Packing Tips for Studying Abroad: As Told By An API Alum

January 2, 2024
packing tips for study abroad

Meet Lindsey Gabler, an API Alum and Global Leader at University of Georgia, who went abroad to Italy. With her recent travels, Lindsey understands the anticipation that comes with preparing for an international adventure! To help future study abroad students like you navigate this thrilling experience, she compiled a list of essential packing tips. These tips are not just about what to pack, but also how to pack efficiently, ensuring you’re well-prepared for the journey.

Resist the Temptation to Pack Your Whole Wardrobe

One of my biggest concerns before going abroad: Will I have everything I need in Italy? I thought I might have to bring my entire wardrobe across the Atlantic Ocean! The night before I left, I even unpacked and repacked my suitcase entirely. I didn’t want to arrive in Italy and realize I had left behind something I desperately needed! Once I arrived, however, I realized the truth: I overpacked. From my time abroad, I learned about bringing the essentials and, consequently, how to avoid a 50-pound suitcase for any future travel.

Check the Weather – Dress for YOUR Body

I went for a spring semester and quickly realized Italy is cold. I traveled with many short sleeve shirts that I needed to layer, and many never made it out of my suitcase. Instead, I wish I used that space to bring more layering pieces that could be mixed interchangeably. For any location, research the expected temperatures for the month, and translate what that means for your body. As a girl from Florida, one temperature for me meant wearing a puffer jacket, while my friend from Vermont felt comfortable in just a sweater! 

Research the Culture – Beware of Pinterest Vacation Boards

Before going to Italy, I thought of the outfits shown on Italian vacation Pinterest boards — sundresses, shorts, and all things summer-related. However, once I arrived I realized Italians do not dress like this. Believe it or not, you may never see a local’s bare legs, even when the weather is hot! I brought so many summer clothes that I would never wear, including tank tops and shorts. In the end, I felt dressing to match the culture of those around me made me feel most at ease. Of course, wear whatever makes you comfortable, but I recommend understanding how the locals dress at your destination, so you can pack accordingly.

Bring Pieces That Will Work Together

When I was packing, I caught myself thinking, “Well, if I do XYZ, this would be perfect to wear.” Most of the time, XYZ didn’t happen, or only occurred once, leaving me with an item never to be worn again. Instead of wasting valuable suitcase space, I recommend thinking of several outfits that can be created from each piece you’re bringing. You’ll want a capsule wardrobe of clothing that will serve you for several occasions. I have not perfected this, but it’s something that is definitely worth looking into before going abroad!

Bulk Up on Essentials

Again, I packed many individual outfits that didn’t work together with the other options I brought. I wish I packed staple pieces — you can always shop while you’re abroad, and the sights you see will make you forget to care about anything you are wearing (For instance, I was wearing a hoodie when I went to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa). My last tip: pack more socks than you think you’ll need. Somehow, I kept running out and found myself doing laundry loads of just socks. Maybe this was just my experience, but better safe than sorry!

Studying abroad is an incredibly rewarding experience I wouldn’t trade for the world, even the moments of hauling around a massive suitcase. I hope these tips help you pack for your journey so you can form memories around your experiences, not your wardrobe. 

Editor’s Note: When traveling in Italy or other countries, you will likely find cobblestone streets and buildings without elevators. When packing, API recommends one checked bag and a carry on or personal item. It’s key to be able to carry everything you brought by yourself!

Shoutout to Our Alumni

Thank you to our API Alumni who continue to share their experiences with us! In sharing, we spread the word about the benefits of studying and interning abroad. Your story may have a positive impact on other students, encouraging them to consider a life-changing experience abroad! 

If you studied or interned abroad with API, and wish to share your memories, experiences, travel tips, and more, please reach out! You can DM us through our Instagram account @apiabroad or email our Director of Alumni, Hannah Olevson, at [email protected]. We look forward to featuring your story!



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