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Arriving at your host country is a whirlwind experience. You will be bombarded with a different crowd of people, different signs, different language, different food — among this somewhat overwhelming experience, you don’t want to discover that you forgot to pack something you need. Some students overpack their suitcases, forgetting to realize that many essentials are easy to purchase once you land in your host country (and often for cheaper). Others, in their haphazard last-minute attempt to remember everything they need, will forget something important. Here is a list of 10 essential items to pack when studying abroad.

  1. Universal Adapter/Converter
    The first thing you need to realize is that plugs are different in each region of the world, so your charger might not work. The second thing is that most of the world operates on 220 voltage, as opposed to the US/Canada, which runs on 110. Your hairdryer will fry  if you don’t pack both the adapter and the converter.
  2. Chargers
    Oh, the number of times I have heard fellow exchange students asking around if someone uses the same camera/laptop/cellphone charger as they. It’s pretty obvious why you would need this.
  3. Camera
    Some people are camera shy, but whether or not you want to be in the picture, it is important and easy to document your experience while you are living in a foreign country!
  4.  Unlocked Cellphone
    It’s often cheaper to just get a prepaid cellphone plan in your host country, but it is highly unnecessary to buy another phone if you have a functional one already! It only takes a few minutes to get the proper unlock code with your service provider (and some googling), and you will be able to instantly connect once you land.
  5. Prescription Drugs
    It’s a hassle to try and get your necessary medication when you’re abroad, so just bring enough to last the length of your stay while you’re there.
  6. Contact Lens Supply
    I knew an exchange student who ran out of contacts in the middle of her stay, tried to wear her last pair until it hurt to put them in her eye, and then just gave up. Remember, your eyes are important, so don’t attempt this and just bring enough to last you a few months.
  7. Insurance Card, etc.
    Forgetting your insurance card or other important travel documents, like your passport, visa, travel itinerary, etc., makes your experience unnecessarily stressful. Avoid that by remembering everything and placing it in a secure folder.
  8. Durable Shoes
    This could mean something different, depending on when and where you are going abroad. Winter boots are important for Japan in the winter, while good walking shoes are important for Germany in the fall. But it is something to consider if you have larger than average feet, because your size might not be available in your host country (I knew a few girls who couldn’t fit shoes in Hong Kong).
  9. Travel-Size Bottles
    It was a ridiculous wild goose chase, trying to find refillable travel-size bottles that I could fill with my shampoo and face wash for when I traveled on the weekends. You know your stores well in your home country, so just find them there and be prepared.
  10. $100 Cash in the Local Currency
    There will be numerous unexpected costs the moment you step off that plane, and converting your money at the airport is a complete ripoff–any well-traveled person knows that. So prepare ahead of time, and bring some cash with you.

    Check out the helpful video below about packing tips for long term travel!
    Packing Tips for Long-Term Travel

What are other essential items to pack when studying abroad? Let us know in the comments below!


Photo courtesy of Gary Knight via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).