Packing for Studying Abroad

Credit: Travel Confidently
Packing for a week long trip can be challenging, so you can imagine how daunting it is to event think about packing for a semester or year. Let me tell you, it's not easy to pack for 10 months when you have no idea what you should take, but consider yourselves lucky because I am here to share my tips! You'll be learning from all my packing mistakes. I'll be sharing my tips for year long students but if you're only going for a semester feel free to use this as a rough guide.
First of all for year-long student I highly recommend bringing two large suitcases. You'll have to pay a fee to check-in a second bag but it is a lot less than shipping items through UPS or FedEx. That second suitcase will come very handy when it's time to go back home. Another tip is bringing a backpack as one of your carry-on bags. You'll probably need a good backpack for all your Ryan Air trips while you're in Europe so might as well bring one with you. Believe it or not Jansport and Eastpak retail for a lot higher in Europe and I really doubt anyone would want to pay 50+ euros for a backpack that you can easily buy at Walmart or Target.

DISCLAIMER: This is only a suggestion, by no means is this a perfect list. Use this post as a guideline but alter it according to your needs. Also consider what type of person you are. Do you like to shop? If so you might want to consider bringing less clothing so you'll have room to bring back the stuff you buy during your time abroad. Are you a low maintenance guy? Then you can probably get away with just bringing the bare minimum. Now that we have that out of the way we can start with the bullet points.

Clothes + Shoes

  • 2 weeks worth of underwear. Why? Because the number of underwear will determine how often you'll be going to the laundromat. Also if you're a C cup or larger, it can be tough to find good and affordable bras in your size I'll discuss bra sizes in a different blog post.
  • 10 pairs of socks. You'll probably won't need them everyday and you can just throw them away before coming back. 
  • 2-3 pairs of jeans. The number is low because if you're like me you'll lose some weight when you're abroad and most likely will have to buy new jeans while you're there.
  • 1 heavy coat for the winter
  • 1 water resistant jacket (preferably big so you can layer underneath)
  • 1 light jacket such as a leather jacket or anorak
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 pair of boots. Wear them when you fly because they're too bulky to pack.
  • 1 pair of flats. You're going to one of the shoe capitals of the world! You'll most likely be buying a pair of shoes while you're in France, plus they're not too expensive.
  • 1 pair of sandals for the summer months.
  • 1 or 2 scarfs
  • Dresses, shirts, blouses are up to you! I'd say bring a couple, again those are items that you'll most likely buy while you're there unless you're very thrifty and don't want to shop at all.
I don't recommend bringing long johns or thick leggings at all, you can find those items on eBay which is what I did. I saved a lot of space by not bringing those bulky items with me. Also when packing think of things that you can easily throw away at the end of your year/semester. Do you have some old underwear? Well bring that with you so you can wear them out and then just throw them away. Clothes that you're no longer interested in bringing back can easily be donated, there are donation bins around Paris and in the surrounding areas. 

I left out workout gear because you'll be walking a lot while you're studying abroad. Also you're probably not going to have a gym membership and France is cold during fall and winter so you're probably not going to be running in 20ºF weather. Don't bother with workout gear unless you're 100% sure that you'll actually make the effort to workout.

Another thing ladies, don't bring too much too many jewelry! You can easily buy stuff there, there's Claire's in France as well as the French alternative. You don't need to waste space by bringing your whole jewelry collection.

Beauty + Health
Now here is where the majority of your bulk will come in because some basic items like toothpaste can be extremely expensive in France. Here is where you'll be saving money by not buying items in France.
  • 1 tube of toothpaste per month, I know that may sounds like a lot but the tubes of toothpaste in France are so small and expensive, especially when compared to how big and inexpensive they are in the U.S. 
  • Toothbrushes
  • A hair brush
  • Skincare- cleanser, lotion, etc.  If your skin is very sensitive, I advise you to bring enough to last you for the duration of your stay. If your skin is not sensitive then this will be your chance to venture out into the world of French skincare.
  • Costco sized shampoo and conditioner, again one of those items that are tiny and pricy in France. You'll save some money by just bringing those along and the good thing is that you'll just be using those items up completely.
  • Bring enough razors to last you the whole duration of your stay. Razors are expensive so you'll be saving money by bringing them with you. Take into consideration how often you have to shave, how big the areas are, and how coarse your hair is. I would say to buy at least 4 packs of disposable razors.
  • Dual-voltage straightener/curler/hair dryer. Dual-voltage are the keywords for your products to work perfectly in Europe. I bought a Remington straightener at Target for around $25 and I still use it till this day. Buy something that you'll be able to use both in Europe and back home, don't make the mistake of buying an expensive straightener in France that you'll probably won't use back home. 
  • Hair products, bring the basic. Serum? Can of hairspray? You can basically find every hair care product in France. 
  • Nail clippers, tweezers, etc.
  • Prescription medication with the prescription.
I left out makeup from there because it's one of those things that vary depending on the person. I can't tell anyone how much powder or mascara to bring because I can't assume that every girl applies as much makeup as I do. If you're loyal to a specific foundation or mascara, then bring enough to last the whole duration of your stay. If you're not picky with products then just bring some and when you run out of products then buy what you need. Just don't bring huge palettes with you like I did because you'll be in pain if they get shattered during the journey to France.

Also the reason why I advise you to bring your own toiletries is because those are items that you'll use completely and just dispose. So you won't have to worry about them wasting space when you come back home.

Entertainment + Technology
  • Laptop with a good antivirus program!
  • Unlocked phone (if you want to use it in France)
  • A book or two, or your iPad/Kindle
  • iPod/Mp3 player
  • Cheap earbud headphones and your normal headphones
  • Camera + 32 GB memory stick (or larger depending on how many pictures you take)
I cannot emphasize how important it is to have a really good antivirus program. Both my roommate and I fell victims of European computer viruses while we were in Paris. Her laptop fortunately survived but mine stopped working completely. Reason why I also recommend a laptop is because you'll be writing a lot of papers in your French classes, especially if you want to study literature or history in France.

Misc. Items
  • A framed picture of your family/pets/or significant other
  • Food that you know that you won't be able to find such as salsas, chili powder, and Mexican candy.
  • Small decorations that remind you of home
  • Space bags, these will save your life by creating more space in your bags
  • A towel or two
  • At least two converters
Don't bring any kitchen utensils, silverware, or picture albums. When bringing food just bring items that you love and know you can't live without. Chiles and salsas are not easily found in France so I had cans of jalapeños, chipotle, and Salsa Amor in my apartment. 

I wish I would had written this post when I went to Paris because it was hard to think of what people should pack. Just be aware that most items you can buy in the home country so you technically don't need to bring them. Also if you're going for just a semester, take into consideration when you'll be going. Someone going just for the fall semester might not have to worry about bringing a lot of thick clothing.

Hope you found this helpful and if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Also let me know if you would like me to create a PDF checklist so I can start working on it ASAP. 

Bon week-end !

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