Students share packing tips for study abroad

Mariah Wellman

Packing for a vacation can be difficult—even if it is only for a weekend getaway—so how does one even begin to pack for a four-month-trip overseas?

Many students from Iowa State experience study abroad during their time enrolled at the university. For many, the packing can be the most stressful time before beginning their travels. There can be many necessities while studying abroad in another country, restrictions while traveling and some issues that may come up while one is staying in another country.

Ashley Schonberg, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, studied at the London College of Fashion during the fall 2013 semester. She didn’t start packing until the day she was leaving town, but she did prepare in another way.

“I had attended the study abroad orientation meetings, and they provided us with a lot of helpful information about what we could and couldn’t bring along.” Schonberg said. “I used that information as a guideline.”

Schonberg said she would highly recommend attending as many orientation and information sessions as possible before leaving for study abroad. There are presentations given by prior study abroad students, as well as general information sessions conducted by the Study Abroad Office.

“Don’t be embarrassed to bring a parent or take notes,” Schonberg said. “I was glad I invited my mom to both orientations for my program because she became more emotionally invested in my study abroad experience.”

While packing, one may want to check the restrictions on bags and weight limits.

Katelyn Hall, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, studied in Florence, Italy. In order to make sure she didn’t break any of the packing restrictions, Hall said she researched the weather during her time abroad, religious practices and other things that could affect her while staying in Italy.

“Make sure that you know before you get there what the locals wear,” Hall said. “For example, in Italy, even in the 80 degree weather, you wouldn’t see an Italian wearing just shorts. As much is it’s just a personal choice, it’s also about religion here in Italy. Many churches and religious sanctuaries require visitors to cover their knees and shoulders.”

Hall also said she brought a baggage scale along with her and it was one of the most useful things she packed.

“Most likely, you’ll travel tons while you’re abroad, and cheap airlines have very strict limits on weight limits for baggage,” Hall said.

One thing both Hall and Schonberg agreed on as possibly the best advice was to pack light.

“Pack as light as you can, because you’ll want to bring a lot of things home, including class projects,” Schonberg said. “I decided to bring only one suitcase as checked luggage and one small backpack as a carry on. I didn’t run into any weight or restriction problems, but it was difficult to chose which items I’d need while I was away. I wish I would have brought a second bag, because I ended up spending more money to replace items than I would have spent checking a second bag.”

Packing light does not mean you have to give up style, Hall said. Hall packed many items that were easily layered, to mix and match her outfits.

Packing only the essentials works well for clothing, but Schonberg said she still ended up purchasing quite a bit while in London.

“At the beginning of the semester we had outdoor classes, and we would walk around the city of London for two hours in 90 degree heat. At the end of the semester, the same classes were spent walking around outside in 25 degree temperatures,” Schonberg said. “I had packed for mild, moderate weather but I ended up needing to purchase clothing for very hot and very cold weather too.”

Schonberg also said that if one is able to bring along toiletries, bring only the essentials to keep from having to buy them at higher prices while abroad.

“Looking back, I wish I would have brought anything that could have fit into my checked luggage: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, moisturizer, deodorant, etc.,” Schonberg said. “I was unable to find a shop that sold those products for less than what I would have paid in the U.S., and I had to fork out a lot of money my first day there for things I could have easily brought along.”

Overall, Hall and Schonberg said the most helpful advice they would give is to research and bring along as many absolute essentials as you are able, while still leaving room for purchases made abroad. Also, talking to students who have been abroad can help one decide what to bring.

Hall said she spoke with her sister before packing to find out exactly how much to pack.

“She told me to pack light rather than packing heavy, because you’re going to need room for all your souvenirs and purchases over the whole semester,” Hall said. “It was definitely good advice. Also, research, research, research.”