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Don’t forget the peanut butter: Packing tips from a study abroad alum

Don’t forget the peanut butter: Packing tips from a study abroad alum

December 19  |  By Audrey Bartholomew

So, you’re getting ready to study abroad, congratulations! Every program hands out a general outline of what to bring with you, but I know I kicked myself for not bringing some of my favorite American creature comforts with me to Ireland this past summer. I should have ditched the endless pairs of shoes I brought along in favor of my old conditioner. I’ve kept this list short out of the interest of keeping your international luggage under 50 pounds.  

What I Wish I Brought

  • My Essentials

This sounds simplistic, but I was blown away by how different foreign hygiene and food products were. Not to mention, you’ll need to go to multiple stores to get what you need. Say goodbye to mini Target and stock up on your favorite brands now to save you the headache later. 

  • A Kindle 

My biggest mistake was bringing an obscene amount of books home with me from my time abroad. I could have saved myself so much back pain by just investing in a Kindle. If you’re anything like me and love to read, just bite the bullet and buy a Kindle. Save yourself a trip to the chiropractor. 

  • A High-Quality Backpack

If there is one item that I used more than anything else during my time abroad, it was by far my hiking backpack. Pack whatever kind you like, this will function as a bag to bring to class, work, or as a carry on for weekend trips. Choose wisely, as it can be very challenging to find what you need in store overseas without general retailers like we have in the US. 


  • My Favorite Sweats 

Now, hear me out. I was so focused on bringing professional workwear with me that I completely neglected to bring a set of comfortable clothes. If I was to go back and do it all again, I’d bring at least one set of sweats. Not only is it good to have comfortable clothes for traveling, but combating homesickness is much easier when you’re wearing your favorite oversized sweatshirt.

  • Instant Food for My First Day

When I arrived in Ireland, I didn’t eat for 36 hours. After checking into my student housing, I slept for the entire day and by the time I had woken up, everything was already closed. I could have prevented this entirely if I had thrown a packet of ramen or an easy mac into my bag. 

What I Wish I Forgot

  • My Shoes 

I wore three pairs of shoes just about every day, and I brought six. I didn’t wear the heels I swore I needed one time. Point being, bring multipurpose shoes. The more places you can wear one pair, the better. 

  • Bulky Clothing

Now, this depends on your destination, but for a summer in Dublin (which is admittedly much colder) I brought a jean jacket, a leather jacket, and a rain jacket. The only piece I wore regularly was my leather jacket, so choose wisely if you’re bringing any bulky clothing items with you. 

  • My Giant Suitcase  

On my first day in Dublin, I moved into my apartment which was a second-floor walkup. Dragging my monstrous suitcase up those stairs took an embarrassingly long time to do, and I could have saved myself the agony if I had consolidated my things into a smaller bag. 

  • My Jewelry / Sentimental Items

Don’t bring anything you’re not prepared to lose abroad. I brought a family ring with me, and most of my stress overseas revolved around knowing the location of this ring at all times. Make sure that the only things you have to worry about are the location of your wallet and passport. Everything else can stay at home. 

All of these have and have nots aside, make sure you leave some room in your bags for souvenirs. You don’t want to pick and choose what you get to bring home. Is there anything I’m forgetting? Let us know at @umdeducationabroad.