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

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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.

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