When you are packing for your semester abroad it can be difficult to know exactly what to bring. Some of the items I thought I’d use non-stop ended up collecting dust while others have been surprisingly useful. To help anyone planning to study abroad in the future, I’ve put together a list of 5 things I can’t live without and 3 things I wish I’d left at home.
The Good Stuff
1. A Backpack
Funny story, I didn’t actually bring a backpack when I packed for my semester in London. I never use my backpack at Salve and outside of the odd weekend trip home it usually sits around taking up space in my room, so when it came time to pack I decided it wasn’t worth making space in my suitcase for it. Well… fast-forward to my first trip outside of London and suddenly I missed that backpack like crazy. To make a long story short, I ended up shelling out nearly 30 quid on a very basic backpack so I wouldn’t have to lug my suitcase around when I went on trips outside the city. Backpacks are the MVP of the weekend trip and if you plan on doing any traveling while you are abroad you will definitely want to make sure you’ve got one packed.
2. A Reusable Waterbottle
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll sum it up for you real quick. Bottled water gets pricey fast and there is nothing worse than having to shell out 5 euros for a bottle of water when everyone else was smart enough to bring there own refillable bottle.
3. A Portable Power Bank
I don’t know why but my phone battery drains so quickly in the UK. I’ll charge it while I sleep and by noon it will be down to 60% and I’ll have barely touched it. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have asked to borrow my power bank when we are out and their phone is dying. I recommend getting one that can hold at least 2 full charges – one for you and one for a friend.
4. A Card Game or other group activity
Board game nights are a great way to make friends – let me tell you there is nothing funnier than watching people accuse each other of cheating at 1 am as you’re trying to finish a game of monopoly. Whether its a game of Cards Against Humanity or Bananagrams – game nights are a great icebreaker.
5. Mementos from Home
While I wouldn’t recommend packing your entire bedroom it can be really nice to have a picture frame or two of your family. St. Mary’s provides international students with bedding and curtain which is nice because it means I didn’t have to pack in my suitcase but after a while the basic geometric print makes me feel like I’m staying in a hospital room. Having personal touches like pictures of my family and my memory foam pillow makes the room feel a little more like home.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
1. Leisure Books
When I was packing my bags for London I was sure I’d want some books to read in my dorm or on the go but the truth is I’ve barely touched them. Downtime is usually reserved for watching Netflix or taking a chance to explore the city – not sitting down and reading a book. My recommendation – if bringing books is really important to you and you can guarantee you will read them then, by all means, bring them along. Otherwise, ditch the paper copies and download a few digital books on your phone or laptop. Apple Books has a number of classics you can download for free from Grimm’s Fairy Tales to The Complete Sherlock Holmes.
2. Clothing You Don’t Love
Space is at a premium when packing for a semester abroad and there is no room for pieces you don’t absolutely adore. When I was packing I bought a couple of items that I’m not a huge fan of but are very practical. In the end, though I haven’t worn one of those pieces because they don’t make me happy. Practical clothing is only good if you’ll wear it, otherwise, it’s just taking up space. Pack the pieces you love and if worst comes to worst and you don’t have something you need you can always pick up a new one.
3. Special Occasion or Ultra-Specific Clothing
By this I’m not just referring to a nice dress or suit, occasion-specific clothing also includes things like heavy duty winter wear. I packed a couple of occasion-specific clothing figuring I didn’t want to have to find something last minute only to have them sitting around in my closet for an event that probably won’t occur. Of course, if you plan on attending a school dance or going to a fancy event then feel free to ignore this one.