Packing to go away for five months is not a simple feat, even if you know what to expect. Throw in the fact that the only reference you probably have of the area is from the internet, and stressful is an understatement when choosing what goes with you abroad. Remember, you are the only one traveling, so make sure you are able to manage all of the luggage on your own.
Instead of bringing a heavy jacket, layer sweaters, windbreakers, scarves, and jean jackets to keep warm. Assorted jackets and scarves can also be used to wear the same shirt and pants without anyone else knowing (because you just wear a different sweater and scarf combination). This frees up a lot of space and weight in your luggage because you are not packing heavy or extra clothing.
2. Wear clothes more than once
Don’t feel like you need to wear a new outfit every day. If you don’t get your clothes too dirty that day, don’t be afraid to wear them again! Not only does this save you time and money, but you also don’t have to bring a million pairs of jeans. It is not worth taking up the extra space to pack things that you “might” wear for “just in case.” Everyone has their core group of clothes that they wear, so only take those and leave behind the pants that only "kind of" fit. Only bring a FEW of each article of clothing.
3. Buy household items when you get there
Don’t worry about towels, soap, shampoo, notebooks, etc. until you get to your host city. These items just take up space and are not necessary for the first few days. The place that you are living will mostly provide you with starter items like soap and a roll of toilet paper.
*I do recommend bringing one body towel in case you want to take a shower before you have a chance to go to the store.
4. Travel size
For some reason, I always had trouble finding travel-sized containers of things like shampoo or toothpaste while abroad. I would recommend buying some travel-sized items before you leave the USA to use during the weekend trips that you will surely take. (Especially for the times that require traveling on a plane.)
5. Leave room for souvenirs
You will buy things while studying abroad. Whether it be a cute pair of shorts or a necklace from Greece, five months and new experiences will accumulate in souvenirs. These items take up space and make your luggage weigh more than it did when you arrived. Leave space in your carry-on or make your luggage a bit underweight to account for the extra items. Otherwise, there will be a hefty price put on each pound over the limit, so check with the airline to see how much weight is allowed.
Ashleigh Litcofsky is the Spring 2019 Alumni Insider in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is currently studying at Emmanuel College - Boston.