As I’m getting ready and packing up to go abroad again, it makes me think of all the mistakes I made the first time around!
When I packed last year, the majority of my suitcases were filled up with clothing I never even touched during my stay.
The truth that no one really wants to hear is that you really don’t need as much as you think you do.
In all my study abroad guides, there would be advice along the lines of packing your whole suitcase and then taking out half of the contents to leave behind. While I definitely could not follow through on this, there are some tips I would really recommend if you’re trying to decide what clothing is necessary and what clothing is not for your extended time abroad.
When it comes to clothes, ask yourself if you’ve worn the item more than once over the past six months–if the answer is no, don’t bring it! If you’re feeling apathetic about a piece of clothing, the chances of you wearing it again while you’re abroad are pretty slim.
When I got to Bordeaux, I discovered I liked the fashion there a lot better, and wanted to dress more like a Bordelaise! If you plan on buying any clothes during your study abroad, be very selective when packing. I had it in my head that I needed to buy clothes or accessories I might use abroad before I left, but it would have been so much smarter to just hold out for the stores in Europe.
Looking back, I would have been fine with just bringing one of my warmer coats (I brought two and couldn’t fit them both back on the way home–plus I only wore one of them while I was in Bordeaux), my one pair of jeans, J. Crew pixie pants and my one sweater! I ended up buying a lot more clothes over there and bringing everything back was impossible. I didn’t wear any prints–(though you certainly could)–I found it was easier to mix and match with my solid colored sweaters and neutral skirts and pants.
Now, if you’re not planning on shopping in your new home, you can bring a few more articles of clothing, but don’t overdo it. If it gets pretty cold in your area, make sure to have a warm coat, a few sweaters, a couple pairs of jeans and if you like wearing skirts/dresses make sure to bring a few pairs of tights. You only need one or two pairs of pajamas. If you’re a gym bunny, bring a couple of workout outfits, but only if you know you’re going to hit the gym. I brought several and didn’t workout once while in Bordeaux…I was walking so much, I didn’t really feel sluggish enough to get myself to a gym–but I wasn’t super active before my trip, so if you are, your case may be different.
Make sure to read your study abroad guide before you go. My guide informed me that the nightlife wear was more conservative in Europe than in California–and that showing more skin could draw unwanted attention. I didn’t really believe this bit of advice and brought little rompers and deep v tank tops that would have totally been normal in Davis–but no girl was wearing anything like that at the bars and clubs in Bordeaux! I wore a little romper on one of my first nights in Bordeaux and never touched it again! The unwanted attention was just too much and I felt too uncomfortable looking so out of place.
I also totally overpacked with shoes…I only touched my pair of heels twice when I was abroad. The first time was for a nice dinner when my family came to visit and the second time was the night JP proposed! The only shoes I regularly wore were my flats and one little pair of booties.
The only thing I can advocate overpacking for would be socks and underwear! You’ll be able to get away with doing fewer laundry loads if you have a lot of pairs with you.
I would definitely recommend bringing compression bags (my favorite are by Ziploc) but don’t use them for the way there, you’ll get too confident with the extra room you have in your suitcase! Save them for your trip back, that way you can have some extra room for presents you might buy for family and friends back home…or gifts for yourself! 😉
P.S. This is not clothing related, HOWEVER, a random thing that I wish I had brought with me would have been a towel! The first thing you’ll want to do when you get off your long flight is take a shower, and while your homestay family or apartment might provide this for you–it will be so frustrating if they don’t! Plus, having your own towel is super helpful if you plan on traveling and staying at hostels some weekends.