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How to Pack for Study Abroad



Fall semester is almost here, and for many of us that means Study Abroad!!! If you aren’t sure about studying abroad, but have always considered it… do it. You won’t regret it!

I had the chance to travel to Spain, England, and Ireland this summer and I wanted to share with you what I wore, along with some tips on what to bring with you when you study abroad.

Before You Being Packing, Ask Yourself These Questions…

1. What’s the weather like where I’m going? Hot? Cold? Rainy? Sunny? Do some research before you head out, so you’ll have a general idea of what clothes you need to bring with you.

2. Are there cultural differences? For instance, in Europe, some cathedrals won’t let you in if your legs are exposed. Again, research is key!

3. What will I be doing? Riding elephants? Climbing the Alps? Building wells? Meeting diplomats over crumpets? Figure out whether you’ll need to pack anything special like hiking shoes or professional attire or make plans to buy some once you arrive at your destination.

For a more in-depth looks about what to pack and dressing guidelines and tips for specific countries, be sure to check out our previous study abroad posts.

1. London’s Calling


In order to not clash (any ’70s/’80s music fans out there?), I suggest bringing solid-colored tops. I love sheer, thin ones, like the one I’m wearing above, because they’re so easy to layer. Throw a sweater on top, and you’re set for winter. Most importantly, they hardly take up any room in a suitcase. More room to take home a Paddington Bear or one of the Queen’s corgis!

My purse is a cross-body, and has a flap, snaps, and zippers to make it less accessible for pickpockets. At one point, I had a rain jacket, water bottle, and chunky camera all stored in here. In fact, I probably could have fit the entrance to Narnia in there.

Here in the South, we don’t wear socks. Just kidding! We just don’t wear wool camping socks. The reason I pictured these is because they saved my life by keeping my feet dry (during hikes) and warm (some hostels don’t have heaters).

Also, don’t forget a belt like I did – you’ll need one more than you think you will!

2. “Wherever Green is Worn” (from W.B. Yeats poem Easter 1916)

Utility jacket

Let me tell you the equilibrium point of style and comfort: combat boots and a utility jacket. How did I live my life without these?

Utility jackets are all the over place, and rightfully so. Mine has a hidden drawstring in the middle to cinch in at the waist and cute star accents. These pockets were the handiest dandiest things in the world. Underneath this jacket, I have layered a rain jacket and a sweater on top of a shirt like the one pictured above.

Combat boots are waterproof, comfortable, and the dirtier they get, the better. The only con is that they’re somewhat hard to take off in airports.

Confession time: these are jeggings. (The horror!). Jeans are not ideal because they tend to stretch out a lot after a couple of times of use and feel baggy in all the wrong places. Black jeggings take up less room, match everything, and look nicer than jeans.

Many study abroad trips are to multiple countries, which may mean multiple currencies. If you’re juggling multiple currencies, bring a large wallet. You need something roomy that can easily organize your bills, coins, whatever, and make everything easy to find. You do not want to waste your precious free time trying to dig for the right change.

Note: When Chi Flat Irons Get Homesick, They Spontaneously Combust


Seriously, the panels on mine melted off the frame, even with a convertor, adaptor, everything. I read some similar stories about this happening to other people’s chis. If you need a hair dryer, or straightener, I’d suggest waiting till you get there and buying a cheap one. RIP, destroyer of my hair health.

Your thoughts?

Where do you plan on going for Study Abroad? There is nothing holding you back! Secondly, which of these tips was the most helpful? Would you like to see more from my Study Abroad trip? Let me know in the comments below, por favor!

Posted on on August 11, 2013 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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29 Responses to “How to Pack for Study Abroad”

  1. 1
    August 11th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    On the multiple currencies note – I’m not sure if you can get them in the US, but when I went travelling last year I used a travel cashcard as I was going to lots of different countries. Basically you load cash onto it and then use it at ATMs and in shops in the country you’re visiting to take money out or spend in the local currency. It’s not linked to a bank account and means you can only spend what’s on it, meaning you can control your money. It worked fantastically well for me and if you can get them I’d definitely recommend it as being easier than taking lots of different currencies with you! Ours was from STA Travel so may be worth looking in there.

  2. 2
    August 11th, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Great post! Could you tell us where your crossbody bag is from? I’d love to get one like that for my upcoming trip.

  3. 3
    August 11th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Sorry about your straightener! When I studied abroad in Scotland two years ago, I had heard about straighteners frying if the voltage didn’t match up to UK voltage (even with an outlet converter sometimes). I ended up buying a really cheap (12 pound) one while I was there, which absolutely SUCKED. It kept losing heat halfway through straightening my hair, but since I was only there for a semester, it wasn’t a big deal. If I was there longer, I probably would’ve invested in a nicer straightener, since the humidity in the UK is not kind to frizzy-prone hair.

  4. 4
    August 11th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    This is a great post, and I love the essentials you included! Unfortunately I’m already in Switzerland for study abroad, so I’m done packing…
    I don’t know if CF has already written about this, but I (and some of my friends) could use a post about what to buy vs. bring to the country where you’re studying abroad. Obviously, for longer studies, you can’t bring ALL your clothes… so what would you recommend buying there instead of packing with you?

  5. 5
    August 11th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Where is your purse from? I absolutely love it!

  6. 6
    August 11th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Love your style Leah! Great tips on the hair straightener, my cousin from the US had her laptop charger melt in Ireland during her semester abroad, FYI!

    I guess the only thing here is as a proud Irish girl, WB Yeats is Irish and his poem is about the Easter 1916 Rising where Irishmen died fighting British soldiers! Just an aside, to a great post!! :) It’s a contentious issue even today with Irish republicans! (Which i’m not, just to clarify!)

    I love London and I think these are great tips for anyone crossing the Atlantic! :)

  7. 7
    August 11th, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Laura, that’s an excellent tip.

    Emily and Caitlyn, my cross body bag is a Longchamp messenger, I’m glad you like it. I definitely recommend this purse.

    Hannah, that’s a fantastic suggestion!

    Oria, I’m so happy you’ve read this poem. My study abroad classes were political science classes about the Easter Rising of 1916; I loved learning about the history of Ireland. I sincerely hope that people would read this poem after they saw the title… didn’t mean to offend anyone! :)

  8. 8
    August 12th, 2013 at 8:58 am

    The brown wallet looks really cute; where is it from?

  9. 9
    August 12th, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I love your personal style, and your writing style! This article made me smile :) transitional weather is always my biggest problem because I’m a Texas girl and we don’t layer here, we’d cook! So even of I can only dream of a trip abroad *sigh* I’m definitely saving your article for an upcoming winter trip to California! My only question is how comfy were your combat boots for a lot of walking? I’m thinking of bringing mine for hiking and trekking around San Fransisco but I’m worried about comfort and its too hot to test the theory down here!

  10. 10
    August 12th, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Thank you so much! My combat boots were great for hiking around in cities, especially with the thicker socks. If you’re doing real hiking in the wilderness, I wouldn’t recommend them as much because the bottoms don’t have any tread. Have fun packing for California!

  11. 11
    August 12th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    My brown wallet is from TJ Maxx. It’s super easy to find stuff in quickly!

  12. 12
    August 12th, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Awesome post! Always wanted to travel to London and hang out with the Queen’s Corgis.

  13. 13
    August 12th, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    This post actually had me (genuinely) laughing out loud a couple times, well done! and also great advice

  14. 14
    August 12th, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Maggie, that may be the best compliment ever! I’m glad someone understands my sense of humor :)

  15. 15
    August 14th, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Such a well-written, funny and truthful article. I studied abroad in Italy two years ago and just got back from a European trip. The outfits you described are perfect. My advice to add, is although sun dresses are perfect in a hot city like Rome during the summer, dresses do not allow for the versatility to truly mix up your wardrobe. I got so sick of my clothes really fast cause I was always wearing the same 5 dresses.

    Also, I packed a collapsable, carry on duffel bag in my suitcase on the way there, so on the way back I could bring even more stuff back.

  16. 16
    August 18th, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Love this article! I have a question for all of you who have studied abroad! Did you buy a cell phone (or SIM card) in the country you were studying in, or did you just use your contract from home? Thanks!

  17. 17
    August 18th, 2013 at 4:03 am

    Utility jackets are the best! Great tips, and I love your Longchamps crossbody!

    @Serena: When I studied in Madrid, I brought an old phone with me and bought a SIM card for 10 euro. Other people in my program bought cell phones+SIM card for 30 euro. (All pay as-you-go cards, you could refill at supermarkets and phone stores.) If you have an iPhone, you can also buy a mini SIM card and have it installed. I don’t think anyone kept their contract from home.

  18. 18
    August 18th, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    I have an iPhone 4S, which works internationally (at least for me!) with Verizon. I did have to pay a separate amount for a global plan & global data. It was very easy for me to call Verizon, add it to my plan, and to change my settings for my phone to work internationally.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!

  19. 19
    August 20th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Love the utility jacket! May I ask where it’s from?

  20. 20
    August 20th, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Of course you may! It’s from Charlotte Russe.

  21. 21
    September 11th, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Leah, I literally just came back here thinking “Oh wow, I hope I wasn’t too harsh!” Thank you for promoting a great Irish poet! ;) Hehe! Great post here, and the monochrome and Kate Midleton-inspired posts are fab too! For my school paper Kate’s style was one of my Halloween outfit suggestions! ;)

  22. 22
    September 22nd, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    What brand are those combat boots? Where’d you get them they’re super cute

  23. 23
    September 23rd, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you so much! They’re Madden Girl, and I they are very similar to this one:

    However, as you can tell, the zipper doesn’t go down all the way from top to sole, which makes these a little more time consuming to take on & off :)

  24. 24
    October 5th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I love your purse in the London picture! Where’s it from?

  25. 25
    October 6th, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    It’s a Longchamp “ le pliage messenger” in navy. It’s been well loved :) I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a cross body that can carry a lot without being bulky.

  26. 26
    December 11th, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Two things that I couldn’t have lived without during my study aboard trip to Italy was 1.) my LEGGINGS and 2.) my Joey by Neckid.

    Leggings were so versatile and went which literally everything- from casual to formal. Not only are they simple but were easy to quickly wash in some of the sinks in the hostels and didn’t take up hardly any room in my suitcase.

    I switched off-and- on using a crossbody and a Joey. I’m not a fan of how crossbodys fit. I came across a product that is basically a pouch that clips onto any necklace and fits your cellphone, id, cash…etc. Life Saver! I can’t find the website that I purchased it off of. But the company is named Neckid. Here is a video they have that describes the product. It was the only thing I could find,

  27. 27
    January 1st, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    This article is so helpful! Thank you so much for sharing!
    Where did you get your jeggings/leggings. I find that whenever I wear leggings, they are really baggy right under the tummy area and underwear lines are a huge problem.

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