Studying Abroad: What to Pack in 5 Steps

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Studying Abroad: What to Pack in 5 Steps

by WSA Intern Mollie Freeman

The first step for a successful semester studying abroad is to pack smart. Coming from someone who has had plenty of experiences overpacking, the 5 steps below will keep your bag in check. Once packing is finished, you can start planning your fun weekends away with WSA! Use promo code GALWAYGIRL to receive up to Є30 off your bookings.

1. Less is More

I cannot stress this enough! My first time packing for Europe, I brought FOUR fifty-pound bags and TWO backpacks. Ridiculous, I know. I promise that you won’t need every single pair of American Eagle jeans you own, or five pairs of sandals. Pack clothes that can be mixed and matched to make your wardrobe seem bigger than it is, and consider packing one pair of gym shoes, one pair of shoes for going out, and one for everyday use. If you are anything like me, you’ll end up buying things from stores like Primark, Zara, Bershka, and Topshop, and you’ll be happy you didn’t bring along as many clothes with you. When it comes to toiletries and personal care items, only bring the essentials that you cannot get abroad, such as any medicine or vitamins you take or contact lenses. You will not have a problem finding shampoo and toothpaste once you are there, I promise!

ADVICE: Buy Ziploc’s vacuum seal travel bags. Roll your clothes, pack them into the bags and vacuum all the air out. This saves so much space and will allow for more room to bring things home with you!

(Picture: A young and inexperienced me bringing way too much with me the first time I went over to Ireland.)

2.       For the weather

Pack for the weather! Research the typical climate of your new city and plan accordingly. I would always suggest bringing a light raincoat, a warmer jacket (this depends on when and where you will be studying), and items that can be layered. If you know you will be traveling to countries with climates different to your study abroad country, you can always buy cheap clothes once you arrive and know where you’re traveling to.

ADVICE: We all know the girl with the Hunter rain boots (Hi, that’s me!). What is interesting is that Hunter’s are totally accepted and worn in England. But, if you wear them in Ireland… you look like a silly American who wants to work in the bogs. So…maybe skip the rainboots.

3.       Important Documentation

You will not be allowed to stay or possibly leave your study abroad country without all your important documentation. Ensure you have your passport and paperwork for medical insurance, banking, registration and immigration in your carry-on for easy access (and keep copies, too!). Once you arrive to your home abroad, keep these in a safe place, and do not get rid of anything until you return home—you never know when you might need it.

ADVICE: Buy a folder specifically for your documents you receive/ need while abroad. You can keep your American ID, money and SIM card in there until you return to the States.

4.       Technology

We are lucky enough to live in a day and age where technology can keep us connected with home while we are abroad. Make sure you have any adapters or converters you may need for your laptop, camera, phone, or other technological device. Research data providers in your study abroad country and compare their cost to your cell phone provider at home – it may be cheaper to buy a new SIM card once you arrive abroad than to pay for an international data plan. Download Whatsapp and/or Skype before you leave and connect with family and friends so you can text and video call for free.

ADVICE: If you know you will be traveling to multiple countries that require different adapters, you can buy all in one adaptors that will work in Europe and the UK rather than paying separately for each one.

5.       Reminders of Home

There will be times when you are missing home while studying abroad and there is no better way to combat homesickness before it happens than to keep reminders of home with you on your study abroad. Print off pictures that you can hang up in your room, bring along a favorite t-shirt from your home university or even a stuffed animal from home (I am still a kid at heart!).

ADVICE: I like to bring along a few treats from home as well, like boxes of Mac n Cheese or a few bags of Sour Patch Kids. Save them for those days you are missing home!

(Picture: Three years later...much more experienced me packing light, with a little friend from home to keep me company on the long flight to Spain!)


Complete these 5 steps and you’ll be a packing expert, ready to take on a semester abroad!



Lauren Hill, University of Notre Dame

Happy Backpackers

I did the WSA program in Barcelona with my college friends and we all absolutely loved it! Great company, great plans and activities, and fully worth the money. Would recommend for any college students travelling together and looking for someone to show them the sights but in a very...

Lauren Hill, University of Notre Dame ~ University of Notre Dame, London, Summer Break 2016

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