Ever since I started college, I’ve dreamed of studying abroad. With just a couple of semesters left, it was now or never. When I applied and got accepted into the London School of Economics for a summer program, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I had four months to prepare for an experience I would forever hold close. I had to learn to pack for study abroad!
Packing can be a pain, but if you start well ahead and prepare little by little, it truly isn’t stressful. After all, living in a new country means using a different currency, gathering important documents for travel, and learning new etiquette. As a perfectionist, I want all of my personal as organized as possible, especially when traveling. Hopefully the tips I learned will save you some stress for your own preparation.
The essentials: Passport, medications, money
First things first: if you don’t have a passport, get one as soon as possible. Processing can take up to ten weeks. Next, consider any prescriptions medications you need and make sure you order enough to last you while you’re abroad. Check the current exchange rate and get a small amount of cash to travel with, maybe $200 to $300.
As a Texan, summer for me means a sunny day in the 90s. But a London summer can be cool with a chance of rain from time to time, so think about an umbrella, rain jacket, and even rain boots. Typically, it gets warm from morning to midday, night can be chilly, so bring light sweaters and jackets, maybe even a puffy. Tennis shoes or some sort of sneakers that are comfortable for walking are essential for around the city.
If you plan on going to pubs or night clubs, pack a few dress shirts or dresses. The city at night is vibrant, with many different dance clubs and pubs around almost every corner.
Luggage is important to me. I tend to be very organized and also simple as well. I brought four different pieces of luggage; a large piece of luggage, a carry-on, a fanny pack/small purse, and a backpack. I put all my outfits and shoes in the biggest piece. My carry-on held a small amount of toiletries (more on this later), two shirts, two pairs of pants, socks, and undergarments.
This hack saved me. Long story short, my connecting flights were super close together, so my main piece of luggage arrived two days after I did.
It’s also very important to be aware of the weight limit on your baggage. Most airlines set a limit on 50 pounds per piece, but check to be sure.
With a few essentials in your carry-on, you won’t have to go buy toothpaste or the like if your luggage gets held up. I packed a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, a travel-size body wash, and face wash along with makeup. I planned to buy shampoo and conditioner, laundry detergent, and soap in the UK, but note it can be cheaper to buy these items at home.
Staying in a residence hall?
Check the layout of your dorm ahead to help you plan. If you have a roommate or share a bathroom, you might need to bring or purchase a set of sheets and towels, hand wash, shower shoes, a shower caddy, a robe, etc. Sometimes the residence hall provides some of these things.
Planning ahead really does help take the stress out of getting ready to go abroad. And rest assured, even if you forget something, the shopping in London is spectacular, and you’re sure to find what you need there.
Malori S. (Southern Methodist University), London School of Economics and Political Science Summer program, IFSA First-Generation Scholarship recipient