as layers in the winter.
- If you plan on buying a sweatshirt from the school or country you are studying in, you might only want to bring one sweatshirt from home. After one week here I realized that I could probably have left one of the two sweatshirts I brought behind.
6 pairs of shoes
- Flip flops, flats, boots, rain boots, sneakers, dress shoes
- Rain coat, light jacket, winter coat
1 knit hat
1 baseball hat
- For bad hair days, obviously.
- My strategy for packing these types of products was to find a small pouch and only pack as much as I could fit. I started with jewelry and then threw in a few hair products, my make-up, and lastly two bottles of nail polish.
Travel shampoo and conditioner
- Definitely bring smaller bottles along with you (especially if you’re staying at a hotel for a separate orientation before arriving to campus like I did), but buy your bigger hair care products when you arrive.
Tooth brush (in travel case)
- I have a straightener that allows me to change the heat and voltage settings, so I was able to bring this along with me. If your straightener doesn’t have these options, you are better off buying one in country.
- I hate living in an empty room, so I ordered two medium sized tapestries from society6.com because they take up very little space in my suitcase. If you don’t care how your room looks, you can obviously ignore this item.
Pictures, string, and mini clothespins
- The easiest way I could think to pack pictures from home was to print out about 30 pictures and hang them on string attached to my bulletin board.
Chalkboard stick on calendar
Laptop and charger
Digital camera and charger
Cell phone and charger
- Another must-have for studying abroad.
Multiple converters and adapters
- It’s a good idea to bring converters and adapters, not only for the country you will be living in, but also for the countries you will be traveling to. Most converters come in packs that include multiple plug types.
How I Packed it
To travel to London, I brought a suitcase (it weighed less than 50 pounds fully packed), a carry-on, and one personal item (which was a decent-sized bag I got at Lulu Lemon).
In the suitcase, I packed all of my clothes and toiletries. In my rolling carry-on, I packed my shoes and the majority of my extras.
Packing tip: Place smaller items like converters, jewelry, and socks inside the shoes before packing them to create more space. I also packed my laptop and my chargers in my rolling carry-on because there’s no real weight limit on that bag.
In my personal item, I managed to fit my medium sized Longchamp purse (along with everything that was in it), an extra cross-body purse for when I didn’t want to carry the bigger purse around, and a few more of my extras, specifically things I knew I would want on the plane. I also carried my pillow pet and my blanket. For those of you who may be wondering, I did not pay any extra for any luggage, I did not have to ship extra baggage separately, and I did not get stopped at the gate for how many items I was actually carrying onto the plane.
Things I Bought When I Arrived
- If you can sleep on anything, you probably don’t need to buy a mattress topper. I attempted to sleep without one for the first few nights, but it just wasn’t comfortable enough for me.
- All easy things to buy and use up before you leave that will save you from packing the extra weight.
4 large plates
4 side plates
- Unless you plan to have company over frequently, you definitely do not need this many plates and bowls. It just happened to be cheaper for me to buy them all in a pack than to buy a smaller amount of dishes separately.
Set of Tupperware containers
- Yet another must-have. You will want to cook a lot of food at one time and then eat left-overs rather than cooking a new meal every time.
I’m not going to list all of the groceries I bought in my first week abroad because there’s a good chance you and I have different tastes. I will say, though, that you should start with your staple items like milk, pasta, bread, fruit, and vegetables, and then purchase the rest of your groceries based on the meals you plan to make with them. You may love ketchup, but if you have nothing to eat it with, there is really no point in making the purchase.
Amount spent on bedroom: $180
Amount spent on kitchen and groceries in the first week: $160
More from SmarterTravel:
- The Best Student Travel Discounts and Where to Find Them
- How to Find Safe, Affordable Hostels in Europe
- Summer Jobs for Travel-Loving Students
Nicole DiCenso is currently studying abroad in London, England. She loves to travel and document her journeys, so follow along on Instagram @GirlLostAbroad.