How to Pack for Study Abroad

Ever since I realized I was actually going to Spain, I spent my life searching for lists and lists of the best things to pack, how to pack them, and everything in between. You wouldn’t believe how many resources there are for not only study abroad, but also “Backpacking in Europe for 1 Month with a Carry On!” or “How to Live out of a Backpack!” It is all really fun and would probably be the best way to travel, in my opinion, but it’s a little more intimidating trying to think about what I’m going to need for the next four months and five days. If I could survive out of just one larger suitcase, I would be lucky. The problem with the millions of different resources, and the thousands of great ideas on what to do, it’s hard to decide the best rule of thumb for suitcases, clothes, or even shampoo. So I decided to add to that giant pile of information with my own little guide on the best way to pack for study abroad. I’m not expert, I know. I haven’t even left yet. I think I have a pretty good idea of what to do after doing so much research and internet searching.

Without further ado:

How to Pack for Study Abroad

Picture of all clothes to pack

First off, according to plenty of websites and other bloggers, you have to lay out all of your clothes and make sure everything matches. Some blogs have pictures of all the different outfits that five pieces of clothes can wear. I’ll let you use your imagination.

Batman underpants are absolutely required.

Half amount of clothes to pack

From a lot of study abroad resources, and even a few people who have gone abroad, there is a saying, “Pull out everything you want to take, and then cut the quantity of clothes in half.” While I’m sure that’s extremely helpful in keeping the weight down, but it also extremely limits my wardrobe. I mean, all of my pants are gone. I can’t just wear underpants everywhere!  Maybe I should slice horizontally.

Who am I kidding, though? I would only wear these batman underpants anyway.


Let’s take a break in packing and think about the type of suitcase or suitcases you’ll need in order to carry all of this stuff across an ocean. Like I said earlier in the post, there are people who are able to spend months abroad in just a teeny suitcase, but if you are like me and can’t handle the idea of leaving your favorite jeans and shirts at home, or want an entire bag to use as a present bag for when you get home, you’ll want something big.

Emily’s rule of thumb:


Emily crying in a suitcase with her cat and some corn


Get a suitcase big enough for you to sit and cry in because you’re leaving for 4 months to a completely different continent and won’t be able to take your comforts of home with you.


Pic of messy suitcase

There! All packed! Right?

Throwing pants in suitcase Shorts thrown into suitcase



Nope! From this point I like to add about a cup of chocolate chips…

Putting chocolate chips into suitcase


Mix it up.

Whisking suitcase


Bake at 350

picture of oven at 350 Put suitcase in the oven

shoving suitcase into oven


Maybe the big suitcase wasn’t a good idea…




There! The perfect suitcase.

Perfectly packed suitcase



In all seriousness, I think packing is an extremely subjective thing. There are too many factors and variables that come into play—weather, time of year, cultural and societal norms, and your own comfort levels—to have one special specific list for all people studying abroad. Bring what you want, maybe a little bit less, and focus on having a good time instead of worrying about the things you have forgotten or wish you hadn’t packed. Although, as you can see in the final picture, rolling up your clothes really does help!

If you weren’t just here for the laughs, and were actually curious about how to pack for study abroad, I found that Her Packing List is the perfect resource for all things packing. Or just google “How to pack for study abroad” and you’ll get lots of things. I’ll let you know if my own advice actually worked…

Do I smell burning plastic?