Packing Topics / What to Pack

What to Pack

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then, take half the clothes and twice the money."

Susan Heller, The Times Journalist

Packing can be tough, especially when you're not familiar with the city, country, or region where you'll be studying. It's important that you check out the weather and climate of your host country, but also consider your day-to-day life. Sadly we won't be telling you exactly what to pack, but this section will help you plan your packing by asking the following questions:

What will you be doing?

There are a ton of ways to go abroad: internships, service, research, teaching, and study programs. You may need different types of clothes based on your program type. It may also mean that you need to pack some personal or clothing items that aren't covered here. Think about what activities or hobbies you have here in Lexington, and if or how you'll do those abroad. To get a little more specific, here are some tips based on your program types and some free time activities:

  • Intern

    If you're interning as part of your education abroad program, make sure to ask the program provider, company, or organization what the dress code is. If they say "business casual," ask for examples. Business, business casual, and casual can all have different meetings depending on cultural norms and expectations.

  • Service

    Where will you be working and what will you be doing? Are you required to wear closed toe shoes and pants every day? Do you need to bring your own tools or protective gear? Do you need to plan activities ahead of time? You'll want to answer these questions before you leave for your program. Service projects vary, so make sure to ask specific questions about your program and site. 

  • Research

    What is the dress code for the lab or facility where you'll be working? Are you working in an actual field? Make sure you ask about everyday dress, and whether or not you need to bring any personal materials, protective gear, or additional supplies.

  • Teach

    Reach out to the school you're teaching at, or the person who helped you connect with that school. Just like anything else, your dress could vary depending on culture, country, and expectations. 

  • Study

    What do students in your host country wear to class? Probably not flip flops. Talk with your program provider or director to decide if there are any specific items you may need for excursions, group activities, or to get a better feel of what is appropriate in that location.

  • Hobbies and Free Time

    Even though you'll be pretty busy on your program, there will be some free time to relax and explore your local community as well. If you're a runner or like to workout, you may want to pack athletic shoes. If you like to blog, write, or read, think about what supplies you need to do so. It's great to continue your hobbies, just take a few moments to figure out what you'll need and how you'll get those items!

When are you going?

Your packing list may be very different than your friend's, especially if you're going on different program types or going to different locations. If you're going to Costa Rica for a service learning program, you're going to want different clothes than your friend who is going to London for a business internship.

South Africa_Rachel
Faculty-Directed Programs

Ask the program director for suggestions. Contact deets for the program director will be on the program page where you applied.

student studying
Partner and Consortia Programs

Reach out to your program provider and see if they have any tips or suggestions. They may even put you in contact with other students.

classroom amsterdam
Direct Enroll or Exchanges

Check out the University or College's YouTube channel, Instagram, and Facebook page to see what students are wearing to campus.

When are you going?

Just because you're going on a "summer" program doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be going somewhere where it is summer...anywhere below the equator has opposite seasons to Kentucky -- such as Australia South Africa, Chile, etc. Plus summer in Kentucky may be very different than summer in Tokyo, Edinburgh, or Oaxaca.

Now our office and University don't endorse any websites over others. There are a ton that will help you research weather and climate, and a few of our staff members like to use these to look up average temperatures and rain/snow fall for the months you'll be gone: Holiday Weather or Wikipedia

In many countries, AC is not available or not used as much as it is in the U.S., and some houses or schools may use minimal heat in the winter...bring some slippers!

If you're going for a semester or academic year, you'll need to pack for multiple seasons. Bring clothes that can be layered and adapt to the changing weather. Some students will even pack the basics they need, and buy other pieces abroad...just an idea! You may not have the perfect outfit for every day, but packing light will make travel (and souvenir shopping) much easier.

How long are you going? doesn't matter...

- Pack enough clothes for two weeks - Re-wear outfits - Wash clothes where and when you can - Pack enough essentials (like medicine) to last the whole time

Still have questions?

  • 1. Everyday Outfits

    Everyday dress for students around the world can be very different than what you wear here in Lexington (aka most students overseas don't wear gym clothes, sorority or fraternity letters, or even hoodies/sweatshirts/sweatpants to class). 

  • 2. Explore Online

    Pinterest and student blogs (you can do a quick Google search of "study abroad blogs in X country") are some of the best resources for what to bring based on location. Who knows better than someone who has been to the exact same place you're going to?!

  • 3. Feeling Overwhelmed?

    Take a deep breath. If you arrive in your host city and realize you didn't pack the necessary hat, shoes, jacket, or something else, there are usually opportunities and places to shop - and then you'll have a great souvenir and story!

  • 4. Ask a Peer Ambasaddor

    Come visit our Advising Center in Bradley 315! Our Education Abroad Peer Ambassadors (EAPAs) are students and have all been abroad, and they can help you figure out exactly what you need to take with you.

Things You Might Not Think About

  • Good Walking Shoes
  • Sewing Kit and/or Safety Pins
  • Duct (Duck) Tape
  • Reusable Grocery Bag
  • Ziploc (or other brand) Bags
  • Multi-socket Power Strip
  • Compression Socks for Flights
  • Favorite or Preferred Over-the-Counter Medicine
  • Feminine Products
  • Power Adaptor
  • Deck of Cards
  • Luggage Locks and Zip Ties
  • Travel Camera, Tripod, Selfie Stick
  • A Good Book
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm
  • Bug Spray
  • Bandaids
  • Power Converter

Packing Tips

What should you absolutely not leave home without?

Well, your passport for one, and we always suggest a raincoat, good walking shoes, and sunglasses - maybe even a water bottle. But this is a tough question because it often depends on where you're going. No matter what you take, here are three tips that have stood the test of time.

Get your suitcase ready with these tips:

  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them.
  • Put dryer sheets in your luggage to keep clothes smelling fresh.
  • Bring comfy, broken-in shoes for tons of walking...maybe even two pairs.

This isn't a mandatory packing list.

Take a look at the pieces we've mentioned above. Use the pieces that will work for you, and toss the ones that won't. You may even find some new tricks along the way that aren't listed here. The most important thing is to be flexible and plan ahead!