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International Exchange

My top 10 packing tips for anyone studying abroad

8 August 2019

Everyone knows just how monotonous packing is, do any of us really look forward to it? When studying abroad, packing becomes much more complicated as you’re essentially packing your whole life into a couple of suitcases!

Here are my top 10 tips to make the process a tad less monotonous and a little bit quicker.

  1. Lists are everything

For me, lists are the best way to get myself organised. I can sort everything I need to pack into categories, so that I don’t just have one big list to go off. These categories can include: clothing, toiletries, shoes, bedroom, bathroom, documents and even a carry-on bag list. Lists are everything!!

Not only do they help speed up the packing process, but they make it highly unlikely for you to forget anything, which is a bonus.

As basic as my lists are, I find them easy to read this way. I have also shaded in light grey the items that I will need to buy when I get there.

If you hate making your own lists, there’s hundreds of lists you can get from Google, like this one made by study abroad students.

2. Know your limits

Don’t go into your packing with the ‘oh I might use 2 or 3 suitcases, we’ll just see how much stuff I have’ mentality, because trust me, you’ll never finish. Check your flight details to see how many suitcases you are allocated, and go from there. It might seem daunting to be packing your whole life into two suitcases for 4 months, but it can be done, I promise!

Example: American Airline’s Baggage Restrictions for both cabin and hold luggage

3. Prioritise your packing

Start by packing the essentials, the things that you really will need. These would include essential clothing and shoes. Although you might want to take your own duvet sets and towels from home too, sometimes this just isn’t realistic. You can buy all of these things out there for a low cost, so there’s no point filling your suitcases with these things.

Toiletries, although seemingly essential, can 1. be purchased once you get there, and 2. can reek havoc in your case if they spill or leak. I would recommend that you only take the toiletries that you perhaps cannot buy out there, or really like. Things like shampoo and shower gel will just add extra weight to your case, which is not what you need when you’re trying to keep to your airlines weight limit.

If you have room in your cases after packing all the essentials, then you can start to add the extra things that you might not need, but certainly want during your time abroad. These could be pictures, keepsakes and other things, as well as extra clothing and shoes.

4. Roll your clothes

Honestly, this one’s a game changer. Although it may take a little extra time to roll your clothes, it will leave you with much more room in the suitcase. More rolling = more clothes.

Whilst it may not be realistic to roll your jeans and jackets, it works perfectly for t-shirts and sweaters, preventing them from getting creased.

And if you aren’t quite sure how to roll your clothes, YouTube seriously has hundreds of videos to show you all the basics.

5. Weigh your bag before you leave

Do not make the mistake of arriving at the airport, realising your case is overweight, and having to pay the astronomical fine that comes with it. Be smart people, weigh your cases before you go.

You can buy them from as little as £3 from ASDA.

6. Pack your toiletries properly

Don’t just shove your toiletries in last minute on their own without a bag. They’re likely to spill and ruin your clothes that you so neatly rolled. Buy yourself a toiletries bag with a zip-top to ensure that they cannot escape.

If you know one of your bottles has a dodgy lid, honestly don’t cause yourself the stress of taking it and having to save your clothes when you get to the other end. It’s not worth it. As I said previously, buying toiletries when you get there is a great idea; it gives you more packing space, less chance of spillages and means you can buy as much as you like when you get there.

7. Put the things you’ll need for the first few days on the top

You don’t know how busy you’re going to be when you get there, so pack smart. Keep a change of clothes, a toothbrush and any makeup you might need towards the top of your case, so it’s easily accessible.

You might even want to put these things in your carry on bag, in case anything were to happen to your hold luggage, at least you have the first few days covered.

8. Buy a lightweight suitcase

Lightweight suitcases can be a lifesaver, not only are they easier to handle, but they allow you to pack more.

Stores like Primark and Debenhams have a range of suitcases on offer at surprisingly cheap prices, so there’s no excuse. Pack smart, people.

9. Make sure you pack essential documents in your hand luggage and NOT your hold suitcase

When studying abroad, especially to the United States, you will need to carry an extensive list of documentation to help with your customs process.

My list includes:

  • VISA
  • Passport
  • DS 2019 Form
  • DS 160 Confirmation
  • SEVIS fee payment confirmation
  • Travel and Health Insurance Documentation
  • Immunisation History
  • Return flight details, to show proof of return
  • Student Finance Documentation to show Finances (I also included a signed letter from my guardian, proving that they are willing to assist with finances exceeding that of my student loan).
    Acceptance letter from host university

You don’t want to be caught out with the wrong documents when you arrive in America, so make sure you have everything organised, ideally in a single folder, so that it’s easy to find if you require anything in customs. You will also need your DS 2019 form to help you fill in forms at the airport or on the plane, so make sure it’s in your bag and no one else’s.

American customs can sometimes be a hassle, so remain calm and keep your documents on you the entire time you’re travelling.

10. Don’t leave it until the last minute!

Try and start packing for your time abroad a couple of weeks before you go. It makes the process a lot less stressful and ensures you don’t stress pack excessively last minute.

Use your list to pack each section at a time, so that you don’t leave anything out and can buy things as you go along, if necessary.

So, be prepared, be smart and stay calm. Try and make the preparation for studying abroad as fun and stress-free as you can, it’ll make for a much easier transition.

That’s all my tips for today!