packing for study abroad suitcase picture

The Dos and Don’ts of Packing for Study Abroad

Whether or not you’ve traveled before, packing for a study abroad program requires much more attention than most other trips. You’re gone for a longer amount of time, have to consider the destination’s culture, may need clothes for different seasons, and still have to meet weight requirements! If you don’t know where to begin when packing for study abroad, follow these steps.

Consider the culture

You may be an expert packer for trips within the United States, but when traveling to a different country, the first step should always be doing some research on that destination’s culture. Some countries and cities tend to be more conservative than others, which could impact what you pack.

Don’t wear anything that makes you uncomfortable, but also consider the comfort of those around you. Try to blend into the culture, rather than standing out by wearing what you normally would.

Think about the weather

Don’t make the mistake of assuming somewhere known for being warm will be that way 100% of the time. A great way to make sure you have what you need is by packing items that are good for layering. This way, if a cold front comes through, or you decide to travel to a much cooler location in your free time, you’ll be prepared for whatever situation arises.

What will you be doing?

Some study abroad programs include an internship aspect, or other components such as site visits that may require more professional attire. Talk to your program providers about potential dress codes, and bring a few items that can be dressed up or down to work for any situation. If you bring clothes that can be worn both casually and professionally, you can help yourself avoid overpacking. 

Some internships abroad may even require specific items. For example, many medical internships require students to wear white scrubs and croc-like shoes. You don’t want to be the only one unprepared on the first day! Check out our medical internship programs here.

Don’t pack things you can buy easily

You may have a certain brand of shampoo or sunscreen that you always use at home, but these items can weigh down a suitcase quickly, and are easy to acquire in almost any destination. For items like these, it’s better to just buy local products for cheap at grocery stores and toss any remains. Plus, not packing large liquids helps ensure your clothes won’t be ruined by punctures or spills! Consider packing travel sizes of these items. That way you aren’t in a rush to buy them, but don’t waste space.

When you think you’re done…

Take out about a third of what you packed. The worst thing you can do is overpack to the point where you can’t bring any new things home with you. Instead of packing everything you own, make a point to budget a little more for things you might want to buy while abroad, like clothes and souvenirs for your family. If your suitcase is close to the weight limit on the way to your destination, it will almost definitely be over on your way home.


There’s no perfect way to pack for a study abroad experience, but these tips should help you get started. Pack light, pack versatile, and pack smart! If you’re interested in studying abroad but don’t know where to begin, click here!

GlobalEd Abroad