What NOT to Pack For Study Abroad in Europe
Whether you’re just starting to to think about a study abroad program in Europe or already deep into the planning process, it’s important to travel smart (which often begins with your study abroad packing list!). Besides the inconvenience of overweight luggage fees and just the downright physical burden of lugging a ton of stuff around, packing heavy with a bunch of unnecessary items is more than a drag (literally).
When it comes to figuring out how to pack for a semester abroad in Europe, remember that less is always more. Plan on leaving these non-study abroad essentials at home as you pack lightly for the ultimate study abroad experience. Here are eight things not to put in your suitcase when you are packing for study abroad in Europe:
1. High Heels
The cobblestone streets that weave through much of Europe are one of the many things that makes these countries charming and beautiful…until you try walking on them in high heels. Ladies, there is nothing cute about stumbling through the streets and nothing fun about possibly destroying your shoes! Opt for nice flats or wedges (if you must!) and leave your heels at home. Perhaps the most important piece of advice about what to pack for study abroad: invest in a pair of nice, durable shoes that can pass as both travel-worthy and casual-outing appropriate.
For more shoe packing tips, check out our shoe packing secrets for international travel.
Unless you need to bring along books for classes when you study abroad in Europe, don’t waste all the space and weight in your suitcase. E-readers and tablets are a luggage-friendly solution and study abroad essentials for avid readers, and they have an endless supply of reading materials. If you are a person who absolutely needs the satisfaction of holding a book in their hands, there are many book stores all over Europe that sell English-language (or whatever language you’re looking for) books. Explore little stores and stops all over Europe to satisfy your need to read.
3. Every Last Piece of Clothing in Your Closet
You’ve heard that some places throughout Europe are great cities for fashion lovers (places like Italy and France), and you want to dress to impress, but that doesn’t mean you should be packing for study abroad with every piece of clothing that you own. A good traveler also refrains from the “what if” outfits. “What if I get asked out on a date?” “What if I need something fancy one day?” “What if I don’t bring enough of this kind of clothing?” The “what if” game is truly mischievous.
The study abroad essentials are pieces that are easily layered and versatile from season to season. For example, a summer dress can easily become a fall dress with tights/leggings, boots, and sweater. While it is important to plan and daydream for your trip as best as you can, don’t plan for things you don’t know will happen. This will ensure you bag remains light and also is a great excuse to go shopping abroad should your need for something arises — the extra space in your bag is a great place to pack these new and unplanned items!
4. Hair Dryers, Straighteners, and Curling Irons
Your European study abroad packing list is likely to include some beauty appliances, but keep in mind the electrical voltage in Europe is different from the electrical voltage in the U.S. Small appliances are often completely fried after only their first or second use with the European electrical current. If hair tools are absolutely essential for you, wait until you get to Europe to buy them to ensure that they are compatible with the European system. However, if you’re feeling up to even more adventure, ditch the appliances altogether and embrace new hairstyles when you study abroad in Europe.
5. Ridiculous Accessories
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it is always good for people packing for study abroad to be reminded of little items a traveler can do without. That being said, purses and day bags are the luggage for the everyday adventures once in country, so avoid bringing along a purse that can’t hold much of anything, isn’t versatile from day to day, and isn’t very durable in the long run. Also, let’s just forget money belts altogether (unless you want to be labeled as a tourist). Large costume jewelry (or much of any jewelry at all) is a space-stealer and really just unnecessary for traveling, as there is an elevated chance of lost or theft. For anything along these lines, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” If the answer is no, leave it at home.
6. Big Cameras
Unless you’re studying photography or going to Europe strictly to photograph your study abroad in Europe experience, leave any big, expensive cameras at home. If you don’t have one already, save your money for something else and don’t think you need to purchase one of these beauties just because you’re heading abroad. First and foremost, this is just one more thing you will need to carry around. It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s expensive. If you drop it, misplace it, or it gets stolen, that will be a big bummer — both emotionally and financially. Most smartphones nowadays have pretty incredible built-in cameras, so if you will be carrying your phone around with you for a semester abroad in Europe, you are guaranteed to still capture some pretty exquisite images.
7. Decorative Phone Cases
Fancy-pants phone cases should not make the cut for what to pack for study abroad. While you may look pretty sweet flashing your glittery space cat themed phone case at airport customs as you hand over your passport, that’s about the only time these babies will come in handy. As funky and cool as they are, one quick fall to the ground or accidental dip in the water means your phone is history. Consider investing in a lifeproof phone case, or even just something that is made to be durable and reliable. A flashy phone case is easy to forego if it means you’ll be ensuring your phone lasts an entire semester as you study a broad in Europe.
8. Unrealistic Expectations or Preconceived Notions
Aside from knowing how to pack for a semester abroad and above all else, this is the most important thing to leave behind. Come into this new experience with zero expectations about what should happen during your time abroad. Every place around the world has its own way of doing things, so it is imperative to bring your open mind with you. Embrace cultural differences and leave all preconceived notions at the gate!
Packing for study abroad never looked so easy!
For many people, stepping outside of your comfort zone and into a new country (especially for an entire semester!) is a scary and unpredictable thing. However, once you get comfortable with the idea of embracing the newness of the experience, getting yourself ready for the adventure and coming up with your study abroad packing list becomes much easier.
Challenge yourself to leave some of these things (comforts) at home. Decide to spend a semester abroad in Europe with a light mind, light expectations, and light luggage!