Studying abroad? What I learned to pack and not to pack

move in dayWhen you study abroad, everything is different, the culture, the people, the food, and for many people the language. You might not always realize it, but different western countries have different products. In the last 2 years I’ve noticed several differences between the Netherlands, where I was born and raised, and the USA, where I came 2 years ago to study. I didn’t pack certain things because I assumed these things would be  sold here in the US. In addition, there were things that I packed, but found were available in the U.S.  I hope my mistakes will help you know what to bring and what not to bring when coming here to study.

Things you should bring:

  1. Food. You can never bring enough of your traditional home countries food. You might not think you value food that much until you can’t buy it anymore. Most of the students I know miss first their food, than their pet and after that their family. 😉 There are some food that you are prohibited from bringing into the US.  So make sure you read up on this before packing it.
  2. Pictures. Pictures are a great way to decorate your room. You can bring them on a computer or already printed, but it is a great memory about all the people at home.
  3. Travel adapter. Though you can buy chargers here as well, it is probably cheaper to buy a travel adapter.
  4. Something typical from your country. It is always fun to share something about your culture. This can be food, traditional clothing, or in my case wooden shoes.
  5. Souvenirs. It is nice to give your new host family or roommates a nice present.
  6. Some cash. It is always useful to have some cash, just in case  your credit card is not working or that you need a deposit to start a new bank account here.
  7. Basic medicines. It is always good to have some aspirins or cold medicines. You might need them before you are able to go to the grocery store.
  8. A good attitude. Though this doesn’t put any weight in your suitcase, it is always good to bring it. You can make a whole new start and no one knows about the person you were. This can only bring good things to you. Be open and willing to get to know others.


Things you shouldn’t bring too much of:

  1. Clothes. You don’t need to bring too many clothes. I am sure you’ll buy some here because everyone does. Name brand clothes are usually cheaper in America than in Europe. If you buy too many clothes, you  won’t be able to pack them all without having to buy another suitcase. My advise is to bring some clothes for good weather and some for colder weather.  Layers are important.
  2. Body products. Don’t bring huge bottles of shampoo, toothpaste and other things you use. Day to day products are available here as well, and you can use the space in your suitcase much better right? Though I do want to point out one difference I noticed, the deodorant Americans use is different from the deodorant that I am used to.  Americans use some kind of soap block, where in the Netherlands we use rollers or spray, so be aware of that, or bring it. For other things, bringing travel size articles is good enough.
  3. Electronic devices other than your computer and phone. There is no need to bring a straightener, hair dryer, rice cooker and other things like this. Some of these devices can’t be used on travel adapters, and they are available here as well.
  4. Translators. Unless your English is not good at all, don’t bother bringing dictionaries or translators. It is heavy and takes a lot of space in your suitcase. If you need to find a translation for something, you can use Google or another online dictionary.
  5. Eye solution for lenses. Though you should consult your eye doctor about this, but I found the same solution for my eyes in the grocery store. It could have saved me about 4 kg. in my suitcase. Though you shouldn’t forget to bring new sets of contact lenses.

I hope my suggestions are useful.  So many of my friends had to buy extra suitcases or ship their belongings home. This can get very expensive.

Good luck and happy travels.



2 thoughts on “Studying abroad? What I learned to pack and not to pack

  1. Pingback: 5 Tips to enjoying Green River’s orientation week | La Dolce Vita

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