The Final Step Before the Flight: Packing for Study Abroad

You’ve been accepted, secured your study visa, purchased your airline tickets, and squared away all of your loose ends at home.  And now comes one of the more challenging aspects of preparing to study abroad: packing.

AlvieroMartiniLuggagePacking for college in the United States usually consists of tossing all of your most precious belongings into your parents’ car and driving to your new home while squished between bags and boxes.  When moving to Italy for six weeks, four months, or four years, you will undoubtedly need to alter your college packing method.

Most international airlines allow passengers to check one or two 50 lb (23 kg) bag, and to carry one smaller suitcase or duffel (plus a purse or backpack) onto the plane.  While this seems like it could not nearly be enough space to move overseas, packing light is an art that most travelers will master.  You will be responsible for carrying all of your own bags, so you will need to pack no more than what you can carry.  Remember that you will also undoubtedly buy things in Italy, so leave enough room to fit your purchases on the way home.

While packing for your semester abroad, we recommend that you keep the following list in mind:

CARRY ON:

  • Your passport and three photocopies of your passport photo page and student visa page
  • Health insurance card and insurance information
  • ATM card/ credit card (remember to make sure your bank knows you will be using it in Europe)
  • Prescription medications
  • Eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Change of clothes (plan ahead for luggage delays)
  • All valuables, including as jewelry, laptop, phone, etc.
  • About €150 for any immediate needs (if you prefer not to use an ATM or exchange money at the airport)
  • Italian dictionary-phrasebook

CLOTHES

This category really depends on you, as everyone dresses differently.  Check the forecast for the time of year you will be coming, and if you are coming for a semester think about layers.  Fall study abroad students can plan for summer weather through September, with colder weather arriving in December, while spring students should plan for colder weather in January and February with warmer weather arriving in late March.

Depending on your style, your American clothes will likely make you stick out; baseball hats and fraternity t-shirts, flip flops, neon colors, etc. will allow any Italian to immediately recognize you as an American.  Decide whether you would like to try to blend in or not, as that will certainly affect your packing list.

Overall, we recommend that you bring:

  • 10-20 tops: Think about layering, mixing casual shirts for class and travels with more dressy shirts for weekends and nights out.
  • 4-5 sweaters: mix cardigans for layering and warm sweaters for particularly chilly days.
  • 4-5 bottoms: Jeans, dress pants/skirts, shorts, etc. Think about what you plan to be doing  during your time in Rome. If you want to intern or spend weekends at the opera, you may need some dressier clothes.
  • 1-2 coats: One winter coat and one fall/spring jacket.
  • Gloves, hat, scarves
  • Rain gear: Last winter was pretty rainy- a waterproof jacket and an umbrella are not a bad idea.
  • 15-20 pairs of socks and underwear: Think about how often you plan to do laundry!
  • 3-5 pairs of pajamas/lounging clothes
  • Work out clothes: quantity depends on your work out schedule!
  • A Bathing suit
  • 3-5 pairs of shoes: Sneakers, flip flops for the beach, sandals, dress shoes, boots.  Ladies – the cobblestones in Trastevere are not the easiest to maneuver in stilettos, so we advise against packing several pairs of heels unless you have an excellent sense of balance!

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • A backpack or duffel bag that fits the carry-on luggage requirements of discount airlines, if you plan to travel inexpensively while studying abroad
  • Toiletries: Keep in mind that Italy is a modern European country, so if you use generic hair products, facial products, sunscreen, etc. you should have no trouble finding the Italian equivalent.  If you use specific products and are unsure whether you will be able to find them here, pack enough to last you for the semester.
  • Electronics: laptop, camera, iPhone, etc. Remember that you will need European adapters and converters! Europe is infamous for its talented pickpockets, so be extra careful while traveling with expensive electronics.
  • Medicine: Make sure to work with your insurance company to get enough prescription medication to last for your semester abroad.  You also may want to bring over the counter medicine, although you will be able to find the Italian equivalent for most medication while you are here.
  • Resealable plastic bags to hold your toiletries and protect against spills.
  • A journal to record your activities and reflect upon your experience in Rome (blogging is a great alternative- contact [email protected] if you would like to blog for us!)

For more packing suggestions, check out Rick Steves’ packing list here.

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