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What to pack when moving to study abroad

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'How on earth do I fit my entire life into two suitcases?!' Source: Shutterstock.

You finally did it: your offer to study abroad is confirmed, you did the work, got the grades, and are now eagerly anticipating the big move to your new home.

Then panic strikes… How do I pack my entire life into two suitcases? 

It is certainly a daunting task, and one you are likely to want to put off until the very last minute. But delaying it is bound to lead to mistakes.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to have in those suitcases before you touch down on foreign soil.

Click here to view our printable checklist of everything you need for your study abroad adventure.

Clothing

First thing’s first, check the weather in your new country. Do they have extreme seasons where you will go from blazing heat in the summer to arctic conditions in the winter? Does it rain a lot? Do you need a hat scarf and gloves or a pair of sunglasses?

Not the most effective packing method. Source: GIPHY.

Pack accordingly. If you are studying somewhere with seasons look at what the weather is usually like for the semester you are there. If you are planning on staying for the entire year without a visit home, make sure you have suitable clothing for all types of weather you are likely to encounter – not just what the weather is doing when you land!

It can be tempting to pack your entire wardrobe but think seriously about it – you only have limited space. If you don’t wear that shirt at home, you’re unlikely to wear it at university. Leave it behind.

  • Enough underwear to last you at least two weeks (just in case!).
  • Everyday clothes (be restrictive on how much you take – if you love clothes, make a pile and then half it)
  • An outfit or two for going out to party or for drinks or dinner
  • A warm jacket or cardigan (even in hot countries it is good to have one just in case)
  • Formalwear
  • Pyjamas
  • Slippers or sliders/flip-flops depending on the climate
  • Swimwear
  • Gym attire
  • Comfortable everyday shoes
  • Formal shoes

Toiletries 

Don’t forget your new country isn’t outer space and it is likely to have pretty much everything you need in terms of toiletries on sale in shops. However, you may struggle to find certain brands so if you are attached to a certain make of moisturiser, maybe chuck a couple of those in your case but don’t go overboard.

‘No way am I leaving behind my precious face cream for a whole year!’ Source: GIPHY.

Bring the essentials to tide you over for the first day or two when you may not be able to get to – or find – a shop immediately. You will certainly be able to buy shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and all the rest of it in a local shop and save a lot of your weight allowance for more important items.

Always remember to put toiletries in a sealed plastic bag to avoid any messy (yet sweet smelling) surprises covering your belongings when you open your case the other end.

  • Deodorant
  • Face wipes
  • Soap
  • If you wear it – makeup essentials (like clothes, you don’t need everything)
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

Other bits and bobs

You will most likely want to pack up your entire house but alas your suitcase is only going to be so big, so, put the family cat back in her basket and think logically. Some things you just can’t (or won’t) go without but, like toiletries, many essential items can be bought when your suitcases are safely parked at your new digs.

‘But she looks so cute!’ Source: GIPHY.

Chances are you don’t need six different duvet covers, or your desk lamp, or your three-metre-long rug. Trust us, they have bedding, lamps and rugs in your new country.

  • Laptop (make sure it’s in a case and/or cushioned sufficiently if you choose not to have it in your hand-luggage)
  • Phone (impressive if you forget that one)
  • Chargers for said laptop and phone
  • A couple of plug adapters if your countries have different plug sockets from each other
  • Photos of friends and family to remind you of home
  • A couple of small (and lightweight) things from your bedroom like a string of fairy lights to make you feel at home
  • A towel
  • A practical bag
  • An every-day bag
  • A ‘going out’ bag

Hand-luggage

Think carefully about your hand-luggage. If it’s going to be a 40-minute flight you probably don’t need all too much in terms of entertainment. However, if you’re going to be travelling for, say, 20 hours, you will most likely want a few bits and bobs on hand to keep you amused.

Do make sure to check the maximum size your hand-luggage can be. Many airlines are very strict on the matter. Source: GIPHY.

Remember to check your airline’s restrictions on hand luggage and only bring liquids under 100ml and put them in a sealed see-through bag.

  • Passport & boarding pass
  • Purse/wallet – if it has your new country’s local currency in it even better!
  • Any documents you need for immigration e.g. Visa info and your university acceptance letter
  • Something comforting – this can be a letter from a loved one, your favourite sweets, or even a cuddly toy (hey, we aren’t judging)
  • Snacks!
  • Headphones
  • A good book
  • A travel pillow and eyemask
  • Anything else you want to take with you but couldn’t bear to lose

So there you have it, all the key things you need to pack as an international student heading out on your exciting adventure abroad.

Remember to weigh your case before you get to the airport to avoid expensive fines and remind yourself you will be able to buy lots of things over there. Distribute the weight carefully between all your bags and you should be good to go.

You can print our essential checklist here and keep it handy while you attempt to squeeze your belongings into two seemingly-shrinking-definitely-over-the-weight-limit suitcases. Good luck!

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