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13 Last-Minute Things to Pack for Study Abroad

Posted Jan 12 2014 - 2:00pm

Packing to study abroad is a daunting task.  How in the world are you supposed to fit your entire life into two suitcases?! And when you arrive in a foreign country, you’ll probably be nervous, jet lagged, and surrounded by people you can’t understand—the last thing you want to happen is to realize you forgot to pack something, further stressing you out.  But don’t worry; HC has you covered with a list of all of those last-minute things you might have forgotten to pack in your one to two (gulp) suitcases.  So stop stressing, read our list, and get ready to have the experience of a lifetime!

An eye mask.

Between late nights dancing at foreign clubs, annoyingly loud hostel-mates, and the serious jet lag you’ll have when you first get to your study abroad destination, sleep will probably be on your list of things you miss most from your life in the States (along with peanut butter and New Girl).  Skidmore College collegiette Kate Moriarty, who studied abroad in Paris, suggests to “bring an eye mask! Honestly, nothing's better than an instant sleep aid when you're traveling from city to city or when you're still adjusting to jet lag.” For $3.99, this eye mask from Target is a cheap one to get before you leave.  That eye mask will be a godsend when you’re exhausted on your Ryanair flight back to your host country after a sleepless weekend vacation—really, though, do they have to keep the lights on the whole time?!

Foreign money.

From airport food to toiletries to additional travel expenses such as metro tickets or cab fare, you’re going to want some money to start out with when you first arrive in your study abroad destination. Since airports often have really high exchange rates, go to your bank before you leave and exchange some of your US dollars (we’d recommend at least $200) for the currency of the country you’re studying abroad in.  Some foreign vendors won’t accept American credit or debit cards, so you won’t want to rely on a credit card for purchases when you first arrive!

Extra adapters.

Unfortunately, the plug at the end of your American computer charger may not fit in the outlets of the country you’re studying in; outlet shapes and sizes vary across the globe. Before you leave, you may need to stop by your local electronics store and buy adapters so you can plug in your electronics abroad (check out this worldwide plug adapter guide to see which adapter you’ll need for your destination). We recommend bringing multiple adapters, because when you’re trying to charge your computer, your camera, and your backup drive all at once, you’ll be happy you packed more than one. “You never know how many things you're going to want to plug in at once,” says Jamie Blynn, a GWU student who studied abroad in Israel. If you’re planning on traveling to different countries while you’re abroad, you’ll want to buy a set that comes with multiple adapter sizes, such as this one from Brookstone for $30.99.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications.

If you’re not fully fluent in the language of the country you’re studying abroad in, the last thing you want to do is try to purchase medication there!  You don’t want to find yourself saying “it’s all Greek to me” when trying to decipher labels at the pharmacy (unless you’re actually studying abroad in Greece).  Not to mention, some countries have more restrictions for buying what Americans would consider OTC medications. “France requires you to have a prescription in order for you to be able to purchase Tylenol and the like, so if your host country has a similar policy, you'll save yourself time and energy by bringing your own supply,” Kate says.  However, check with the foreign embassy of the country where you’ll be staying before you pack that Advil or allergy medication—some medicines that are legal in the US are considered illegal narcotics in certain countries. If you’re being prescribed medication in the US, talk to your doctor before you leave so they can prescribe you a big enough supply to last you your semester or summer abroad.

A travel alarm clock.

Between flights, train trips, and tours, you’ll want something to ensure that you’ll wake up in time for all the awesome things you’ll do abroad. American University alum Lesley Siu, who studied abroad in Scotland, suggests packing a travel alarm clock. “I normally use my cell phone, but I mostly kept it off while traveling internationally to avoid the fees. My friends were thankful I had it too—we relied on it to wake us up for early flights, tours and activities,” she says. “It's easy to carry and small enough to fit under your pillow, so you won't wake everyone up when you're staying in hostels.” When they’re as cheap as this $10 one from Walmart, that’s a small price to pay to avoid annoying your hostel-mates!

A deck of cards.

With the tons of fabulous traveling you’re sure to be doing, you’re bound to need some entertainment for those hours spent in trains and planes. “A deck of cards comes in so much handy on the plane, train, or on the beach,” Jamie says.  Not to mention, they’re inexpensive—whipping out a deck of cards on a train ride rather than an iPod or a Kindle will make you less likely to be a target of theft for those tricky pickpockets.

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