The One Thing You Need To Pack For Study Abroad, According To 15 Real Women
Packing is arguably the best and worst part of any trip. On the one hand, it means you're going somewhere. On the other hand, it's stressful AF. Especially when it comes to studying abroad, you don't know where to start. You have to somehow fit your entire closet into a suitcase, and aren't sure what's actually "enough" for a few months in another country. Take a deep breath, because real women are sharing the one thing you need to pack for study abroad. You'll be completely prepared for your favorite semester yet.
For a girl with a whole lot of wanderlust, spending a semester abroad is a dream come true to you. When you first arrived at college, it was the one thing you were sure you wanted to do. During the first week of classes, you went to the study abroad office on your campus and started going through the pamphlets. Where in the world would you go for four or five months? (That was always the big question.)
Now, you've bought your plane tickets and even know where your flat will be. You've been going through your visa paperwork, saving money, and prepping for months with packing lists. A backpack, reusable water bottle, and bathing suits are essentials. You're just so worried you'll forget something else that's unexpected or crucial. Lucky for you, though, these 15 women have been there and done that. They shared exactly what you need for a semester abroad.
1. A Travel-Sized Mirror
A small mirror. The apartments, hostels, and Airbnbs you're staying at might have a mirror somewhere in the bathroom. But if there [are] eight girls all trying to get ready to go out, it's worth having your own so you can do your makeup in peace.
— Laura, 25
2. A Personal Item (Possibly A Guitar)
The most important thing that I packed for study abroad didn't exactly fit in my suitcase — it was my guitar. Some thought I was crazy for traveling with something so big, but having my guitar enhanced my experience tenfold. I was living in Paris, and while I was proficient in French, I wasn't fluent. Music was a means to connect with the new people I met, both American and French. It also brought me solace when I felt lonely or homesick. Playing open mic nights and random gigs simultaneously helped me feel rooted in my surroundings and open to new adventure. It became my travel buddy for four months! I felt like a troubadour.
3. A Jar Of Peanut Butter
Peanut butter! I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and naturally, I completely fell in love. One major thing I did miss terribly from home, though, was my favorite jar of peanut butter. You'll be eating a ton of gelato, mozzarella, paninis, Nutella-filled croissants, and the best fresh pasta of your life — but you will miss (and find yourself seriously craving) peanut butter from home. So, be sure to pack some in your bag before you jet off to the experience of a lifetime. (Of course, you have to check TSA requirements to see how much of it you're actually allowed to bring on the airplane.) But if peanut butter is your jam, do yourself a favor and bring some along for the adventure.
— Alexa, 25
4. ...And More Peanut Butter
I was warned that Italy doesn’t really have peanut butter, by a girl who had studied abroad in Rome the semester before me. Peanut butter is the most important thing I packed in my suitcase, because I eat it almost every day on pretty much everything — apples, celery, rice cakes, you name it!
— Alissa, 23
5. A Few Pictures From Home
Going abroad is truly one of the most life-changing experiences, but it’s easy to get homesick! Pack some pictures of your friends, family, pets, or hometown to help you feel connected to the ones you love back overseas.
— Morgan, 23
6. A Camera
The most important thing I packed was my camera. First and foremost, it captured all of my precious and treasured memories during my time abroad. I could look at my pictures now and immediately go back to where I was, how I felt, and experience the smells and sounds during the exact moment when it was taken. Not only did it capture all of my memories, but I also gained a passion for photography. There were so many days I would just walk around Florence snapping pictures and videos and taking in all of the beauty that the city had to offer. I also took a photography class and learned so many new techniques about taking pictures that I've carried with me beyond my semester abroad.
— Kelsey, 23
7. A Journal
The most important thing I packed for study abroad (besides comfortable walking shoes) would have to be my journal. I used it to write about my trips, sketch drawings for my architectural history class, and keep addresses of my friends and family to send them postcards. I started collecting stickers from the different cities I went to and decorated the front of it. Since being home from abroad I have used the places I went to and wrote down in my journal to recommend places for friends who were studying abroad in Florence to visit.
— Angela, 23
8. A Childhood Favorite
I think the most important thing I packed was a last-minute grab. I was debating on whether or not I should take my childhood blanket with me on my six-month adventure. It wasn’t in the greatest shape, and I didn’t want anything to happen to it while I was overseas. On the morning I was leaving, my sister told me I should take it, because I was going to want it eventually. So, I took her advice and put it in my carry-on.
Fast-forward to the end of my first week abroad and I’m settling into my room, I pulled it out and realized how much I did want it in that moment. It was almost a little reminder of home during my time away. It was very comforting to have when I was in such a foreign place.
— Darcy, 22
9. ...Like A Stuffed Animal
I swear the best thing I packed was my stuffed animal, Cookie. It's a baby cheetah and I've slept with it every night since my grandma bought it for me, when I was eight at Rainforest Cafe. I kept going back to it while packing, wondering if it was time that I've outgrown it. But in the end, the small token of home every night brought more comfort than I ever expected.
— Katelyn, 23
10. Another Bag With Extra Space
The one thing I wished I packed, and forgot to, was pictures. I would also say clothes that can be layered and worn with multiple outfits, and another bag with extra space for the things you buy!
— Sarah, 23
11. A Pair Of Comfortable Sneakers
One of the most important things I packed for study abroad was a comfortable pair of sneakers. You’re going to be walking everywhere — from day-to-day to exercising, to exploring tougher terrain. If you find a good pair, you should be able to wear them with different outfits. Shorts, jeans, and dresses, too!
— Gabrielle, 22
12. At Least One Hair Tie
The absolute best thing I packed going abroad was a solid pair of sneakers and a hair tie! Between all the tours, hikes, and crazy adventures (that were usually weirdly long walks because we turned down the wrong road as some point and didn't know) — the few things that I always needed, and was so happy I had, were comfy shoes and a hair tie!
— Sam, 23
13. A Copy Of Your Important Travel Documents
My camera. As important as it is to stay in the moment and take in what’s around you, it’s also amazing to document your time abroad and get to look back on it. And a responsible #adult thing to pack is a copy of your passport (or any other important documents) just in case you misplace it!
— Justine, 24
14. A Tried And True Hair Product
The most important thing I packed when I studied abroad was my leave-in conditioner! No matter what country I traveled to while abroad, the water always damaged my hair. If I didn’t have my leave-in conditioner, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with my hair — that includes brushing it.
— Micaela, 23
15. A Fanny Pack
The most important thing I brought was my fanny pack! It kept my passport and money safe while traveling. I also lived in my Teva sandals because [of their] arch support. But at the end of the day, it wasn't about the clothes brought, but about the adventures, memories, and friendships!
— Steph, 23
Some responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.