How to Pack Effectively for Your Semester Abroad

girl with suitcase

Taking a semester abroad can be one of the best and most exciting times of your life. But before you get there you have to think about packing. It may not seem like a difficult task but making sure you have everything you need while also keeping the baggage to a minimum can be somewhat of a balancing act. So hopefully these tips can help you pack for your semester abroad, and get you on your way to a life changing adventure.

Make a Plan

If you know that on your trip you are going to be doing certain activities, make sure you plan accordingly. You are essentially moving for a semester so you don’t want to be unprepared for any activities you might participate in, for example: hiking, building houses, or any community service opportunities. These activities could change what you decide to pack. The best way to make sure you pack appropriately is to do your research and get to know the program you’ll be participating in. Ideally, you have been accepted into a program that includes extracurricular activities you enjoy, but there is always the possibility you will be trying new things as well, so look carefully at the itinerary and make sure you are packed for everything.

Make a List

This is probably the most important thing you can do. Creating or finding a checklist will help you map out what you really need and what you can leave behind. One thing that really helps is to lay out everything you want to bring on your bed and narrow it down from there. If you see that you have seven pairs of pants maybe you can cut back to three. Doing this will save you a lot of time and energy in the long run. Don’t forget you can always buy more shoes when you get there!

Think About the Weather

This is super important! You want to make sure if you are traveling to a cold country you are packing accordingly. Wearing extra layers on the flight is a good way to create space in your bag. Also, don’t forget to pack a hat and mittens. If you are going to a warm weather destination you want to make sure to still pack a jacket in case the weather turns, but overall you should have some more space for warm weather clothing. You also want to make sure to bring sunglasses, a summer hat, and a bathing suit.

Downsize and Utilize

Being able to downsize everything is really helpful for packing. Rather than bringing a computer, bring a tablet. Rolling your clothes or vacuum packing them can make more space in your bag as well. Also make sure you use every inch of space you have. Stuff smaller items in shoes and hats, and make sure any toiletry containers you bring are compact and completely full. A half-empty bottle of shampoo is a waste of space, so investing in a new one or transferring it to a smaller bottle will make a huge difference.


These are just a few helpful tips that will help you pack for your semester abroad, and have an awesome travel experience. One last thing, make sure you leave some room in your bag to bring home souvenirs! Cherish your time traveling and make the most of your journey. If you have any packing tips of your own, please share them in the comments!


Guest writer:

Amanda_EarleyAJ Earley is a freelance writer and travel junkie from Boise, Idaho. 

twitter: @ajvworld


10 Things You’ll (probably) Forget to Pack when You Study Abroad

10 things you'll forget to pack
Studying in another country is a life-changing adventure, and challenges are a welcome part of the learning experience. However, it’s easier to immerse yourself in a new language and culture when you’re prepared for some of the most common challenges. Packing lists are excellent resources as you plan ahead, but they tend to focus on the bare necessities. If you haven’t studied abroad before, you might assume these checklists are comprehensive. Take it from me: they’re not.

During my semester in China, there were a few crucial items I wished I had brought. Even though I followed the suggestions of many study abroad packing lists, I learned some lessons the hard way. Through trial and error, I discovered a few extra things that students should pack to make their study abroad experience better, easier, and more comfortable.

Whether you’re still researching your options or you’re getting ready for an extended stay in another country, keep these ten commonly overlooked items in mind as you prepare for your journey.

Your Favorite Movies

moviesYour time abroad will be packed with exciting new opportunities to learn, socialize, and explore. However, during the course of several months, some downtime is inevitable. Make sure you bring DVDs or digital downloads of at least a few favorite movies. They’ll remind you of home when you’re homesick, distract you if you’re actually sick, and entertain you on rainy days. Movies are also a great way to connect with new friends and introduce them to American pop culture.

Downy Wrinkle Release Spray

downyIrons aren’t exactly lightweight, and you may not have access to them in your dorm, hotel, hostel, or host family’s home. After your clothes travel thousands of miles in a cramped suitcase, Downy Wrinkle Release Spray will be your best friend. Just follow the directions on the bottle to remove any wrinkles and make a good first impression with your professors, host family, and new

Playing Cards

playing cards A deck of playing cards is a universal source of entertainment, crossing language barriers and age groups. Thanks to games like solitaire, they’re also insurance against periods of boredom. Pack playing cards in your bag and bust them out if you want to socialize with new friends or kill time.


bootsRain Boots

Don’t ruin your shoes and track water all over your host family’s floor like I did! Umbrellas may be relatively easy to find, but it’s much more difficult to find a sturdy pair of rain boots in your size. Instead, bring your own all-purpose galoshes to prevent soggy shoes and socks. They’ll make it easier to navigate campus and city streets on rainy days (you won’t have to walk around puddles). Plus, they come in many fun and colorful styles which make for a great icebreaker!

(gift idea source:

gift pack

Small Gifts from Home

Whether you stay with a host family or make friends who live nearby, you’ll receive plenty of hospitality from locals when you study abroad. You may even receive gifts from teachers, hosts, and fellow students. Show your appreciation with unique gifts from your hometown or home state. Monetary value isn’t important; it’s truly the thought that counts.

 photo heart

Photos from Home to Hang Up

Don’t underestimate the value of seeing the smiling faces of your friends and family every day. If you get overwhelmed by language difficulties or struggle to make new friends, personalizing your living area will cheer you up. Incidentally, personal photos also help when you’re feeling the opposite of homesick. If you’re having such a great time that you start to dread your eventual return, remind yourself of the family members and friends waiting for you.

sweat pants

Pair of Sweatpants

When I prepared for my trip, I focused on packing light and preparing for different seasons and outdoor conditions. I didn’t put as much thought into my loungewear, so I only had a few lightweight pairs of pajama shorts. Sweatpants are a warmer, more modest option for students with host families. They’re also super cozy and comfortable! Bring a pair from your college or favorite sports team to remind yourself of home.

packing listItemized List of Checked Baggage

As you pack the luggage you plan to check with the airline, make a detailed inventory of each item. You may have to claim damages for lost luggage or replace missing items, so it’s important to know exactly what you packed. Just in case, add an extra outfit to your carry-on luggage too. I rolled up a lightweight, wrinkle-proof dress and extra pair of underwear. That way if your checked luggage does get lost, you can enjoy the comforts of clean clothes while you figure things out.


Your school will probably have a cafeteria or nearby restaurants to frequent for lunch. However, if you want to save a little money you can make your lunch at home and bring it with you in a lunchbox. Bringing your lunch is a great way to enjoy fresh ingredients from local markets and experiment with cooking at home. Ask your host family if you can wrap up leftovers to have for lunch the next day. Some host families may even make lunch for you to bring to school. Hard lunchboxes can be difficult to find overseas, so consider bringing one with you from home. It also doubles as a separate storage container in your suitcase!

sheetsPillowcase and Sheets

You’ll probably stay in more than one place during your travels, especially if you plan to visit other cities and countries during your study abroad experience. Student hostels are cheap and convenient, but they’re not exactly famous for cleanliness. If you’re a germophobe like me – or you have nightmares about bed bug infestations – I highly recommend bringing a clean pillowcase and set of sheets. Lightweight “sleep sacks” like the cocoon travel sheet save space in overnight bags.


What Else Should You Pack To Study Abroad?

I hope this list comes in handy as you explore your study abroad options or prepare for your upcoming trip. However, if you’ve already completed a study abroad program, you know these ten suggestions are just a starting point.

If you learned any packing lessons the hard way, help future students avoid the same mistakes. What do you wish you had brought with you on your study abroad? Let me know in the comments!


Our Guest Blogger – 

carly smith

Carly Smith has been traveling to Europe since she was a kid. Wanting to experience something out of her comfort zone, she recently returned home from a semester abroad with Go Abroad China at Fudan University in Shanghai. She is now back home in Oregon working on her degree in Journalism and can’t wait to see where she ends up next. Follow her on twitter @carlyabroad


Going Undercover While Studying Abroad

Brought to you by Abroad101’s fashion aficionado, Will Cox.

They see you. You can’t hide. They know who you are.  You are a sophomore in high school traveling Europe with your family and everyone around you knows… you are a TOURIST.  First there is your mother, power walking along in her Goretex pants, swishing more than Michael Jordan in the finals.  Then there is your little brother, who insisted on arriving upon European soil stomping in Air Force Ones.  Finally there is your father, strapped with his ultra-practical fanny pack synched just loose enough not to separate his legs from his torso.  For you, the travel-lover in training who just wanted to pass for a local, it was pure torture.

Fanny packs are retro, but not rad.

Fear not however.  Today, five years later, you are returning to Europe alone; a college Junior studying abroad.  Equipped with the following fashion tips, you can get a head start on your transformation, allowing an entire semester to look the part and play out your fantasy of life as a true European.

Continue reading

Host Families and Gifts From Home!

go shopping 1none Objects / General

While not all study abroad programs include a homestay, the experience of living with a local family can be a great way to immerse yourself in the culture. If you don’t have this opportunity, it’s always interesting to get to know the family of a new friend- a roommate or classmate from the nearby area who would be happy to have you come spend time in their home. You may find new perspective on your host country and make new friends in the process. Continue reading

Ten Packing tips for the Study Abroad Student

Ten Packing tips for the Study Abroad Student

Whether you are studying abroad for a week, month, semester or year, packing can be a daunting activity. To make the whole process a little easier, here are some tips on how to pack for study abroad like a pro.

1. If you are planning on studying abroad in Europe do not bother packing sweatpants. Maybe pack one pair to lounge around your apartment or dorm room in but I promise you NO ONE in Europe wears them and if you do you will be stared at. Do not waste the space. Continue reading