Study Abroad No. 2 | Packing

There are two pieces of advice I wish I had listened to when I first studied abroad: create a budget and stick to it and pack lightly. While I’m still working on the best budget approach (i.e. I actually have a budget this time around. Sort of heh heh), I feel confident to relay packing knowledge and advice this time around (for those of you who are new, this is my second time studying abroad; see post here). This is a very detailed post as it is meant to serve as a guide/help for people wanting to study abroad so you can skim the text and look at the photos because yes, I’ve included lists of things I’ve packed as well as photos of most of these items (very few things are missing because they were added last-minute/I just totally forgot about them). I’m comparing the packing from my first study abroad experience in 2013 to now as well, so that might help people gauge what is/isn’t important.

Above is a photo of the hot mess that was my throwing every potential thing I could take on the floor before pulling things out of the pile and onto my bed where they would be judged acceptable or not and then either placed into suitcases or thrown into another pile, respectively. Good advice I received during my pre-departure meetings was to put everything you want to take in a pile and cut it in half, then take half of that. When I heard this, I LOLED for days because as if I’m going to one of the fashion capitals of the world without the entire contents of my mediocre wardrobe amirite? So off I went to London back in 2013 with one 28″ expandable suitcase, one 25″ expandable suitcase, one expandable carry-on suitcase and a backpack. This time around, I omitted the second largest suitcase and tried my hardest not to overpack.

*empty large suitcase (Liz Claiborne) and carry-on suitcase*

Packing in 2013

This is all from memory as I sadly did not write down exactly what each suitcase held (and I can’t find the pic of my before/after), but I’ll try my best. My largest suitcase (purple Liz Claiborne pictured below) was the home to the majority of my clothing, shoes and makeup bags. The second largest suitcase was full of lotions, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpastes, deodorants, hair products, etc, etc. My reasoning was that I was saving money by going to Sam’s and buying the biggest of everything I would need for three and a half months. This was a lie as I didn’t even use most of the stuff up and I could have just purchased these things for relatively good prices in the UK and avoided the extra bag check fee. Boots (Wal-greens or CVS of the UK) often has 3 for 2 deals and then there’s the beautiful Poundland, basically the dollar store but so much better tbh. My carry-on had a few light pieces of clothing and my jacket/coat (one each), blazers (three) and other heavier, cold-weather items. My backpack housed the necessities: my laptop, purse, folder full of study abroad paperwork, Doggy and all the electronic wires and my converter/adapter. I also brought a ton of sweaters and heavier, warm weather items as I was a desert newbie going to the northern part of the world where I heard seasons actually existed and winter would be unpleasant (thanks to H&M, Primark and New Look, winter was chic and a pleasant change). These suitcases are also pictured below as I just recycled my luggage.

Packing in 2015

I’ll give a brief overview, then breakdown exactly what I brought below. The large suitcase (Liz Claiborne) this time around basically held the same amount of things, however I took less clothing than last time. One-third of the clothing I brought is athletic as I plan to continue doing yoga every day and will *try* running in the beautiful parks found in London. This clothes will also double as PJs/lounge wear because who am I trying to impress? Actual lol because my neighbors are wealthy Kensington men that I should be concerned about, but I just can’t be bothered.  I took a few pants, skirts and dresses for more casual wear, along with some tops and blazers/cardigans/kimonos to dress these outfits up a bit more. I also brought two pencil skirts and pair of trousers with a structured blazer for the first days of my internship, which will deal with a lawyer so I was told to dress smart (basically very well and neutral but we’ll see if I can spice it up). My carry-on had a few light pieces from this suitcase, just in case something happened to my luggage (believe me, it has happened and it sucks). A lot of the clothes I brought I don’t mind donating once my program is over as I plan to purchase a bit of clothing as I adjust to the weather in London (because it’s currently June and still in the high 50s/low 60s) and also clothing to transition from work to travel and down time. The carry-on also held all my shoes to save weight on my bigger suitcase and I plan to purchase a couple more shoes in London. The vast majority of my makeup/skin care/toiletries were put into my large suitcase and my backpack basically had the same things as it did in 2013. Now for the list and photo breakdown:

INTERNSHIP-SPECIFIC:

1 gray pencil skirt

1 black pencil skirt

1 pair of navy trousers

ACTIVEWEAR:

2 pairs cropped running leggings

2 pairs capri pants

1 pair leggings

5 T-shirts

EVERYDAY BOTTOMS:

1 pair patterned pants (not pictured)

1 pair denim jeans

1 pair black jeggings

1 pair black skinny trousers

DRESSES:

1 floral dress

1 blue sun dress

1 olive-green smart dress

1 floral skirt

OVERS AND UNDERS:

2 black tanks, 1 navy
1 green pullover sweater
*not pictured:
9 pairs of underwear
2 sports bras, 2 regular bras
3 pairs invisible socks
6 pairs athletic socks
6 pairs regular socks

LONG SLEEVES:

1 black/red check flannel

1 floral sweater

2 regular sweaters (1 black, 1 cream)

1 oversized, flowy mustard sweater

TOPS:

1 royal blue tank

1 floral flowy top with sleeves

1 white tiered tank

1 black/white polka dot 3/4 sleeve sheer top

1 sheer purple/black tank

1 hot pink tank with bow embellishment

OUTERWEAR:

1 raincoat

1 1/2 sleeve white blazer

1 red blazer

1 black, flowy kimono

2 cardigans (1 black, 1 green)

SHOES:

1 pair suede black heeled booties (comfortable for walking; formal)

1 pair taupe slip-ons

1 pair heeled brown booties

1 pair black Nike running shoes

2 pairs wedges (1 brown, 1 nude)

All of these items went in my checked Liz bag because most of them were liquids so TSA rules and also they were quite heavy. I mentioned earlier that I had an entire suitcase FULL of toiletries like this (literally five times this amount). That was a dumb idea because for the most part, I could have saved money by purchasing things here and not paying for a checked bag on my way to London and on my way back (about $200 in savings tbh). Anyway, most places will have the stuff you need and unless you absolutely must have a specific brand of everything, I suggest just buying these kinds of things when you get there. This time around, I knew I was going to have enough room and I found most of this stuff for $1, less than $5 for everything else. I also owned a lot of this stuff like my hairbrushes, razor and masque. I made sure to bring Cetaphil because I wasn’t completely sure Boots would carry the cleanser and my face is not something I want to mess with when I’m going to be taking a lot of photos. Here’s the complete list:

  • Cetaphil Cleanser and Lotion
  • Morton Sea Salt (I recently triple pierced my forward helix so I need to clean it)
  • L’Oreal Boost It Volume Inject Mousse
  • Dessange Paris Oleo Miracle Replenishing Oil
  • Masque Bar Pore Refining Creme Mask
  • Colgate toothpast (mini for weekend travels)
  • Crest Complete Toothpaste
  • Venus razor and 1 extra pack (lbh I’m not going to shave my legs much)
  • Regular hair brush
  • 4 travel-size containers (2 with salt water solutions, 1 shampoo, 1 body wash)
  • Round brush
  • Tootsie Roll container full of cotton swabs + extra pack of cotton swabs
  • Pack of round cotton pads
  • Eucerin Daily Protection Moisturizing Face Lotion SPF 30
  • Travel case for toothbrush
  • Toothbrush
  • 1/2 pack of cotton balls
  • 1 shower pouf
  • 4 feminine napkins (lady problems)

The Mark bag, tin case, planner and curling iron all went in my carry-on. The rest went in my checked Liz bag. The green Victoria’s Secret tote bag held all the liquids, which were also placed in a plastic bag. This was to prevent any leaking (which didn’t happen – whew!) and is now used to transport my laundry up and down five flights of stairs once a week (these old English buildings, eh?). A tip for nail polish crazy people like myself, wrap them in bubble wrap! This was a huge bubble wrap pouch that I got in some package I ordered. Last time I used small envelopes with the bubble wrap lining the inside and nothing happened. This time, I think one of them opened but it didn’t explode and it also didn’t make a mess.

  • Red makeup bag
  • H&M coin purse
  • Tin with all my jewellery (I don’t wear much and it doubles as decor in my dorm)
  • Weekly planner
  • Victoria’s Secret tote bag
  • Revlon curling iron
  • Estee Lauder navy makeup bag
  • Mark makeup bag (brushes only)
  • Bubble wrap containing 8 nail polishes (last time I brough 20 and went home with 30…)

CLEAR LIQUID CARRY-ON BAG:
Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Face Relief Sample
Clinique All About the Eyes
GlamGlow Thirsty Mud Hydrating Treatment Masque Sample
Origins Super Spot Remover
Sephora lip balm
Malin + Goetz Mojito Lip Balm
The Body Shop Aloe Lip Care
Avene Thermal Spring Water Sample
UP and UP Hand Sanitizer

BACKPACK :
H&M weekend bag 
Doggy (stuffed animal, not pictured)
Folder containing important docs
Journal
Ear phones (Apple)
Head phones (Panasonic)
American Airlines carry-on bag
Clear liquids carry-on
Towel (later moved to carry-on suitcase)
Blue cross-body bag

I know converters/adaptors are confusing af so here’s the one I used last time and brought back with me. I haven’t had any issues with it and it’s literally the only one I need because I basically just charge my laptop and phone. It’s just an adapter from the brand Targus (link here) and I think I paid $20 for it. It’s a universal adapter, so I took it with me and it worked within the UK, Paris and the Czech Republic. It’s smaller than my hand and clicks together so you shouldn’t ever lose any of the pieces. I also don’t use any hair straighteners or blow dryers, which are the main cause of electrical problems, so I’m not sure how this would stand up. I would recommend either buying those products when you arrive or getting a converter/adapter as it should help.

This is my suitcase with the first layer in. The top row is all folded and rolled t-shirts and bottoms. The bottom row has my raincoat and a couple blazers as well as this dress. The rest of the clothes went in my carry-on apart from a bunch of pairs of socks and underwear.

Now obviously this isn’t a set list of things you should or should not take with you if studying abroad. What you take depends on the time of year, part of the world you’re in, how long you’ll be there, what you’ll be doing, how much money you have/want to spend, how much space you have, what your priorities are and so many other factors. This is just a guide for those who are totally lost/confused because I get it. I’ve been there twice and I still managed to forget to bring shower shoes this time around – I’m human. In general, it’s a good idea to really think about all the factors that will go into your daily life and go from there. The first time around when I decided to bring all the toiletries, I monitored how long things like shampoo, daily moisturizer, deodorant and nail polish remover lasted so that I could buy the right amount. Taking as little as possible while still bringing enough is important and really, just think about what kind of person you are. If you’re going to a fashion capital and you’ve saved a bit of money for shopping, bring clothes you don’t mind donating once your program is over or bring very little. If you’re going somewhere completely different where they definitely won’t have the only soap brand that doesn’t irritate your skin, bring enough of that. It’s all about balancing space, budget and comfort when packing for study abroad. Don’t over think it and you’ll be fine! Xx Sab.

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2 thoughts on “Study Abroad No. 2 | Packing

  1. RavishingRoses says:

    Wow you’re so organised!! Love this post, would be fab if you could check out my latest post too xx

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