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What to Pack: A Study Abroad Program First Timer's Guide

Updated on December 28, 2012

And so you have decided to take on one of the biggest adventures of your life, taking a study abroad program. Basically that means pursuing a dream – in a foreign country. Being away from home for a couple of weeks for a short course program; or for some, for a couple of years to complete a degree or a post graduate certification; is a sure hard thing though. It takes a few adjusting and a sure lot of challenge. But like any undertakings, proper preparation surely eases the challenge. So before you get on board that plane – or transcontinental train, here are a few things to remember, and mind you, never forget stashing into your luggage.


Commonly, a study abroad program depends on the very nature of the course. A summer or spring break program commonly takes only a short duration of time, and so requirements are quite few. But a full course program, like a bachelor’s degree is surely going to require a little lot of papers and documents. These requirements, commonly scholarly and academic papers are your ticket to the program, so above anything, it’s the very first that ought to be at the bag. These papers greatly depend on the requirements asked, but commonly, these are:

  • School/Academic Credentials
  • Passport
  • Visa (if the country requires)
  • Parents/Legal Guardians Permit (for minors)
  • Admittance/Verification Letter/Papers (for the program/ from the college, university)
  • Papers on the Program Fees/Arraignments

Aside from these stuffs, when you enroll to a study abroad program, there are common program needs to bring. These could be materials, books, scholarly papers, gadgets (like DSLR cameras for art students, portfolio, etc) and other course related materials. It would be your choice whether to bring them in or buy them at the country you are going to. Weigh the cost as to which would make you save more resources, give you more luggage space and burden you less. The important thing is, when packing or planning, these are second most priority as they would be used for the program.

Lastly, it is your personal stuff. Clothes, shoes, grooming necessities and other tid-bits you can’t live without. The question is, what to and not bring. You can’t pack your entire closet for sure, that’s not really too smart even if you have the cash to burn for the luggage fees. Here are some things to consider before picking which to stuff into your suit case and which are better bought at the country you are going to.


Know the country’s weather, and the specific weather (season) during your stay, unless you are staying for more than a year. Bring weather appropriate clothes. Warmers on the other hand are best bought at the place so bringing one is enough. This saves space – and luggage fees.


Know the country’s culture. Commonly countries that offer a study abroad program are cosmopolitan. But it is still better safe than sorry, so before stashing clothes (especially printed tops) know first whether there are certain clothing taboos in the country you are heading to. Say, a Nazi print might raise eyebrows at a German airport.


Keep your essentials. For those who may have attachments to certain grooming products, its best to bring a supply that could last until you are able to find a place to shop for them at the country you’re headed at.

Lastly, the one thing that you can’t leave is your confidence and self trust. Bring it with you all the time and you’re good to go. Studying abroad is an adventure that might change your life, so keep your best foot forward and simply have fun!


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