Study abroad countdown: how to pack your suitcase like a pro

Suitcases are strange things – no matter how huge they are, there never seems to be enough room for that extra (but oh so essential!) pair of strappy sandals.

Charlotte Walmsley of The National Student knows all about luggage headaches – she spent a year studying abroad.

So before you snap off your luggage zipper in rage, take a note of her expert tips on how to pack your suitcase…Suitcase 1

So, you’re about to embark on what promises to be your most exciting year yet. Your feelings flitter from exhilaration to nervous anxiety.

But don’t forget the practical things, like packing – do you really want to arrive in a new country lugging around a 20kg suitcase?

While many guides to your year abroad emphasise the things to take, I thought I’d also mention the stuff you shouldn’t:

Don’t pack: favourite books 

Although your handy grammar guide and dictionary are truly indispensable, do you really need to take that well-thumbed copy of Twilight? While it could offer some comfort on a quiet evening, remember that you should be gearing up to plunge into your newly adopted culture and you can always buy books there.

Reading books from a different country allows you to dive into new depths of cultural understanding. Also, books are surprisingly heavy.

You probably shouldn't pack your cat...

You probably shouldn’t pack your cat.

Pack: documents, documents, documents… did I mention documents?

After spending a year studying abroad, I fondly remember the tedium of hours spent listening to lecturers wax lyrical about the importance of bringing your documents and a few photocopies.

However, it turned out to be necessary.

Prepared to be astonished by the seemingly endless barrage of paperwork you’ll face when studying abroad, so make sure you have identification, passport photocopies and proof of your status as an international student.

...but you should pack a variety of clothes (though not too many!)...

You should pack a variety of clothes (though not too many!)

Don’t pack: unnecessary clothes

While coats, shoes and swimwear (depending on the time of year) can be necessary items, do you really need so many?

Bear in mind that you could be heaving your suitcase around for hours through airports and train stations.

While you may get pangs of separation anxiety at the thought of abandoning that jacket or that shirt now, these will quickly fade when you’re on the plane embarking on a new adventure with a much lighter suitcase.

Remember that if you pack too many clothes, you’ll have less room for home comforts and essential items.

Don’t forget to keep essentials in your hand luggage.

Pack: electronics

The obvious essentials: laptop, laptop charger, and plug converters if necessary.

If any of your electrical items require batteries, it will save your time (and your pocket) to bring a stash for later on. While hairdryers are useful, it may be worth leaving your salon style John Frieda or Nicky Clarke behind and packing a basic travel one instead.

It will still do the job but will be lighter and fold much more easily into a tight corner of your bulging case.

Don’t pack: impractical shoes

You are going to be away for a long time, so of course you should bring a couple of pairs of shoes to tide you over, but choose sensibly.

You will need a comfortable pair of trainers for everyday use, sports activities and exploring.

You’ll also need comfortable everyday shoes and a nice pair for going out in the evenings. Also, consider the climate of your study abroad destination – will you need boots for snow or slip-on sandals for beach weather?

Have a safe trip!

Make the most of carry-on luggage!

Pack: cards, photographs and keepsakes

A couple of light keepsakes like posters or pictures can really make your new abode feel like home and help remind you of the people most important to you. A family portrait or a photo of friends will officially make your new space yours.

It seems unnecessary now, but a couple of little good luck cards or letters will encourage you when you feel homesick.

The last resort…

If you find the idea of a full academic year without your favourite books or clothes just too unpalatable, there is always the option of posting your most cherished items to your new home via baggage companies like Send My Bag.

Have a safe journey!

Still not sure what to pack? Watch our video below…

You might also like: How to get the most out of studying abroad and 13 essential free apps for studying abroad.

Charlotte Walmsley is Features Editor at The National Student. Now in its tenth year, The National Student is the UK’s independent national student publication. 

If you would like to find out more about INTO Study and how we can help you achieve your dreams of studying abroad, discover more on the INTO Study website by clicking here.

Connect with other students who are studying abroad on YouTubeFacebookInstagram and Twitter

You may also like...

Tell us what you think!