Ever since I started college, I’ve always had the dream of studying abroad. Since I only have a couple of semesters of college left, I thought to myself it is now or never to do it. Once I applied and got accepted into the London School of Economics, I was overwhelmed with excitement! Not only is it my first time studying in another country, but also my first time traveling to the U.K. The thought of living in another country and getting to experience their culture was something that was now set in my future. I had four months to prepare for an experience that will forever be held close to me. I had to learn how to pack for study abroad!
With that in mind, I suggest that you don’t procrastinate, and start to pack for study abroad as soon as you can. I know packing can be a pain, but if you prepare little by little, it won’t be stressful. Four months is a long time to prepare for a study abroad session that only lasts for the summer, but being exposed to a new country can be overwhelming. A new country means using a different currency, requires important documents for travel, and might mean having different etiquette styles. I tend to be a perfectionist and want all of my personal things to be as organized as possible, especially when I’m traveling.
I am going to list a few important organizational packing tips that will help save you a little bit of stress for your summer study abroad in London, England.
First things first: if you don’t have a passport, you need to get one as soon as possible. It takes anywhere from three to four weeks for it to come in the mail. Here’s how to start: Passport Process. Once you have it, make sure that you gather all medications that you are prescribed and that you are able to take enough with you during your trip. Also, when it comes to currency, check out the current exchange rate and obtain a small amount to travel with you, maybe around $200 to $300.
When I think of summer, I usually imagine a sunny day with the temperature being in the 90’s (well, I am a Texan). But for London, you can expect the weather to be cool, with a chance of rain from time to time. That’s why I suggest packing an umbrella, rain boots, and a raincoat. Typically, it gets pretty warm from morning to midday, but at night it can get pretty chilly. I would also suggest bringing light sweaters and a few thicker jackets, like denim or something “puffy”, for the evenings. Depending on your style, I would also bring tennis shoes that are comfortable to walk in while going from place to place around the city.
If you plan on going to pubs or night-clubs, make sure to pack a few dress shirts or dresses. The city at night is vibrant and full of life with many different dance clubs and pubs that are around almost every corner.
My baggage is very important to me. I tend to be very organized and also very simple as well. I brought four different pieces of luggage; a main piece of luggage, a carry-on bag and a fanny pack/small purse, and a backpack. In my biggest piece of luggage, I put all of my outfits and shoes. For my carry-on, I had a small amount of toiletries (which I will describe in the next section), two shirts, two pairs of pants, socks, and undergarments. I would highly suggest packing a few of these things because this hack saved me. Long story short, my connecting flights were super close together, so my main piece of luggage came in two days later. It’s also very important to be aware of the weight limit on your baggage. Most airlines give you a limit of about 50 pounds on luggage (per piece).
With my connecting flight, I knew that it would be much smarter to pack a few of my essential belongings into my carry-on. In case your luggage is delayed, you don’t run the risk of having to go out of your way to buy extra things you might already have. In that case, I packed a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, a travel-size body wash, and face wash along with makeup. Other toiletries like shampoo and conditioner, laundry detergent, and soap can be purchased in the country. Note, however, that sometimes it may be cheaper to purchase these things at home rather than in the U.K.
If You’re Staying in a Residence Hall
It’s also pretty convenient to research what the layout of your summer abroad dorm will look like as soon as you’re assigned. Whether you will have a roommate or share a communal bathroom, it’s always good to be aware of what you will need to purchase for your comfort needs. Things like a set of sheets, hand wash, shower shoes, a shower caddy, bath towels, a robe, etc. are a few things that I have found important to either bring or purchase here in the U.K. Sometimes the halls will provide you with these things.
I hope this guide gives you an organized way of making packing not seem so stressful. Be aware of the weather and the plans you have once you get to London. Even if you do forget something, the shopping in London is spectacular, and you can always purchase essentials there.
Malori Sanders is an Economics with Finance Applications Major at Southern Methodist University and studied abroad with IFSA at the IFSA London School of Economics and Political Science Summer program in London, England in Summer 2019. She served as an IFSA First-Generation Scholar.