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Studying Abroad? 8 Things You Should Definitely Pack

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.

DON’T BRING:

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.

DO BRING:

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.

Towels

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.

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A Pillow

I don’t know about you, but sleeping is a lot easier when I have my favorite pillow.  Actually, maybe bring your second favorite pillow, just in case it gets lost or damaged.  You should probably avoid bringing your favorite anything overseas. There probably will be a pillow wherever you will be living, but it might be a weird pillow.  Also, sleeping with only one pillow is usually less than ideal.  There will be enough change and culture shock going on around you, you may as well be able to get a good night’s sleep.

Over The Counter Medications

Prescription meds are a no brainer.  If you are on any type of medication, make sure you have enough to last your whole trip.  Also, keep that in your purse/carry-on, you don’t want to risk losing it in case of a luggage mix-up. In addition to that, I would also suggest bringing your own little pharmacy.  In many countries, pharmacies don’t work the same way.  You can’t stroll into a CVS and pick up some Ibuprofen, depending on where you are, you might only be able to get it with a prescription.  I would suggest bringing the pain killer of your choice, some antacids, Nyquil and Neosporin.  Even if you don’t need them, somebody might.  I was known among my group as the pharmacist, because I had some sort of pill for everything.  You don’t know if you will get sick, so you may as well be prepared, just in case.

Socks and Undies

Laundry can be a hassle in different countries.  It can get expensive, and the closest laundromat could be very far away from where you live.  Things like jeans and sweaters are flexible, and especially abroad, you can get away with multiple wears (I’ll take this moment to add that you should also bring multiple pairs of leggings, jeans are way less cozy. and more prone to shrinking in the wash).  However, this is not the case with socks and underwear.  However many pairs of these you have will determine how frequently you will have to do laundry.  The more socks you have, the less times you have to go to the laundromat.  Bring lots of socks.

Ok, these last two may seem a little unsettling at first, and maybe they’re not something you are comfortable speaking about, but you should really bring plenty.  You never know when they might come in really handy…

1. I really can’t think of a heading for this item that isn’t weird or gross, so I won’t include one.  When you are travelling abroad, you have to adjust to a new time zone, a new living space, and a new style of cuisine.  What you are eating abroad probably won’t be the same as what you were eating at home, and that has the potential to create some issues.  Hopefully, you have caught on what I am trying to talk about, because I am doing my best to avoid being too graphic.  Chances are at some point, your food will decide it doesn’t want to leave your body, or it will decide it wants to exit immediately.  One or both of these issues are almost inevitable, which is why you should bring these, and these.

(To all the male readers: You may want to skip this one.  Or, if you want an in with the ladies in your study-abroad program, read on)

2. Tampons.  Many lists suggest you bring one month’s worth of “feminine products.” Bring more. Depending on where you are studying, the tampons may be weird.  For example, in Prague, it is impossible to find tampons with applicators.  If you don’t think you can, or would prefer not to have to adopt to this change, bring plenty.  More than you think you will need.  You may get suckered in to giving a few to your roommate, your roommate might just steal some, and before you know it, your stash is empty.  Better safe than sorry.  And dudes, if you are clever enough and not particularly creepy, you could probably successfully run a tampon blackmarket.  Just say your sister gave you a box as a prank going-away present, and trade them for beers or something.  It might just work.

What are your study abroad packing necessities? 

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