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WTF Do You Pack for Summer Study Abroad?

Packing for study abroad… Queue the pitstains, anxiety, and fluster of “where the hell do I even start?”
We get it. We’ve done it four times in all kinds of climates, on two different continents, and it’s time consuming and stressful. So here’s the deal, we’re going to give you our tips to save you some deodorant (we see you re-applyin’) and time before leaving for your study abroad trip.
Here are the questions you really need to be asking yourself:

What luggage and backpack are you bringing?


// suitcase:

check with whatever airline you’re flying with to see their baggage fees and policies. odds are if you’re taking an international flight, you’ll have at least one checked bag on them. be wise and pick a light weight suitcase. we recommend a suitcase like this, or this. i’ve had situations where my suitcase alone weighed 10 pounds, aka had to eat all of my italian chocolate at the airport to get through without paying excess baggage fee. i ain’t about that life, and you shouldn’t be either.

// backpack:

this one is super important, because you’ll most likely be trying to get up and backpack every long weekend you get. if you’re trying to not kill yourself and hurt your back, you’ll need a pack with support that’s also light, but big enough to pack your entire life for long periods of time. we recommend this backpack, it’s cheap and really massive. try this one also if you’re into the red look.

How long will you be traveling?


// one-semester:

if you’re going to be studying abroad for four months, do us a favor right now and unpack everything you’ve already mentally packed. promise, you won’t be needing the teddy bear from the second grade, or that iron to smooth out the wrinkles in the one dress shirt you own and are considering bringing for that “special dinner” that you’re automatically assuming you’ll be invited to.
here’s what we suggest: four pairs of pants, MAX, maybe 15 shirts, 4 sweatshirts/pullovers, sneakers, and clothes to be active and live yo life!
that might even be an exaggeration, but take it from me, you’ll be pissed off at having to lug the additional three suitcases on your return home. what you may not be realizing when leaving is that you’re going to buy whatever you need abroad. if it’s your first time abroad, don’t think just because you leave the country that you won’t be able to buy hair product, or skin product that you’re in love with. in fact, you’ll most likely form habits abroad that’ll make you want to ship products back to your home country.

// one year:

if you’re traveling for one year, you should be taking the same rules from above, but bring even less; we’re thinking just enough to get you through the first month. living abroad for a full year means you’re recreating your routines based on the customs of locals. remember, people have lived wherever you’re going for centuries before you land there. odds are, they’ve figured out how to dress, grocery shop, apply hair and makeup products, and anything else you’re thinking that you’ll struggle doing abroad. go with little in your suitcase, and leave room in your mind to absorb as much as you can on your travels.

What’s the climate like in the destination?

// tropical:

flip flops, as a brazilian, of course i recommend havaianas. those badboys will walk through life with you. bikinis, swim trunks, sunglasses are a must, and anything else you’d wear in the summer time. be prepared for rain also, when we lived in mexico, we had to constantly be prepared for torrential down-pours, see below for rain.

// rainy:

pull overs and lightweight rain boots should make the MVPs of your case. you’ll most likely buy an umbrella there, but if you’re feeling ambitious, pack one too. bring thick socks and shoes that are highly waterproof. nothing says “ya nasty” like soggy toes.

// variant:

be ready for everything by packing layers! think tank tops, button up shirts that can easily be wrapped around your waist, and pants that aren’t so thick and that can be rolled up.

layers Do you speak the language?

// yes

ok so bring a small notebook to keep track of all of the expressions and slang terms that you learned. you may speak the language at a basic level, enough to get by, but nothing beats learning from locals.

// no, but want to immerse myself

it’s always good to buy a language guide prior to arriving just to get some key terms down. you can, of course, watch our videos, or better yet, if you’re learning french, click on our new “learn french” page and look at all of the resources we’ve listed there.


What’s the one item that you can’t live without?

// think non-electrical

for me, a trip isn’t a trip without writing myself a memoir in a journal to read back once its all said and done. i wrote in an inspirational and super cheesy one like this during my time in paris that i always flip back to. i’ve also picked up the habit of writing all of the funny things that happen in an agenda so i won’t forget years later. i usually buy agendas abroad so the dates are in a foreign language and i can feel that much cooler. if you want to stay local, we recommend a good ol’ moleskin.

// that requires electricity

my laptop is like my third hand. i always make sure to tune it up before taking off on a trip because odds are you won’t be able to hit up an apple store or pc richards to fix your software or hardware. i also clear out all of the unnecessary files to make space for the thousands of pictures i’ll be taking. also, to make sure you’re keeping your favorite electrical item alive and juicy, make sure you invest in a great converter. nothing makes your heart fall to your butt like frying a family member macbook.

What are your hobbies?

// forget netflix, dig deep into your childhood passions:

when you’re abroad you’ll have a lot of free time. and you should be thinking of ways you can incorporate your hobbies with seeing as much as you can of the city. for us, it was roller skating in front of the eiffel tower on a nightly basis. when we studied abroad in paris with damon, we both agreed we’d bring our quad roller skates. i have to tell you, those skates changed the entire dynamic of my time abroad. i remembered how much i used to love roller skating when i was a child, and it’s something i grasped again while away.

How will you keep track of your memories?


// photos:

make sure you’re backing your photos up on social media, on your iPhoto, or on another software so that you maintain free space in your phone. nothing kills the mood like trying to snap a photo of some amazing moment and getting stopped by “no more storage available on your phone.” if you’re bringing a point and shoot camera, invest in a huge memory card. 32g will do the trick.

// written memories:

as mentioned above, you can always stick to the good ol’ journal, or if you wanna get really travel-y, you can buy a post card from each location and write yourself a list or paragraph of the things that happened in that place. don’t forget to put the date on them, when you’re old and crusty, it’ll be such a worthwhile time-capsule to read!

Will you need medication?

// yes:

so make sure you tell your doctors in advance and get the right amount of mediation you need to hold you over for your time abroad

// no:

you should still be hitting up a pharmacy or buying mosquito repellent with DEET in it, try this kind, and also packing a box of Imodium AD to prep yourself for a bad case of the runs from exotic foods!

Did we miss anything? Write in the comments below if you need recommendations on something else and don’t forget to subscribe for weekly travel inspiration:

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