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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The ultimate study abroad packing list

Everything you need to bring for your perfect abroad experience from a first-timer and a veteran!
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Lexie Perez
Graphic depicting a plane and luggage against a blue background. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)

The time has come. The fall semester has officially wrapped up, and although next semester is likely not on the minds of most Vanderbilt students as they settle down for a long, well-deserved break, there is a cohort of students whose spring term will be looking a little different. 

Studying abroad is a big part of the Vanderbilt experience, with nearly 600 Vanderbilt students having studied abroad in the 2022-23 academic year. As many students prepare for their lives in a new country, we’ve curated a list of what to bring and what not to bring from a study abroad expert and an anxiously-awaiting first-timer. Remember folks, it all has to fit in two suitcases! Let the meticulous packing begin. 

The first-timer 

I am a current junior ready for a change of pace. I love everything that comes with traveling — trying new food, navigating a new city and of course, experimenting with clothing styles to fit the aesthetic of my destination. I could write endlessly about a clothes packing list, as I love to be creative and plan out outfits for hypothetical events. While the clothes you bring abroad definitely should depend on your location, having the basics covered is always important. 

I will be studying in Copenhagen, so a good quality winter coat (or two!) will be absolutely essential. It is important to plan your wardrobe for the weather of your specific location — or any other places you may want to visit. For me, hats, gloves and scarves will also be necessary items! Uniqlo also has some winter undergarments for when temperatures are in the 10-20oF range.  

I suspect the most important items to pack will be a wide variety of pieces that fit different climates and scenarios. I am planning to not pack items that are fairly similar to each other — I have four variations of a basic black top and will have to leave some of them behind to save room for other pieces. Instead, items like cozy bulky sweaters, slim layering-style mock necks and an oversized button-down or two will help me switch up outfits with the same clothes. 

As much as it pains me to say it, I think I will need to get my shoe collection under control and only bring three pairs of shoes as a good starting point: sneakers, boots and a kitten heel for comfort. But let’s be real, I’ll probably throw in another pair right before I leave. 

I’ve also heard that having a good weekender bag is super helpful if you will be traveling while abroad and want to avoid checking a bag. I plan to bring a decent-sized backpack with packing cubes for this purpose! A fanny pack can also be a helpful addition to your travel outfit since it is a safe place to store important items like passports, visas and credit cards.

Finally, arguably the most important thing I will bring is a perfectly curated playlist for the 8-hour plane ride to Copenhagen. I’m hoping it’s the perfect mix of building anticipation about my impending adventure and fueling those mysterious and independent airplane girl vibes, but the fact that I’m already thinking about this is definitely docking my authenticity points for the latter. 

The expert

I am a chronic overpacker, so deciding what to pack for four months abroad was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Luckily, I was able to narrow things down and fit everything into my packing cubes (a must-have, in my opinion).

I studied abroad in London during the fall, so I had to pack for every season. My tried and true method to bring as many outfits as possible with little clothing pieces was to pack neutrals. Despite being a big fan of colorful clothing, having pieces that went with everything was essential to my abroad closet. 

I also became a huge fan of layering while studying abroad. It is such an easy way to change up your wardrobe without buying new clothes. I definitely recommend throwing in an old turtleneck or two into your suitcase while you are packing for the winter months. 

My holy grail for packing was making a list of every single item that I was planning to bring abroad. This helped me visualize what outfits I could make out of the different clothing items as well as see which shoes would be best to pack. The list also helped me to pack everything back up after the semester ended. The categories on my list were simple — bodysuits, bottoms, dresses, etc. — but were integral to making choices about what to throw into my suitcase. 

There were also some cultural differences that influenced my fashion choices abroad. For example, in London, people do not wear athletic clothes unless they are actively working out, so the leggings that I packed did not get much use. I also purchased a new coat in Europe, which I recommend as the quality was better than what I would have found in the U.S. 

Lastly, some miscellaneous items were my favorite things to have while abroad. If you have chronic allergies or headaches, bring a bottle of your preferred over-the-counter medication since it is harder to come by in other countries. I also loved having an ice-cube tray for my water bottle since ice was difficult to find in London. My digital and film cameras helped to capture every special moment of my four months abroad, and a universal travel adapter kept me connected to friends and family back home.

However, if I learned anything last year, it is that you will acquire new clothes, souvenirs and gifts for your family while living in a new country. If you have the space, it might be helpful to throw in a duffel bag to bring all your new treasures home at the end of next semester. 

Hopefully, this list will help your packing and semester abroad go smoothly so you can return to campus to tell everyone about how “abroad changed you!”

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About the Contributors
Bimi Ogungbade
Bimi Ogungbade, Former Staff Writer and Photographer
Bimi Ogungbade (‘23) studied human and organizational development in Peabody College and psychology in the College of Arts and Science. When not listening to music or attending concerts, you can find her reading a book or giving tours. You can reach her at [email protected].
Greer Fraser
Greer Fraser, Senior Staff Writer
Greer Fraser ('25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in medicine, health and society and minor in psychology. When she's not passing time making Spotify playlists for every situation, she enjoys going to coffee shops with friends and finding tickets to last-minute Nashville concerts. You can reach her at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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