Things I wish I had left off my study abroad packing list
By Nate Nault
Packing lists have become somewhat of a specialty here on The Study Abroad Blog, with a packing list for a year abroad, one for weekend trips and travel, and of course, how exactly to pack in these situations. One thing I haven’t covered though, is what you don’t want to pack for study abroad. Since packing seems to be one of the most dreaded parts of the pre-study abroad prep period, keep reading to learn what you should leave behind.
This is a big one when it comes to saving space in your suitcases. While it might be tempting to bring your comfy sheets and blanket from home, they take up a good amount of valuable space, even when folded. More often than not, your abroad university or program will provide you all the bedding you’ll need (although it’s definitely something you should check on before hand). And if they don’t, finding dorm room bedding deals and cheap linens on campus or at a local store shouldn’t be very hard.
This applies to bathroom linens as well. If you’re not supplied bathroom linens, towels, or cloths, I recommend packing just one towel (so you can shower when you get to your abroad housing), and then buying more later on. When you’re packing to go home, you can either donate them to future students, or just get rid of them altogether.
While bed sheets and bathroom towels can potentially take up a lot of space in your suitcase, things like shampoo, soap, and conditioner can add a hefty amount of unnecessary weight.
I strongly advise against bringing more than a travel size bottle of shampoo, conditioner, etc. in your suitcase. It’s a ton of weight and space in your luggage, and there’s really no point in taking it, as you can find something comparable overseas that’s probably cheaper anyway
Yes, it’s true, you can find name brands like Herbal Essence, Dove, Pantene, etc. in cities all over the world, and even if you’re not able to get your favorite brand, you’ll still be able to find something comparable. Just like with the towel, I recommend bringing a travel-sized bottle of soap or body wash to use when you arrive at your abroad school.
You’ll no doubt need hangers abroad, but although they might not add too much weight, they’re awkwardly shaped and don’t make well for compact packing. Not to mention if poorly packed, they can do some serious damage in terms of ripping, pulling or snagging your clothing. People use hangers in even the poorest countries of the world, so regardless of where you are, you should be able to find hangers without a problem. If you’re a male and have a dress shirt or suit, or a female with a dress that needs to be hung up immediately after unpacking, bring a hanger or two wrapped in a plastic bag.
I think the general consensus among study abroad students is that we all packed too much. Regardless of the reason, I know I found myself with shirts, sweaters, and pants that rarely, if ever, made it out of my suitcase.
You’ll find pretty quickly that people in other countries (especially Asian countries) will wear the same outfit multiple days in a row, and it’s considered totally acceptable for both locals and foreigners. Doing laundry abroad can be very expensive, and in some locations you may not have access to the best laundry facilitates, so the more often you can wear something, the better.
The lack of quality laundry facilities is another reason why you also shouldn’t pack any clothes that you don’t want to risk ruining.
I’ve heard the method of getting together everything you think you’ll need while abroad, and then packing only half of that. I think that may be a little on the excessive side, but keep in mind that you’ll need a lot less than you think. Research the weather of your abroad location in advance, and adjust your packing accordingly.
While I don’t think this was really a problem for guys, it seemed prevalent among the girls. Not only do they pack too many pairs, they pack the wrong type. In many countries in Europe, the roads and sidewalks are made of cobblestone, and in underdeveloped countries they’re often cracking concrete or plain old dirt – in neither situation are high heels very practical.
From the advice of a fellow study abroad student who is female, bring a pair of comfortable everyday shoes, a pair of flats, and a pair of wedges. They’re easier on the feet, are better suited to traveling than heels, and can still be appropriate in formal situations.
When I first went abroad I packed DVD’s and games in my carry-on, which I realized afterward was a waste of space both then and now as I haven’t taken them out of my storage boxes since. You’ll have some free time to relax and wind down while you’re abroad, and you’ll definitely need that time, but DVD’s, games, and movies that you’ve brought from the U.S. aren’t the best way to go.
That doesn’t mean you can’t watch movies while you’re abroad, but instead of Western movies in English, try searching out movies and shows that are popular in the country or area where you’re abroad, and are in the native language. Regardless of your language level, or whether or not you’re abroad with the purpose of studying language, watching movies and listening to music in the local language is also one of the best ways to help improve your communication skills.
7. Hair Dryer, curling iron
Again, as a guy I didn’t have to deal with this issue, although I do have a few words of advice about beard trimmers and electric razors. From what I’ve seen, they’re significantly more expensive in Asia (and probably somewhat more expensive in Europe) than they are in the U.S. My electric razor also worked just fine when charged with an electricity converter, so I would recommend packing it in your suitcase it if doesn’t take up too much room.
Hair dryers and curling irons seem to be a different story. Even when using an electricity converter, they don’t work like they do back in the U.S., and in some cases can actually be dangerous. Your options, then, are to learn how to style your hair without a dryer, or (and this seems like the more logical option) buy a hairdryer in your abroad location since it’s basically guaranteed to be compatible with the local electricity voltage. Either way, leave your U.S. hair dryer and curling iron at home.
You may be thinking to yourself that you’ll be spending a lot of money on the items I’ve mentioned above, but with the prices of checking multiple bags on the rise, and overweight bags being even pricier, you’ll probably still be saving a significant amount of money by waiting to buy certain things abroad. Just like the first couple of weeks of Freshman orientation, when you spent money shopping for dorm stuff, you’ll see a similar dent in your wallet during study abroad orientation. Just know that the usual spending decreases right after.