Packing for a semester abroad may seem daunting, but if you take a few minutes to envision what you might need and make a list, it’s not as tiresome of a task as it initially seems. For me it helped to tell myself that as long as I had my essentials (phone, wallet, passport, headphones, laptop, portable charger) then everything would turn out fine. It also helps to accept that there are going to be things that you won’t realize you’ll need until you get there, and that you probably wouldn’t have room in your suitcase for those things anyways. Plus, you’ll want to leave room in your luggage for any souvenirs, gifts, and clothes you take back on your return home. I think a good idea is to pack as much as you can and then take out at least 20% of that, because odds are you won’t even end up wearing those 20% least important clothing items. All of that being said, here’s a list of things that you’ll want to take with you, and a list of things that you might want to get when you arrive at your study abroad location.
To pack with you:
- Fall coat: At least for a fall semester in Madrid, I would say a heavy winter coat isn’t necessary, but you will want a light to medium coat paired with a hoodie when it starts to cool up in November and December
- Hair and skin products that may be easier to find in the U.S. than abroad
- Mini-blender: this will obviously take up weight and space in your suitcase, but if you have room it could end up being worth it especially if you find yourself without the time to cook full on meals while abroad.
- Limit sweatpants/gym clothes: Madrid is quite stylish and most IES Abroad students followed suit by wearing sweatpants and athletic wear less frequently, but obviously take some to wear in your residence hall.
- Soccer cleats/Basketball shoes/running shoes: I would recommend making room for athletic shoes as getting involved in local sports is a great way to meet new people and integrate yourself into the city.
- Fanny pack: Pickpocketing is much more common in Spain and Europe in general. Taking it when I went out to crowded public spaces likely saved me a lot of money and trouble. I met several students who got their phone or wallet stolen at some point.
- Adapter: For Spain, you will need to get an EU adapter in order to use your electrical devices
- A small umbrella
- A bottle of sunscreen
- Pocket-sized rain poncho
- Rain jacket
To buy when you get there:
- School supplies: It’s not worth taking up space in your suitcase with notebooks, folders, pens, etc. You can easily find those things upon arrival
- Cheap slides/flip-flops: You’ll likely stay in a hostel at some point when you travel, and while hostels are great and clean enough, I would still recommend using flipflops when using the public bathrooms and showers.
- Extra towel: My living accommodation came with a towel, but having a second one was helpful to limit laundry and for possible beach trips, but also something not worth taking with you in your suitcase.
- Extra blanket/pillow: You might not be satisfied with the bedding provided so pillows and blankets are likely candidates for things you’ll want to buy upon arrival.
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I'm from Williamsport, Pennsylvania and I am a senior at Penn State University studying computer science. I enjoy being physically active, whether that's organized sports, going to the gym, or just spending time outdoors.