Packing for an internship abroad can be very tricky. Unlike studying abroad or travelling around for fun, packing requires an extra subdivision of clothes. Depending on the type of work, the 50-pound suitcase limit may now need to include suits, professional blouses, skirts, nice shoes--the list goes on and on. These types of clothes can be especially hard to pack in order to avoid wrinkles, tears, and stains.
I packed every type of professional clothes I could think of before I left the States. It was hard for me to judge what the work culture would be like before I got to Dublin, so I mostly just went off of what I found online, had heard from friends, and what my program coordinator in Dublin recommended.
Here are some tips when packing for an internship or work abroad:
1) Research the environment where you are working beforehand
Just as you would in the U.S., know your job type before you start packing. If you know you will be working in an office, pack a suit, blouses, etc. Depending on the type of work, many jobs require a specific type of clothing. For example, one of my roommates works in the service industry in Dublin City. Her job requires her to wear black-formal apparel. Another roommate works at a farm outside of the city. She knew beforehand that she would need specific pants, boots, jackets, etc. If you are accustomed to working in a similar environment at home, chances are it will be the same in your host country.
2) Ask around and research the country’s general work culture
For the most part, I only knew people who had only visited Dublin before but not worked. I learned from online research that Irish work culture is more relaxed than in the U.S., so my daily work wardrobe could be a little more relaxed. My program coordinator in Dublin also reminded me that some days I could be giving a presentation or working in a more formal environment, so it was best to pack part of my clothes as if I were overdressing than underdressing. Other places like London, for example, could have a more formal everyday work environment. It all depends on your location and that country’s general culture and attitude toward work.
3) Take the weather and time of year into account!
Internships take place all year for some programs, so it is smart to take into account when you will be there and what the weather will be like. For example, most internships take place during the summer months, so lighter and cooler clothes are more needed than heavy sweaters and jackets. The geography of your host country also makes a huge difference. Dublin is cold yearround I’ve noticed, so even in the summer months I am wearing warmer outfits and boots to work. It’s a good idea to know your host country’s weather so you don’t get stuck like me bringing summer clothes to Dublin!
4) Judge the amount of clothes you will need and designate packing space
Don’t overpack. Chances are most of the clothing you pack you won’t end up wearing. Calculate out how many days you will be working and then decide how many outfits you may need.
5) Need to buy new clothes prior to starting? Decide whether to shop before or after arriving to your new host country
It’s tempting to want to go on a shopping spree for your internship before you leave the U.S., but remember the shopping will be completely different in your host country! It also may be helpful if you aren’t sure what the work culture in your host country is to wait to buy new clothes when you get there after spending some time working.
6) Pack wisely
What can double as day clothes? Anything that could also be
considered dinner or nightlife clothes? The more you choose clothes that can be used for multi-purpose, the more room you will have in your suitcase.
7) Most importantly: Focus more on the job itself than the clothes!
The idea of packing for an internship abroad can seem overwhelming while still in the U.S., but once you get involved in your internship, your wardrobe will adjust and adapt to fit your new work environment.
And don’t forget while packing, the point of an international internship is to challenge yourself! Packing is only the beginning!
Ana Gilbert is the Summer 2015 CEA MOJO in Dublin, Ireland. She is also an Alumni Ambassador and junior at the University of Saint Thomas.
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