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Posted by on May 22, 2018

Hi. I am Elisabeth, a rising Junior at Illinois Wesleyan University, majoring in vocal performance with a minor in Italian Studies. Last semester, I was abroad in Milan, Italy with IES – Music: Tradition and Innovation. For the last four months, I was living with a wonderful Italian host family and practicing Italian while working on my musical craft and Italian grammar at school.

Just last week, I returned back to the US. However, I will be leaving for abroad again soon, as I have the opportunity to intern as part of the IWU Freeman Asia Internship Program at Shiro Oni Studios in Japan. As smart packing is important for studying abroad, I began to reflect on elements of my packing from last semester that worked and would do again. This blog post will be a look into what I would suggest for packing for a semester or two months abroad.


Important things to consider:

-How conservative is the general dress? (For instance, some places it is necessary to cover your knees or shoulders, or at least have something conservative if you plan on entering churches)

-What is the weather going to be like? (Regardless if it going to be warm, it is important to bring a sweater and a rain jacket!)

-How often can you do laundry? How can you do laundry?

-What are the plugs necessary to charge things? (You need BOTH converters and adaptors. Adaptors alone will work for most computers and phones, but most everything else will need a converter. Consider also countries you might travel to.)

-How many bags can you take for free on your flight? How heavy?

But where to start?

Personally, I start with the bags I can take. Then I know how much space I have. And if any of the bags can expand, I would take them unexpanded so you can bring back souvenirs. I went abroad with two medium-sized suitcases. I know people that took large suitcases, and you can. But the smaller ones are sometimes better because you can move them easier and will almost surely be underweight. There is more maneuvering through customs and to the place of living than you might expect. Practice walking with your suitcases.

Next, use a list like this one to pack for abroad. As for how many outfits to bring, I brought 9 outfits and tried to wash clothes one time a week. This worked out well for me except for spring break, when I was travelling for longer, but just needed to wash things on the go. For a semester abroad, make sure to bring a fancy change of clothes. For an internship abroad, make sure you have clothes that are office ready.

-Bring more underwear, 10-11 pairs.

-If you are staying in hostels, make sure to bring flip flops as shower shoes. Also a travel towel is very useful! Packs small, and you can also take it as a blanket to sit on the grass. Locks are sometimes also necessary in hostels.

-bring small, travel size toiletries that can last you for a few days, and you can also refill the bottles if you go on trips. For normal toiletries, it is not necessary bring them, they are heavy. You can buy shampoo and toothpaste when there.

-Do not forget textbooks! As for school supplies, it might be easier and cheaper to bring some. Be aware that some countries abroad have different paper sizes and binders. For instance, Italy and most of europe does not have 8.5 x 11 paper, but rather in millimeters, so 210mm x 297mm.

-What I missed in Europe was: hand sanitizer and USA medications. Even though Italy has equivalents of Dayquil and Advil, it was really nice that I took a couple along for emergencies and I did not have to go to the store, sick, and try to figure it out. I also brought some Benadryl along in my first aid kit, and it was necessary on occasion.     I would highly recommend carrying around a small first aid kit also with bandages.

How to pack?

-I am a strong believer in rolling clothes. You can fit them into smaller spaces, and also fit things into purses or shoes.

If you know you are going to need some items before you can unpack, make sure they are near the top. If you are living out of the suitcase for a while, make sure items of clothes are together in sections. Otherwise, pack for space and worry about organization upon unpacking.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to have at least three days worth of clothes in your carry on luggage. If your luggage gets lost, you need to have enough clothes to make it to when your bag can (ideally) be located. This is, unfortunately, quite common, and when this happened to me, splitting my clothes in 2 was key. Make sure to also have any medications and daily necessities in the carry on.


Most importantly, on the day of travel, check that you have your passport and visa/study abroad papers that are necessary! You are going to have a great time, and packing intelligently will help ease your transition abroad.


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