Best Study Abroad Packing List in 2021

Your application to an awesome academic program abroad has been accepted and you’re anxiously waiting for your departure day but, you’ve not addressed the intricate part of the process: what should I pack for abroad study program?

However, trying to pack all the things you need to live in a different country in one or two suitcases. You may freak out a bit as you try to figure out what to bring, what to leave, and what’s actually essential.

Hence, Take a deep breath, collegiate, Our study abroad packing list is here to help! Before rushing to the airport, use this checklist to ensure that you have all you need for your new home away from home.

Scroll the table of contents below to get an overview of all this article entails.


The world is absolutely large with billions of people in thousands of unique and different cultures. How possible is it to learn about all of these people? Obviously, you’ll never have sufficient time to experience all of them.

However, with a study abroad program, you can have the opportunity to learn with and about a unique culture by diving in and getting hands-on.

What does it mean to study abroad?

Study abroad is the term given to a program, usually run through a university, which enables a student to live in a foreign country and attend a foreign university.

In most cases, two universities have an agreement to exchange students (hence the term ‘exchange student’) so that these students can study a foreign culture and expand their horizons.

The program usually awards credit for courses taken at the foreign university and some also arrange for a work-study or internship agreement.

Study abroad programs come in various forms. The typical program one thinks of permits students to spend a semester studying in a foreign country, but some programs run for many semesters or up to a year.

Some are harnessed wholly around studying and attending a foreign university, while others maintain internships or volunteer experiences.

Programs also differ in how the student is encouraged, with some having a ‘host family’ situation, whereby the two students who are exchanged live at the other’s individual house. Other programs simply make available a dorm or apartment for the student.

Study abroad programs are also available for high school students and college graduates. Due to age, high school students are often required to live with a host family or in a supervised living situation.

A recent trend among college graduates has been the chance to teach abroad, regularly as part of a master’s degree program to become a teacher in their home country. Others engage in research endeavors at foreign universities while continuing graduate education.

See other “Study abroad” options available for international students.

What are the factors to consider when packing for abroad study?

Though it always looks easy, there are a lot of factors you need to consider when packing for study abroad. Therefore we’re breaking down what exactly to pack for abroad study, and all the miscellaneous things to take note of when making your study abroad packing list.

What type of region will you be studying in abroad?

Your study abroad location matters a lot, so knowing a bit about the region you’ll be studying abroad in is key.

Conservative area vs. liberal area

The first factor one must consider is to figure out how conservative the area is. Especially for the ladies, you don’t want to wear culturally insensitive clothes, and in most instances, you won’t be permitted inside spiritual areas if you’re not covered up. This doesn’t sound like a big deal until you have an art class inside a cathedral and you’re not allowed in because you only packed tank-tops.

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Rural area vs. urban area

You’ll also need to consider how urban the environment is. Will there be stores for you to buy items upon arrival? Or will you need to bring completely everything you’ll need for the next four months because you’ll be studying in the jungle? You won’t want to use precious suitcase space with three bottles of shampoo unless absolutely important., so find out how close you’ll be to stores and then decide what to pack for study abroad.

What type of weather will you be studying in abroad?

Going to a place with four separate seasons is a lot different than studying abroad in just one climate. So, the next factor to consider is the type(s) of weather you’ll encounter.

The overall climate

The climate of your study abroad area determines what you should pack, so don’t underrate this. Also, if your study abroad location is in a distinct hemisphere, the seasons are flipped. Don’t roll up to Chile in July and expect much warmth.

The Length of time abroad

If you’re only studying abroad for a summer, you probably don’t have to worry about the weather fluctuating much, however, if you’ll be abroad for a complete academic year, then you’ll need to find out what type of climate(s) you’ll encounter. Just because it’s hot in Spain in the summer doesn’t mean it’ll be hot year-round.

How much luggage are you carrying to study abroad?

Every airline has different baggage demands, ensure to check this correctly. Even if your airline allows two checked bags plus a carry-on, do you actually want to lug all of that around? Just because you can bring it, doesn’t mean you should.

Decide upfront how much stuff you really want to carry and then stick to it. Two 50-pound bags don’t sound like much until you’re sprinting through Heathrow with them!

The Official study abroad packing list

With all the factors mentioned above, it’s time to start packing for your study trip. Here are essential guidelines to follow and can be squeezed to fit your needs/study abroad location, so don’t be afraid to get creative with this and tailor it.

The clothes you need to pack for study abroad

  • All of your standard shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, and other go-to clothes
  • More underwear + socks = less laundry
  • Bathing suit
  • Comfy but classy travel clothes (leggings, sweaters, etc.)
  • At least one nice outfit and one pair of nice shoes
  • Comfortable shoes for walking in the sun, rain, snow, etc.
  • Flip flops to use as shower shoes in hostels
  • Workout clothes and shoes to keep off the study abroad
  • Jacket for chillier weather – it gets cold even in the desert at night.

The toiletries to pack for study abroad

  • Travel-size shampoo + conditioner + body wash (buy more when you arrive. Get these refillable GoToobs so you can use them for weekend travel too)
  • Cosmetics + lotions
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste + floss
  • Feminine products; contraceptives
  • Medications or prescriptions
  • Sunscreen

The electronics to pack for study abroad

  • Mobile device + charger
  • Laptop + charger + padded case
  • Power adapters
  • Camera (see which cameras we recommend for study abroad)
  • E-reader for long trips
  • Portable power bank

The miscellaneous to pack for study abroad

  • Passport + visa (if applicable)
  • A Student ID, driver’s license, and any other identifications
  • Copies of your passport + visa + IDs
  • A gift from home for your host family
  • A small backpack for day trips
  • Cross-body purse or secure wristlet to prevent theft
  • Small lock for hostel lockers
  • Scarves, accessories, and jewelry (leave the expensive stuff at home)

Tools to help you pack for study abroad

  • Portable luggage scale (To reduce overweight baggage fees)
  • Space bags (get the no-vacuum-required ones)
  • Small lock for any zippers on your bags.
  • Luggage tag + ribbon/something to help identify your suitcase at baggage claim

What am I not to pack for study abroad?

Now you know the basic things to pack for study abroad, let’s now review what NOT to pack for study abroad. There are a lot of things that study abroad first-timers bring that are totally irrelevant, therefore we want to assist you to save as much of that precious luggage space as possible.

Brand new clothes

Refreshing your wardrobe before traveling around the world is tempting but, don’t go on a shopping spree. Bring clothes that you have “tried and trusted”.

There’s nothing more offensive than going out for a day of sightseeing only to get a blister from those super cute, brand-new shoes or slippers few minutes into your day. It’s ok to bring a few new items, but keep it limited.

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Clothes that don’t match anything

You might love that pair of yellow jeans, but if you have a hard time matching it to anything except that one white shirt you own, don’t bring them. Leave clothes that you can’t mix and match or layer at home.

The rule of thumb for packing clothes is to not waste defined space in your luggage with something you’ll only wear once or twice.

A capsule wardrobe is perfect for this. Here’s an example of how to make a capsule wardrobe for travel work well.

Inappropriate footwear

One of the biggest issues in footwear abroad is clearly high heels on cobblestone streets. You might love the idea of feeling ultra-chic at that club in Paris by rocking your new stilettos, but walking down a cobblestone road after too many drinks is a very different story. If you must wear heels, opt for wedges or block heels.

Beyond heels, you’re reasonably better off leaving the flip flops at home with the exclusion of one pair for shower shoes in hostels. Like heels, loose sandals were not built to handle cobblestones or rough roads.

You’ll quickly find, too, that flip flops are not very popular outside of the US fashion-wise, So, it’s a better idea to invest in nicer, sturdier sandals if you’ll be in a warm-weather climate.


If you like wearing your sweats to class, you might be in for a surprise abroad: basically, students don’t do the same in other parts of the world.

You don’t want to be judged by your new classmates on something so minor, so if you’re expecting to have “cozy days”. (no shame!), pack something a bit nicer like leggings and a sweater.

Blow dryer and/or hair straightener

You will fry it. We promise you. Even with a voltage converter, there’s no guarantee that your hair tools will survive. You’re better off leaving your valuable appliances at home and spending a little cash on a new one in your study abroad location.

Having to run out to the store with half curly hair because you fried your $100 straightener is the worst, so do what you can to dodge this.

Simply attend a fashion school to know what to wear and when to wear it

Lastly, anything else that screams “I’m a foreigner”

Think football jerseys, Greek life apparel, or anything with an American flag on it. You might love your Thetas, but it doesn’t mean anything to anyone abroad, and you’ll be outing yourself as a foreigner, and become a target for pick-pocketing.

Pack and unpack, then repeat the process

Our biggest tip for study abroad packing is to leave yourself plenty of time and do it many times. You might think you’ll be able to fit everything in one or two bags, but until you really take the time to shove everything in there. you won’t know for sure.

We can almost guarantee that you’ll have to drop half of what you’ve laid out. So, don’t make the mistake of not touching your suitcase until the night before you depart.

Plus, in the unfortunate event that your zipper breaks or your bag rip as you’re packing, you’ll be glad you left time extra to get a new one.

Then off you go!

Packing is normally the last thing to do before you leave (or at least one of the last things), so you can breathe a sigh of satisfaction once you’re done.

5 Major Agencies that can help you with Study abroad Assistance.


IES abroad is based out of Chicago, Illinois, IES Abroad strives to send over 6,000 college-aged students abroad yearly. Not only does IES Abroad grant over 130 academic programs and internships in 30+ global destinations, but the organization gives more than $2.5 million in scholarships and merit-based assistance annually.

Housing options include homestays, residence halls with local university students, and apartments, and participants have the choice to take classes alongside local students.

Search for your ideal program by term, country, city, academic discipline, or internship.

#2. CIEE

CIEE is a 65-year-old leading nonprofit education organization offering both studies abroad and works exchange programs to high school and college-aged students.

College students can choose from nearly 200 study abroad programs in 40 countries, and high school students can choose from amongst cultural exchanges in 11 different countries: Australia, Chile, France, Ireland, Japan, Spain, Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, and New Zealand.

CIEE students attend local high schools and live with local host families. Each year, CIEE awards over $3 million in scholarships and grants.

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The CIEE site allows you to search for programs by discipline, term, country, city, and language of instruction.

#3. CIS abroad

CIS abroad offers study abroad programs, international internships, and summer study abroad programs to college-aged students in 19 countries, with destinations in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Asia, South Africa, and Hawaii.

CISabroad also offers programs by major (with options ranging from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to humanities, social sciences, and visual and performing arts).

Host institutions include large, English-speaking universities, smaller, culture-based learning centers, and everything in between.

CISabroad also offers study abroad scholarships and financial aid counseling. You can search for programs by country, term, or subject.

#4. CEA

CEA was founded in 1997 with the goal of facilitating study abroad opportunities for U.S. and Canadian college-aged students interested in exploring global issues around the world.

Every year, CEA sends thousands of students abroad, with programs in countries that include Argentina, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, and Spain.

CEA commits more than $2 million per year to financial and scholarship programs, while also providing free resources for scholarship information.

CEA’s “program search wizard” allows you to search for programs by field of study, program length, program term, course subject, the language of instruction, and destination.

#5. AIFS

As a leader of cultural exchange and international educational opportunities, the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) has sent over 1.5 million people abroad since its establishment in 1964.

Each year, the organization awards deserving students and universities over $800,000 in financial support, grants, and scholarships, with funds available for both summer and semester programs.

AIFS offers programs to college students in 20 countries across South America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, India, and South Africa. 

High school students can choose from amongst programs in Costa Rica, France, Spain, or Italy. Use the program database to search by term or course.

Best Study Abroad Packing List in 2021 FAQs

Why is it good to study abroad?

Studying abroad helps you to learn new languages, appreciate other cultures, overcome the challenges of living in another country and gain a greater understanding of the world

Is it more expensive to study abroad?

A program can be significantly less expensive, more or about the same. Study abroad can be affordable. Some study abroad programs -especially those in developing countries – can actually be less expensive than tuition and fees for the equivalent amount of time on the home campus.

Does studying abroad help your career?

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, yet just under ten percent of graduates study abroad. The ability to travel overseas offers lots of opportunities for personal growth, independence, and learning. It can also have a positive impact on your future career and long-term goals.

What is the average cost to study abroad?

According to research by the International Institute of Education, the all-encompassing average cost of studying abroad in a foreign country hovers around $18,000 per semester or $36,000 per full academic year.

Why should students study abroad?

Every Student Should Study Abroad. … Making study abroad a part of their education is the most effective and accessible means for students to develop needed skills. This is because it helps a student get out of his/her comfort zone to experience another culture, language, environment, and education system.


In conclusion, trying to pack all the things you need to live in a different country in one or two suitcases. You may freak out trying to figure out what to bring and what to leave. However, our study abroad packing list is here to help!

Before rushing to the airport, use this checklist to ensure that you have all you need for your new home away from home.



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