The idea of packing the right amount and right type of belongings can be very daunting when you prepare to venture to another country for several months. If you’re anything like me, you are somewhat convinced that each article of clothing you own will experience major FOMO if it doesn’t take the trip across the pond with you, so you find some way to rationalize why you will pack said item. Your packing experience then turns into game of Tetris to see how much you can fit into a suitcase so it will not only close, but still not go over that dreaded weight limit the airlines have. Many of my friends who had studied abroad in the past urged me to save some room in my suitcase once I began to pack, as I would prepare to head home with tons of souvenirs.
I really struggled with this as I knew how many different countries (with very different climates) I would be visiting and wanted to prepare for everything. The key is to understand the essentials you will need, based on the overall weather conditions you see for different countries. Generally, you can get away with the same types of clothing if you plan on traveling to Greece, Spain, Italy, Morocco, etc. Although January and February might be a bit cooler, you still have those items for once it does warm up a bit. As for packing for countries when it might be a bit chillier at first, you can bring your warmer clothes for countries like France, England, Ireland, Germany, Austria, etc. Overall, plan on bringing the essentials for those countries you plan on visiting, and worst case scenario, if there is something (or several things) you desperately need it gives you a great opportunity to get a shopping trip in.
One of my favorite parts about studying abroad was seeing all of the different shopping areas in each city. Especially to those of you planning on visiting Milan, Paris or London, you are hitting some of the fashion capitals of the world. One minute you are wandering down the sidewalk with friends, the next you are inside a store with a handful of amazing Euro-chic outfits that you cannot leave the city without buying. This is where you start to be grateful you did leave room in your suitcase for even this one shopping trip…..and there will be without a doubt be more in the next city. When I studied abroad in Rome, I made a point of heading to Via del Corso at least once a week to get some shopping in. This is one of, if not THE best shopping areas in Rome. When you spot a Brandy Melville or Zara, it’s hard to keep walking by without “just looking at that cool jacket in the window that most likely nobody from back home will have”. By the end of the semester, it seems like half of my wardrobe changed as I found really great stores in every city I visited with even better clothing!
Another great part of studying abroad is the amount of gifts you can return home with that make you feel like Santa himself as you distribute cool things to the masses. After a spring semester abroad, you come home and both Mother’s and Father’s Day quickly approach. You will definitely want to make sure you left room in your suitcase for that bottle of wine (or five) if your parents are wine connoisseurs. Or if a sibling or friend’s birthday happens to arrive right as your return home, you will want to make sure you picked up that amazing purse you saw at the leather markets in Florence, or got your brother that t-shirt from the Guinness Factory in Dublin. I loved coming home with a suitcase half-full of Christmas gifts for my family and friends, especially as they represented an amazing four months abroad that I was able to share with them through a unique gift from a different country.
By the end of the semester you may become so cultured and Euro-chic, you might forget all about those shoes or jeans you once thought were cool back home. You will definitely want to come home with at least one special thing from each place you visited, as those are things you can take with you and share with others for a very long time. After replacing nearly half of my wardrobe abroad, I worried about how I would fit everything into my suitcase AND not go over the luggage weight limit. Because I was able to get rid of the things I didn’t necessarily need, I had plenty of room to come home with gifts for my family and friends….and myself. These next few months will be filled with great adventures to be had, memories to make and souvenirs to buy—so get packing now and prepare for one of the most exciting experiences to be had!