Your life in a suitcase: What to pack to study abroad?

So you’re studying abroad. It could be for a semester, a year, or maybe you splashed out to take your whole course abroad. Either way, it’s worth knowing what you need to bring.

Studying abroad is a great opportunity. There’s something romantic about getting to live out of a suitcase for a while, it’s the closest most of us will get to experiencing the Beat Generation lifestyle, of drifting into new and unfamiliar places with little more than the clothes on your back. The flipside to this is that you need to spend more time picking what you’re going to bring than the average student. Not only can you not pop back across borders and oceans for anything you’ve just realized you forgot, but you’ve got baggage limits to contend with – one suitcase and one carry-on.
Things you can lose

The first things to cut should be ornaments and decorations. It’s tempting when you move into a new student room to plaster your personality over it with sentimental artifacts, but they’re often big and fragile. If something has immense personal value you can make an exception, but otherwise it’s best to treat your study-abroad lifestyle as an exercise in minimalism.

Clothes are generally the most important thing to have enough of. But it’s worth packing them sparingly too; enough of everything, but only just. A big part of student life is accumulating a new wardrobe of thrift store wear anyway.

What to buy when you get there?

On the subject of things you can buy once you’re settled in, most basics fall into this category, such as cutlery, bedding and lamps. If you’re serious about emulating the drifter lifestyle you can probably get by without a lot of it. Case in point: when I studied in Canada, I’d already spent most of my student loan on the plane tickets. When I landed I went out to the nearest Walmart, where I bought a spork, a box of Cap’n Crunch and the biggest carton of milk that they had. I tore the top off the milk carton and ate Cap’n Crunch out of it for the next three days.

Packing essentials

The one thing that is more or less mandatory to bring is a laptop. As jaded and modern as it sounds, if you’re getting by on writing by hand and typing essays up in the university library, you might as well be doing your coursework with quills and parchment in an Amish settlement.

Depending on your destination, you might also want to make room for a few creature comforts you won’y be able to get your hands on. If you’re studying across the atlantic, some decent tea is virtually a must.

The best rule of thumb to use when packing is to prioritize things that you can see yourself using for the entirety of your stay. University is as much about change and personal growth. What do you have now that you expect to still have by the time you’re done?

We here at GKBC are a cosmopolitan bunch – we’ve been around, often taking very little with us, and sometimes forgetting something important. Did we miss something valuable from our list here? If we did, drop us a comment and let us know!

About the Author:

Ed Hitchman writes, blogs, travels, packs, unpacks and studies in a variety of fascinating and exotic locations.

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