Everything You Need to Know About Studying Abroad with Black Girl Hair

You are here

A huge stressor for black people (especially women) before they study abroad is the question of what to do with their hair. Well, we don’t want you to stress—studying abroad is going to be a life-changing experience, and we don’t want you to be worrying over your hair the whole time. Whether you have it loc’d, straightened, natural, or in a protective style, we’ve got you!


What to Pack

  • Stockpile your staple products. You might not be able to find those exact same products abroad, so bring as much as you think you’ll need for the duration of your stay.
  • If you plan to be abroad for a while, pack the majority of your products in your luggage, not your carry-on. You’ll probably need a lot more product than the TSA will allow you to carry in your carry-on bag, so pack most of it in your luggage!
  • Though the majority of your products will be in your luggage, you should still carry on a little of everything you need into regulation travel-sized containers. If something happens to your luggage on your flight over, you should still be able to manage your hair for a couple of days. And the travel-sized containers will make it super easy for you to take weekend trips and travel around a bit, without having to go through the hassle of checking a bag.
  • Bring a converter and/or adapter if you are bringing anything that will need to be plugged in (or be prepared to buy it once on-site).
  • Quick hair-related packing list:
    • Product Case: Keep yourself organized.
    • Products: Shampoo, conditioner, co-wash, styling cream, edge control, gel, oil, and [insert your favorite product here]
    • Bobby pins, clips, hair ties, rubber bands, headbands
    • Various combs and brushes
    • Scarves and/or wraps
    • Bonnet, if needed
    • Plastic wrap or plastic bags to make sure your products don’t leak
    • Shower cap (one that is large enough to fit your style)
    • Microfiber towel or cotton t-shirt, if natural
    • Extra hair weave replacement tracks, if applicable

How to Find a Stylist Before You Go

  • Search out local American military bases before you go to find stylists and beauty supply stores
  • Research websites that will ship your products internationally
  • Look for and join Facebook Groups of black women in your location
  • Google "Afro-shops" in your location
  • Research the type of water that will be available in your location. If the water is harder or softer than you are used to, you’ll need to adjust your product usage.
  • Check out YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram for reviews and suggestions on what to do in your location

How to Find a Stylist Once You Arrive

  • With your Center’s help, search for a local African immigrant community. If you can find one, someone will be able to help you or point you in the right direction for your hair care needs.
  • Look into making your own hair products. (This can come in handy if you run out of your stock-piled products!)
  • If you are planning on traveling outside of your host city, research your new destination—they may have salons, shops, or products that are more readily accessible.

Traveling with Black Girl Hair Styles

  • In the words of Oneika the Traveller, “K.I.S.S.–Keep it Simple, Sistas!”
  • Now’s not the time to start experimenting with your hair. You can’t be sure what products you’ll be able to find, what products will work best with your hair, what hair styles you’ll find the easiest to handle, or even if you’ll like how your hair looks when it’s natural! While you study abroad, you don’t want to stress over your hair, so we suggest you stick to what you know and/or get a protective style. So, minimize your effort and maximize your experience—you want your trip to be about what you’re doing and experiencing, not about worrying how your hair looks. Choose a couple of go-to hairstyles that you can throw together quickly and still look good.
  • Be prepared to stand out, especially if you plan on wearing a natural hairstyle for traveling.
  • Style Suggestions:
    • Protective styles (braids, weaves, and wigs) will be your best friends
    • Buns/Pony-tails
    • Twist-outs, Braid-outs, Bantu Knots, and Wash n Go’s

Studying abroad in Asia


We get it. While your haircare routine may not be as extensive as a woman’s, it is still important. Below we’ve compiled seven simple tips for you to follow.

  • Stockpile your staple products. Don’t assume you’ll be able to find them while you study abroad.
  • With your Center’s help, try to find a local African immigrant community—they can probably help you or point you in the right direction. Also a good option is to search for local American military bases before you study abroad to find out if barbers/braiders are available.
  • Look for and join Facebook groups before you leave.
  • If you have the time and inclination, learn how to style your hair yourself and bring your tools with you. (Don’t forget an adapter or converter, if necessary. Be sure to check!)
  • If you are visiting a local shop, don’t expect them to have the correct tools or know how to properly do your hair.
  • Realize that when going to a local barber shop, it may be quite a different experience than what you are used to. For instance, in some countries, the barber might wash your hair before cutting it, or trim your beard as something that is included in the service.

Check out our ever-growing guide of Country-Specific Diversity Resources, which includes information on dietary concerns; diverse racial and ethnic identity; gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation; religion and spirituality; and disability resources and mental health support.



Kandice RoseKandice Rose, Diversity Relations Manager

As an alumna of our Dublin - Irish Studies Program (though her courses actually align with what is now our Writer’s Program), Kandice knows exactly how life-changing study abroad can be. In her free time, Kandice enjoys cooking, dancing, reading, and going on adventures that serve as inspiration for the short stories she writes.

Recent news & press

Jan 4 3:36pm

Top Study Abroad Instagram Photos from Our Centers in 2018

by IES Abroad

Our Centers around the world each offer a unique and amazing study abroad experience. We could tell you about each location, but pictures are worth a thousand words, so we'll let these photos speak for themselves! Spoiler alert, they're awesome!

Read more
Dec 18 4:38pm

Winners of the 2019 IES Abroad Faculty-Led STEM Program Award

by IES Abroad

This fall, IES Abroad Customized & Faculty-Led Programs launched the Faculty-Led STEM Program Award award, which offers $15,000 towards a Faculty-Led program at any IES Abroad Centers during the 2019 summer term. There is also a $5,000 for the runner-up.

Read more
Dec 18 1:40pm

Top 10 Study Abroad Instagram Photos from November & December 2018

by IES Abroad

Are you ready to fall head over heels for study abroad?

Read more
Dec 17 11:24am

That’s a Wrap: Our Best Articles of 2018

by IES Abroad

We get it, 2018 was a busy year and now it is time to relax. But what’s a better use of your downtime than planning your study abroad adventure of a lifetime? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Read more
Dec 14 1:35pm

IES Abroad Celebrates South Africa Week at the University of Richmond

by IES Abroad

In honor of International Education Week (November 12-16), Cape Town Center Director Natanya van der Lingen, IES Abroad Faculty Member Dr.

Read more
Dec 13 5:30pm

50 Years Later: Reflections on a Life-Changing Year Abroad - Alum of the Month Sarah Lewis Moseley

by IES Abroad

Meet December Alum of the Month, Sarah Lewis Moseley (IES Abroad Paris, 1968-69 | Hendrix College), who is celebrating her 50th Anniversary Class Reunion with IES Abroad this year. Learn about Sarah’s experience abroad, her passion for volunteerism, and the reason why she gives to IES Abroad.

Read more