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How to Pack for your Study Abroad Program

ba student hugging homestay family

Your empty suitcase. It's an object that represents excitement and new beginnings, but also one that can leave you petrified if you're not sure what to put in it. Fear not - we have lots of resources to stop your packing paralysis! Read on to discover our best study abroad packing tricks and tips.

What To Bring

Good news - each of our global campuses has put together specific information on what to bring for your program! Head to your program's "About" page (below) and click "Packing" for more information:

Buenos Aires
Washington, D.C.

Here are a few key things that you will want to bring when you study abroad, no matter where you go:

  • Comfortable Shoes

You will be walking, a LOT, and often on uneven ground (like cobblestones). It's critical to have a comfortable, durable pair of shoes that you can walk around in all day long.

  • Things You Can't Get Abroad

In most cases, you will be able to purchase any extra clothing or household items that you may have forgotten. But there are a few items that will be difficult to get once you are abroad. For example:

    • Specific toiletries or beauty items that you can't live without - You can find personal products like toothpaste, shampoo, soap, etc. overseas – often even the same brands. However, bring your favorite product if you can't live without it. Ladies, we recommend bringing your preferred brand of tampons with you.
    • Prescription medications - If you are on prescription medication, bring a supply from home. U.S. Prescriptions will not be filled overseas. When traveling with a medication, keep it in its regular prescription container and keep a copy of your doctor's prescription with you. If you must take medication by injection (i.e. insulin) please carry a letter from your doctor  describing your condition and inform the local program staff immediately upon arrival. Remember extra contacts and solution.
    • Over the counter medications - Generic brands of aspirin, cough syrup, etc., may be found locally, but specific U.S. brands may be hard to come by. It is suggested that you bring a basic supply of medication (aspirin, cold medication, cough medication) overseas with you. Program staff will not provide medicine.
    • American snacks that remind you of home -  Hot Cheetos anyone?!

  • At Least One Nice Outfit

 All of our programs have a few events per year where you will want to dress up. It's a good idea to bring one formal outfit so that you are prepared for your final banquet, a trip to the opera, or another schmancy event that might come your way.

  • A Converter and/or Adapter

Outlets are different in other countries. An adapter changes the SHAPE of the plug, while a converter converts the VOLTAGE. You most likely need an adapter and maybe a converter as well. Invest in a couple adapters and/or converters that you can easily stash in your bag to plug in your laptop, phone, etc. If you're planning on traveling to several different countries, remember that you might need a different converter or adapter for each one. For example, the adapter you need for the UK is not the same as the adapter you need for Germany.

  • A Durable Weekend Bag

Since you'll be taking lots of short trips while you're abroad, it's important to have a sturdy bag to bring with you on the weekends. Most students use backpacking backpacks, because it can be difficult to carry roller bags across cobblestones and up and down train station stairs. Make sure the bag is small and well-designed enough that you can carry it for hours at a time without an issue.

What NOT To Bring

Save your precious luggage space and DON'T bring these items:

  • Too Much Stuff!

Bringing too many clothes, shoes, books or personal items is a common mistake. Bring only what you absolutely need, and remember that you will be able to purchase additional items after you arrive if you need to.

One good strategy is to hold off on purchasing any new bulky items until after you arrive. For example, if you're planning on buying a new pair of waterproof boots, wait until you get to your program location - you'll probably get a better deal, an item more suited to where you're living, and you won't have to carry it on the way there.

Also, remember to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs and mementos of your travels that you will collect along the way.

  • Pillows, Blankets, Linens and Towels

Pillows, blankets and sheets are provided in all of our campus locations. You can purchase towels and washcloths after you arrive.

  • Irreplaceable Sentimental Items

During frequent travel it's more likely that one of your precious or sentimental items can get lost or stolen. The best way to make sure your valuables such as expensive jewelry, sophisticated electronics and family heirlooms will stay safe is to leave them at home.

If there are valuable items that you do need to bring, such as a laptop or smartphone, it's a good idea to protect them with renter's insurance. We recommend purchasing a policy through

  • Hair Dryers, Curlers, or Other High Voltage Items

US devices are powered by 110 voltage. In Europe, outlets usually have 220 voltage – that's enough to fry your curling iron or hair dryer if it's not made to function on both voltages. If your device cannot handle dual voltage, you can use a converter, but these are often bulky and don't always work. The best solution is to avoid bringing items that require a converter, and instead purchase local products abroad. That way you won't blow out the power or your device!

How To Make It Fit

Remember to check the baggage allowance for your flight before you start packing. If you're on the group flight, baggage requirement information including weight, number of bags allowed and the cost to add extra or overweight bags was sent to you along with your flight itinerary. If you have read the baggage requirements and have additional questions, please contact the airline.

If you are exempt from the group flight, check with the airline to learn about their baggage requirements.

It's a good idea to weigh your bag BEFORE you go to the airport to ensure you're not over the limit - overweight fees can be very steep, and you don't want to have to repack your bag at the check-in desk!

Packing cubes or mesh bags can also be helpful to keep you organized.

What To Download

Once your bags are packed, weighed and ready to go, it's a good idea to think about the travel apps and/or programs that you may want to access while abroad. We put together a list of the travel apps recommended by our IP alum here - check it out and be sure to download everything before you leave as some apps cannot be downloaded from outside the USA.

We're so excited for your upcoming journey abroad! Feel free to contact us or your program staff with additional packing questions.

Bon Voyage,