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Studying Abroad Soon? You Might Want To Check Out This Packing List

semester abroad packing list

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern Alexandra Speck. Find her on Instagram at @alexandraspeckk. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

It’s that time of year! If you’re studying abroad soon, you’re probably eyeing empty suitcases and bracing yourself for the painful packing process. Creating a study abroad packing list can be daunting, particularly if you’re trying to keep your luggage bill small. My semester in Italy taught me a thing or two about strategic packing, so I’ve compiled a list of my must-pack items that should definitely join you for your overseas adventures. Read ahead for the perfect semester abroad packing list!

Sleep Products

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I learned the hard way that prioritizing quality sleep is the only way to avoid total, unequivocal exhaustion. You’ll inevitably lose rest to overnight travel, jet lag, nights out, and studying, so it’s important to make the most of those precious snoozing hours. Any sleep products you find helpful – think eye masks, melatonin, noise-canceling headphones, small white noise machines, earplugs, and supplements – should be the very first items in your suitcase. Even if you don’t always use them at home, your exhausted future self will be grateful for the extra help.


As @sophiacelentano48 explains, your backpack will be your new best friend. It’s the most important item you’ll pack, especially if you’re planning lots of weekend trips. The bag should be large enough to pack a weekend’s worth of essentials and comfortable enough to wear for multiple hours; I used and loved this one from SwissGear. By ditching the clunky luggage, you’ll save tons of money on plane tickets and make train travel infinitely more efficient. Make sure your bag is sturdy, since it will travel with you everywhere.


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Your mom is definitely telling you to pack comfortable shoes, but how many pairs do you need? I found that my most valuable pairs were multi-purpose. 

  • My everyday white sneakers, sandals and boots doubled as my formal shoes; I made sure to pack dresses and skirts that matched. You’ll be using those three pairs the most, so make sure they’re comfortable enough to wear all day. Blundstone boots were my weatherproof saving grace.
  • My running/workout sneakers were also my hiking shoes. Your walking sneakers might meet these needs, but I appreciated having a sturdier pair for higher-intensity hikes and poor weather.
  • I only brought one pair of waterproof sandals/flip-flops for beaches, pools and showers. A cheap plastic pair did the trick.

With shoes, less is more. They take up lots of luggage space, so minimizing your shoe packing will mean more room for your overseas shopping hauls!

Prescriptions & Your Favorite Drugstore Items

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It’s hard to know what to expect when it comes to foreign drugstores and pharmacies. They may not stock your favorite items, be open 24/7, or be within easy walking distance. So, if your medication is legal in your destination country, look into bringing a semester supply. The same goes for over-the-counter products you foresee needing; I made a small first-aid kit that included ibuprofen, cough drops, bandages, antibiotic ointment, sunscreen and vitamins. That small kit saved me so many trips to the drugstore, and I was happy to have the brands I knew and liked. I opted for buying skincare, haircare, and period products overseas since they’re bulkier to pack, but definitely travel with anything that you can’t live without.


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Your laptop/tablet, phone, and chargers already travel with you everywhere, but a few additional accessories will be necessary for your trip overseas. 

  • Since most of us take advantage of mobile train and plane tickets, a high-quality portable charger is great to have on hand. 
  • If needed, bring a handful of power adapters to meet your daily charging needs (check which adapter you’ll need for your destination country). If your heated hair tools aren’t dual-voltage, I’d suggest simply waiting and buying one in your destination city; it’ll be easier than dealing with converters. 
  • Trackers for your checked bags are also a must, especially in foreign airports. I and so many friends dealt with lost luggage at some point during the semester, and being able to track missing bags is always a relief. 

What are your must-pack items on your semester abroad packing list? Let us know what we missed in the comments section below!

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