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Study Abroad Blog

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How To: Pack for a Semester Abroad

April 10, 2015
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
If you took everything you might need for the next four months of your life and piled it on your bed, it's not going to fit in a suitcase. It probably won't fit in two. For a semester abroad, you usually get a suitcase and a carry-on, plus your personal item. Getting four months down to about 75 pounds and very limited cubic space is tricky - but possible. Looking at it from the other side of the world, here are tips that should help you pack for your semester abroad.
 Wander the city you stay in...

1. Carry On
Make sure your carry on bag is the right size. European airlines tend to have slightly smaller size limitations for overhead storage. It may be a matter of a few centimeters, but some airlines - especially the notoriously cheap airlines - can be rather stingy about enforcing the rules.
Bonus Tip: Be confident; if your bag is slightly too large, don't apologize and try to persuade the people at the gate - just walk on the plane. If it's a matter of a few centimeters, it will fit.

2. Power Strip
Most countries you will stay in require an electrical adapter. Let's face it - this is the technology age. You need an outlet for your phone, iPod, laptop, razor, speaker... It's a long list of essential items. Each of them requires an adapter - but you can do it all at once! Bring a power strip and one adapter and you have roughly half a dozen plug-ins for your devices. As an added plus, the power strip acts as a surge protector for your devices.
Bonus Tip: A smaller, three-outlet extension is great for weekend trips where you need your phone and iPod, but not necessarily all of the spaces on a full power strip.

 ...and explore nearby cities, too.

3. Winter Coat
It doesn't matter if you are going abroad in fall or spring - winter is right in the middle of the two. A winter coat may seem unnecessary if you are traveling to a warm city. The problem with weather, though, is that it is notoriously unpredictable. Unless you are living near the equator, it will be cold at some point. There is probably no need for the three-layer-thick snowboarding coat or the fur-lined parka, but a lightweight coat will make it out of the closet at least once.
Bonus tip: Down makes for a good option, as it won't be too warm for cool nights and it packs fairly small.

4. Must Haves
There are certain items you probably think you can't live without. The truth is, you can live without most of them. That shampoo that you've used since your sophomore year of high school isn't a necessity - and is not worth the risk of having shampoo exploding all over everything in your suitcase. You can buy shampoo, toothpaste, and pretty much everything you will need where you are going.
Bonus tip: If you have something that you are very particular about - vitamins, for example - bring them. Don't sacrifice your functioning and peace of mind to lighten your backpack by a few pounds.

 You learn more out here than behind a desk.

5. School Supplies
In case you forgot, part of a semester abroad includes classes. That usually means notebooks and books - which all students in the country you are going to have to buy as well. School supplies are generally inexpensive and alternately heavy.
Bonus tip: If you're really cheap or environmentally conscious, you can use a notebook starting from both sides. Chances are you will not meet in the middle during a semester of learning out of the classroom.


Alex Larsen is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Seville, Spain. He is currently a junior at The University of Northwestern - St. Paul.

Read more about our CEA CAPA Content Creators.
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