8 Items to Add to Your Study Abroad Packing List

Ginger Abbot

Feb 23, 2022
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Roughly 10% of U.S. graduates study abroad at some point during their college career. And, if you’re one of the lucky few who gets to study overseas, you’re probably wondering what to pack. After all, you’ll be over there for at least a few months. Which belongings are essential and which should you leave behind? In most cases, destination, climate, culture and lifestyle will help you determine what to bring. However, practically every student can benefit from adding the following items to their study abroad packing list. 

1. Reusable Water Bottle 

Most travelers wait until they’re through airport security to stock up on snacks and drinks. However, frequent fliers know that the secret to saving money and staying hydrated is to bring your own water bottle. Pack a reusable, sealable one in your carry-on bag and fill it up at a drinking fountain after passing through security. Water bottles that double as thermoses can also come in handy if you’re an avid coffee drinker who caffeinates on the go. 

2. Inflatable Neck Pillow 

It makes sense to bring a neck pillow on the plane, whether your flight is three hours or 10. That’s because you likely won’t realize how tired you are until you sit down and settle in. Bring an inflatable one that you can easily deflate, fold and pack away when it’s time to deplane. Use the same pillow on long car rides and bus tours during your time abroad. 


3. Power Adapter

If you’ve never traveled overseas before, you might be quite shocked when your phone charger doesn’t fit in a single outlet in your dorm room. That’s because different countries have different adapters and electrical outputs. Luckily, you can still charge all of your devices as long as you have a power converter or adapter. Make sure yours is universal or at least includes an adapter for your destination country. Overload protection is another feature worth looking for if you’re worried about a potential power surge. 

4. Travel Journal

A picture is worth a thousand words but, if you’d rather put your phone away and live in the moment, a travel journal is a must. Choose one with plenty of room for documenting your adventures abroad or a day-to-day journal that doubles as a planner to keep track of due dates and deadlines. It should also have a durable cover to withstand wear and tear during your travels. Years from now, you can reflect on your writings and remember all the good — and challenging — times you experienced while studying abroad. 

5. Credit Cards 

Many students like to carry cash, debit and credit cards while traveling. Yet, the safest option is to leave everything but your credit cards at home. That’s because thieves can easily steal cash or drain your checking account with a debit card. However, if someone gets ahold of your credit card, they’ll only be able to take so much and, even then, purchase protections and travel coverage will likely help you recover those funds. Choose no-foreign-transaction cards to avoid fees and only withdraw and use cash as a backup. 

6. Shower Shoes 

Maybe you’re staying with a host family during your semester abroad, or maybe you plan to live in a dorm. Either way, a pair of shower shoes will serve you well. Slip into some plastic slides or sandals to avoid stepping in hair, suds and other nastiness that often ends up on shower floors. Plus, it’ll make walking to and from the showers much more comfortable — not to mention less slippery. 

7. Backpack

Of course, you’ll need a backpack to carry items from your study abroad packing list, including books and folders. While it may be tempting to go with the most affordable option, it’s wiser to invest in a middle-of-the-road backpack that’s built to last. Look for one with a higher weight rating, thicker straps and features that redistribute the load and take some strain off your lower back. 

8. Photos 

Adding the above items to your suitcase probably won’t leave much room for dorm room decor. However, you can still pack a few smaller decorations like photographs. Print out pictures of your friends, family and pets and stick them in a folder or book for safekeeping. Once you arrive, you can frame a few for your bedside table or hang some over your desk for decoration and motivation. 

Packing Light

As much as you’d like to pack your entire room into a suitcase, it’s best to keep your list short and pack light. This way you have more room for souvenirs and gifts for friends and family when you finally return back home. 


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