Going to school abroad from the U.S. is quite a different experience than attending school in the U.S.A. big part of the experience is being limited to usually one complimentary 50 pound check-in bag that comes with your airplane ticket (it can be two depending on the airline you take *cough cough* Emirates Airlines is the bomb.com *cough cough*). Believe me, the struggle is so real when the back-to-school sale starts in the U.S. and you see so many things you wish you could bring to make the dorm of your dreams, but realistically can't. Now entering my third year in studying abroad, here's my tip list for all you first-time study abroads on what you should definitely make room for in your check-in bag and what you should buy there.
**DISCLAIMER: this is list of what I consider basic essentials you'll need when you first enter you bare dorm room abroad after arriving from the airport**
1. Universal adapter - bring 2
All of us have electronics that need to be charged, like your phone. Bring a universal adapter that is usable in multiple countries, and not just one, that way it can hold up to all of your future traveling endeavors. Bring 2, because you never know what else you might need to plug in until you actually arrive at school. Plus, if the 2nd one becomes unnecessary, one adapter can be used particularly for traveling and the other particularly for use at school. Anything to facilitate your packing process is always is a great help when you end up traveling often. Believe me, while you're abroad, you'll be traveling often, or at least you should be to take advantage of your location.
Taking from my own experience, always check the voltage of your laptop charger. Nine times out of ten, the voltage of your laptop charger will be so high that it won't be able to work properly if you try to use your American plug with Universal adapter. It'll actually end up burning out your laptop charger within like 10 uses. I can guarantee you need to buy the specialized laptop charger adapter kit for your Apple laptop. For other brands, check with your providers.
Chances are you'll arrive in your school's dorm to a plain mattress. Instead of sleeping on the naked dorm mattress without a blanket (who knows what's happened on that mattress), bring some basics, especially because who knows when you'll be able to find bedding. I recommend to bring a basic sheet set (one with a fitted sheet and at least one pillow cover) and a simple blanket. For the blanket, try not to get one that is heavy, big, or puffy, because it'll be hard to pack and it'll hurt your baggage weight clearance. Maybe think of buying a travel blanket.
A travel pillow is great, because it'll give you something comfortable to rest your head on in your new dorm room until you are able to go dorm room shopping. Plus, it'll be useful on your future travel endeavors (be it planes or trains).
Most likely, when you first get to school abroad, you'll be too tired to go shopping for whatever essentials you'll need once you arrive. You'll probably have to wait at least a few days until you get started shopping for what you need. To get through your first days, bring some basic travel size toiletries. Especially for the first day you'll arrive, you'll want to take a shower after the long plane ride. Hopefully, you bring your travel toiletries in a travel toiletries bag. A clear bag that can contain sized containers for liquids of 3.4 oz or less will be useful in your future efforts to travel for cheap prices (carry-on is what you need to consider for cheap airplane prices).
Like I said, most likely, you won't be able to go shopping until at least a few days after arriving at school abroad. However, unlike when you pack for vacations and can depend on the hotel to provide you towels, your college will most likely not. You'll definitely need to shower, especially after arriving from the long flight, so for health reasons bring a towel. Preferably, bring a light towel. It doesn't necessarily have to be a specialized travel towel, but you can do that if size and weight is definitely an issue for packing.
If you've gotten the memo so far, shopping isn't easy to get to when you first arrive at school abroad. Especially because you're in a foreign place for the first time. When it comes to all the shopping needs, it's probably best to wait until you can meet long-time students of the school who can give you the down-low on where to shop for whatever you need. While waiting for all of that to happen, it'll be good to have at least some pens, pencils, a highlighter, and at least one notebook to get you through the first week of school.
By backpack, I mean a legit backpack that can carry some weight, not a pretty little accessory backpack purse (I love them like everyone else, but it's not what I consider an essential). It's just so useful as a carry-on bag in your future traveling endeavors. Backpacks can become expensive outside the U.S., especially because you want one that won't rip easily (safety and security measures, guys. it's so real out there). Instead of having to deal with disadvantageous currency conversion, just buy it in the U.S.
First of all, when you travel, you should always have your bags locked for security reasons. Nonetheless, those locks are super useful, once you get to school, when you travel for fun. When you're looking for cheap lodging (be it a youth hostel, airbnb, or cheap hotel), there's a good chance that you're sharing a room with people you don't know or the security isn't that great. Keep your stuff safe and secure with your locks. For the locks, be okay with splurging just so you can get dependable, not easily breakable locks.
Chances are you'll end up walking a lot while studying abroad, so you'll want some comfortable, but durable, for all types of weather shoes. However, you'll want them to stay stylish, because style is extremely important in Europe. When in doubt, try going for black leather boots/booties.
You can buy an umbrella when you get there (although I'm a firm believer of always being ready, so I always bring my umbrella). A rain jacket is more essential because sometimes you just don't have the free hand to carry an umbrella. Plus, if it's a good jacket, it can be used for almost any type of weather.
Because, you never know what can happen.
BONUS: Very small purse and leather jacket for clubbing as now you're officially legal in Europe (YAY!)
A very small purse to hold you absolute essentials (aka phone, dorm key, and some money for whatever you need), and a leather jacket because you'll need a jacket for going out and everyone will be wearing it so you won't be so easily detected as a foreigner (better to keep attention away for safety reasons).
1. Duvet and Duvet Cover
It'll get cold at your school. You're also free to buy a mattress protector.
You're may also want to buy pillow protectors.
3. Full sized toiletries
Warning, it may not be possible to get the same products you use in the U.S. where you're studying abroad so research on that and do what you need to do.
4. Water Filter
Because, it is so much cheaper to not buy disposable water bottles, which leads me to . . .
5. Reusable water bottle
It's cheaper in the long run (it can be cheaper to buy beer than water in Switzerland), and it's environmentally friendly :D.
6. The rest of the school supplies you think you'll ever need
You know what you need to do to do best in your studies, especially because you're only abroad in the first place so you can study.
7. Dorm room decor
Your surroundings play a key in keeping you sane and happy. Do what you need to do to make your dorm room abroad comfortable.
8. All things needed in the kitchen
It truly depends on the type of dorm you're living in. If its a dorm with a common kitchen, then check on the kitchen status and if they utensils are clean, just stick with whats there. If you're dorm room comes with your own kitchen, usually the university should have some basics in the cupboards. If they don't have the basics or the basics they have aren't satisfactory to you, buy what you need.
9. Shower shoes
Cheap lodging can sometimes mean disgusting bathrooms. Be ready by getting some shower shoes (aka flip flops). Flip flips should be cheap everywhere, but it's circumstantial.
10. Tool Kit
Because, home debate usually needs to be built together *cough cough IKEA cough cough*.
**BONUS: research to see if online stores like Amazon are available in the country you're in. You'll be able to compare prices or maybe even something you can't find at school. If Amazon is available in the country you're studying abroad in, you'll have to create a separate account for that country's Amazon.**
**Remember, you're only going to a different country, not to a different world.**
Curious, what school I study abroad at? Check out Franklin University Switzerland!
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