By Dakota Green
The anticipation leading up to your Spring semester abroad can be hectic, to say the least. Between housing requests and visa applications, you also have final exams and 10-page papers to complete. Throw in Christmas shopping and trying to spend time with your friends before you move halfway around the world, and you are basically ready to explode.
The last thing you need is to worry about packing, but just remember where you’re headed in a month and the stress seems to fall by the wayside. To help, we’ve create a guide on what to pack for your spring semester to make your life just a little bit easier.
Pack a smart carry-on: Heaven forbid the airline loses your bag, but just incase, you want to be prepared. Check that you have travel-sized toiletries, a change of clothes, and a pair of PJs to survive for a few days if something happens to the rest of your luggage. But be warned: don’t over-pack your carry on. Money, important documents and your passport still need to be accessible without you having to unload your entire bag in the line for customs.
Forget the cosmetics: It’s easy to get caught up in your personal routine and think you won’t be able to survive without the brand of shampoo you’ve been loyal to since you were a tween. But the truth is, packing things like shampoo and extra razors will only take up valuable space in your suitcase (space you can spare for an extra pair of shoes!). Any essentials you need can be purchased once you get to your destination. And hey, you may just find that European dry shampoo works 20x better than Walgreens’ brand. So skip the big bottles that have the potential to explode in your suitcase and ruin your day.
Make yourself at home: Your abroad program should let you know ahead of time if bedding is provided in your housing, but a pack of cheap twin-sized sheets won’t take up much space in your suitcase. Since you’ll be traveling on the weekend and some hostels don’t provide sheets, it’s a good idea to have some just in case. Speaking of hygiene, a bath towel that can be rolled up tightly is an essential. After traveling for 9-13 hours and unpacking into your new home, taking a shower is one of the first things you’re going to want to do before exploring your new city. Although you can always buy a towel in your destination city, finding a department store and navigating your way there, and back to your apartment on your first day might be more of a challenge than you are willing to accept in that stage of your jet lag.
Don’t pack season-specific clothing: Going abroad for 4-6 months is a challenge in itself, simply because you’ll be in an unfamiliar climate for two different seasons. The easiest way to cope with this is to bring clothing that you can wear from the end of winter to the beginning of summer. Layering is your best friend! T-shirts and light hoodies can be worn both on warm winter days and cool spring days. That being said, make sure you bring some shorts, a versatile warm winter jacket, a swimsuit, and a beanie or two. Keep in mind that you could be skiing the Swiss Alps in January, and enjoying the beaches of the French Riviera in April. Personally, my best advice for adaptable outfits is scarves. You can wear the same thing three days in a row with different scarves each day and no one will know!
Flip-flops are your best friend: They take up barely any space, they go with pretty much any spring or summer outfit, and they can double as shower shoes in hostels… which is 100% necessary. That said, the #1 thing to keep in mind when packing shoes for study abroad is comfort. You may think your daily walk from your on-campus housing to the business school is long, but you will never know pain like walking the entire city of Rome in uncomfortable shoes. Another piece of advice, SCREW THE HEELS! Cobblestone streets are hard enough to walk on when you’re sober and in tennis shoes. Add a few glasses of wine and two-inch heels and you have yourself a recipe for disaster!
Most importantly: The most important thing to remember when packing for your semester abroad, is that anything you forget, you can buy in your destination city. Don’t let this be overly stressful, this is about to be the most exciting semester of your life. I have found that the most exciting stories come from burnt pizzas and missed flights. Things will go wrong, and you will forget something “essential.” But as long as you have your passport and an open mind, you will be just fine.