Studying Abroad is an amazing experience, and if you have the opportunity to participate in a program, you should not hesitate to take it. When else in your life can you drop everything and go off to live in a foreign country for a few months? Unless you become very wealthy, probably never. When you do decide to study abroad, the primary emotion you will feel leading up to your trip is likely intense excitement. However, as your departure date gets closer, another emotion will start to consume you: anxiety. And the most probable cause of your stress will be packing. When I started to pack for my semester in Prague, I had no idea where to start. How do you pack for 4 months in a different country? What if the weather is unpredictable, which shoes do I bring, will I need towels? These questions will constantly be on your mind and you will most likely feel totally overwhelmed, but that’s normal.
Luckily, a quick Google search for “study abroad packing list” will yield plenty of results and provide you with many lists advising as to what you should and shouldn’t pack. A large number of these lists are borderline identical. They all hit on the same points; prescription drugs, no hairdryers or straighteners (But really don’t bring these. DON’T BRING THEM!), a week’s worth of clothes and underwear, etc. These items are all very important, and looking at a few of these lists is extremely helpful. In order to add to that ever growing body of work, I wanted to put together a list of items that are pretty essential, but not really mentioned or emphasized in too many lists. These are the items you don’t realize you need, but will be happy to have once you are abroad.
Small appliances (like a Blow Dryer, etc.)
Ladies, I’m talking to you. I know I said it already, but I bet a bunch of you pretended I didn’t say don’t bring your flatiron, and are poised to put it in your suitcase right this second. Really don’t do it. It will break, and then you won’t have anything when you get home. The voltages are not the same, and even with an adapter, you will fry this appliance and possibly burn down your dorm. You can either buy cheap one when you get there, or just let your hair be natural for a few months. Not having perfectly straight hair every day won’t be the end of the world. I promise.
Photos, or something to personalize your room
If you are going to be away from home for a while, you will likely feel some homesickness at some point. Instead of riding out your emotions in a completyely un-personalized foreign dorm room, you should pack a few small items to hang on your walls, like a few photographs. I wouldn’t suggest bringing your favorite poster or anything, but a few prints that will make you feel at home, but you won’t have to worry about losing. As your trip goes on, you can also start hanging up maps and things you gather along the way. A little decoration goes a long way.
Ping Pong Balls and Red Solo Cups
Chances are, you and some of your friends are going to get the urge to play some pong at some point during your trip. From my experience, these items aren’t too easy to find abroad. These items are pretty light and small, so they won’t take up a ton of room in your suitcase. They are also nice to have just in case your dorm is drinking game friendly. And worst case scenario, even if you don’t play any beer pong, at least you’ll have some cups.
Even if wherever you will be living provides towels, I would still suggest bringing at least one from home. I didn’t bring a towel, and bought one at a Tesco in Prague, and it was the worst towel I ever used. It wasn’t super expensive, but why spend any money when you can just stuff one in your suitcase? If you lay it flat or use it to wrap things, it won’t take up too much room. And having a nice fluffy towel instead of a flimsy one that barely covers your torso will be more than worth it. And if it is all gross by the time your trip is over, you probably won’t feel too awful about just leaving it behind.