Pack Like a Champ for Your Semester Abroad

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So you think you’re ready to study abroad. Your housing is in order, your plane ticket has been bought, and your parents have forced you to get every vaccine on the market. But what will you pack? As your departure date looms, consider these tips for separating the important items from the obsolete.

The carry-on.

Not to be a downer, but one of the many airlines you’re using will lose your stuff (I’m looking at you, Air India). Therefore, you should keep certain absolute essentials in your carry-on. These include a toothbrush and travel toothpaste, one full change on clothes (yes, with underwear!), all important documents and contact information for your program, and any medications you may need.

Now let’s go through what should and should not make it into your checked luggage.

Take: a gift for your host family.

Start off your stay on the right foot and show them you appreciate their willingness to have a student guest. It will also be a nice reminder of your graciousness when you inevitably violate a bunch of their customs later on.

Don’t take: your nice camera.

Most phones nowadays have high quality cameras and, as you find yourself hiking the Scottish highlands or cramming into a subway in Tokyo, you might not want to lug around your DSLR.

Take: a travel journal.

A small, soft-bound journal (like a Moleskine) weighs nothing yet will provide you with vivid memories years after your trip. It will also give you a story behind all those pictures you took and can’t remember why.

Don’t take: cumbersome basics.

Jugs of shampoo and conditioner, electric razors, hair dryers, and the economy box of Q-Tips should not make it into your suitcase. Unless you’re going to a remote location, you can buy or borrow these things when you arrive.

Take: local currency.

You might think you can wait on that and just get some cash exchanged in your new country, but a lot can happen between the airport and your home-stay. A lot.

Don’t take: all your clothes.

Yes, you may be staying in your host country for six months, but you should only pack enough for about two weeks. You will be doing laundry and probably buying some local clothing while you’re there. Pack basic, versatile pieces that are comfortable and washable, and leave the full wardrobe behind.

As you frantically prepare for this exciting yet overwhelming adventure, don’t let the packing list weigh on your mind. Consider these basic strategies and get ready to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Bon voyage!

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