How To Pack For A Spring Semester Abroad

By Jennifer Leavy 

It’s almost here, the semester you’ve been waiting for. You’ll be spending spring overseas in Europe! But with all the excitement of spending a semester abroad comes the stress of properly preparing for it. A semester in a European city is as wonderful as it is overwhelming, especially if this is your first time overseas. The biggest source of anxiety when it comes to getting ready for your spring semester abroad is how to pack for it.

It goes without saying that a semester abroad is not your regular, average spring break. This is three to four months in a foreign city. So what do you need to pack? How can you pack for it without overstuffing your luggage, or needing to pay extra luggage fees to your airline? Basically, what’s the smartest way to pack for your semester abroad? Here are some tips for packing for a spring semester abroad:

Pack Cold and Warm Weather Clothes

Though it’s a “spring” semester, it’s a good chance that wherever you are studying in Europe, it will still be cold and wintery for the majority of your semester. This is especially true if you’re studying in Italy.

I spent my spring semester in Florence and thought that Italy had warm, sunny weather all year round, so I packed mostly warm weather clothes and maybe a few light sweaters. This was a big mistake, as Italy was freezing in January and February, and didn’t even warm up until April, at the very end of the semester! Pack a good, balanced mix of clothes for both cold and warm weather. Save your bathing suit for later in the semester, and don’t leave your rain boots or winter coat at home!

Less is More

But wouldn’t packing clothes for both seasons mean bringing more bags with you? We all know how ridiculously expensive extra luggage fees are with most major airlines, and we all want to avoid paying them. So buy a set of plastic airlock bags to maximize the clothes you bring while minimizing the space in your luggage. Then pack them in an oversized luggage case you can check, while keeping a carry-on duffle bag (and an additional carry-on, like your laptop case or backpack, if your airline allows it). 

Make sure to save a little extra space for souvenirs you’ll bring back home with you at theend of the semester. If you do find yourself needing to make room in your luggage when spring is over, check for clothes donation sites in your European city. There are plenty of churches and charities available to help you clear out some space in your luggage, and you will also help people in need.

Minimize the Essentials

Speaking of luggage space, it’s best to pack essentials like shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant in miniature, TSA-approved sizes to keep in a small Ziplock bag when you travel. This, of course, saves you a lot of room in your bag, and you can always purchase full-size toiletries at a pharmacy or supermarket when you arrive in your host city.

If your apartment doesn’t provide linens or towels, don’t worry about bringing any in your suitcase. Save even more luggage space by buying a fresh set at any supermarket or department store in your host city. If you can, maybe pack your favorite fleece blanket from home in your carry-on. This way you’ll stay comfy on your long, international flight, and will have something to remind you of home if you ever feel homesick.