Study Abroad Packing Musts: What to Wear on Your Study Abroad Adventure
December 18, 2019
Visa? Check. Bucket list? Check. Vaccinations, travel guides, and EuroTrip movie-watching party? Check, check, and check.
_This piece was originally written by Jamie Blynn and published on HerCampus.com _
Visa? Check. Bucket list? Check. Vaccinations, travel guides, and EuroTrip movie-watching party? Check, check, and check.
So, it seems that you're essentially ready to fly off to your study abroad destination, and you probably know more about the dos and don'ts of traveling than any one person should ever know. At this point, you just want to be on that plane, getting closer and closer to that much-anticipated semester abroad.
But you're forgetting one hugely major thing: what are you supposed to wear there? Getting dressed for class in America is hard enough, but now you have to add in another country's weather and culture to that mix? It sounds almost unbearable.
But, of course, we've got it all covered. With tips from collegiettes who have studied abroad before and Vy Truong, online content and PR marketing specialist for Contiki--the travel company for 18- to 35-year-olds--you'll never question what you're supposed to be wearing. From rainy days to hiking up killer mountains, we've got everything you need to know about packing for every destination.
_With so many destinations, how do you pick just one? Check out our Noodle study abroad search engine, to find the program that's a perfect fit for you!_
From London, Paris, and Spain to Ireland, Amsterdam, and Italy, you've got a lot of land to cover in Europe, but only so much room in your suitcase for clothes. So where to begin? Consider what you'll be doing while you're abroad. Will you be hiking mountains or exploring the finest shops the city has to offer? While the ultimate decision is up to you, Truong notes that in Europe, there is plenty of sightseeing and walking to be done, not to mention tons of lines to wait in for the most popular European attractions, so you'll probably want to bring a pair of good walking shoes.
But to really break it down, we've got to look at just where you're traveling.
Known for its temperamental weather and cobblestone streets, London can be quite the tricky city to pack for, but no need to fret--we've got you all set (and we know how to rhyme!).
As a high-style city, London is the perfect place to whip out your inner fashionista. Say goodbye to just rolling out of bed and throwing something on, and hello to anything and everything that's daring, fun, and trendy. "Everything [is] fair game--high heels to the movie(s) or class, miniskirts with the Union Flag, large sweaters and leggings," says Carmen Rey, who studied abroad in London in 2012. "Whatever your style is, London will embrace it 100 percent and you may just get hit on a lot more by dressing the way you want over how everyone expects it back home (I certainly did)."
As for dealing with the on-again, off-again rain London is so famous for? Well, let's just say London weather can be more complicated than Derek Jeter and Minka Kelly's relationship. But according to Carmen, London typically has a consistent drizzle with a cloudy day, not a heavy downpour that leaves you helplessly stuck inside.
But instead of attempting to pack those un-packable rain boots, try going for a more durable, wearable combat boot, or any water resistant shoe that you find comfortable. Carmen even recommends wearing them on the plane to save on poundage with your luggage.
That being said, the key to successfully conquering London is all about comfort. Comfort, comfort, comfort. We can't drill it into your mind anymore. Not only will those cobblestone streets have you wobbling in those 5-inch pumps, but with so many sights to see, your feet will be singing praises if they're nice and snug in something with support.
While it's really up to you what you consider a comfortable shoe, most collegiettes have said they enjoyed sporting sneakers or boots while in London:
"I brought boots and some sneakers, but ended up buying a nice, comfortable pair of running shoes that I wore almost every day. We did a lot of walking and sightseeing, so it was very helpful to have something comfortable and supportive on my feet."-Kait Provost, abroad in London spring 2012
"I broke a heel walking on London's cobblestones -- needless to say I didn't bring the most practical attire abroad. I had dozens of pairs of shoes with me, and only one pair of sandals and one pair of flats amongst them. If I were to do it over again, I would have balanced it out with more practical walking shoes!" -Alice Chen, Emory University '12, abroad in London fall 2010
"The best days [in London] were the ones that included a lot of walking and getting to know the lay of the land, so that means pack shoes you can walk MILES in. I did a lot of boots because it was cold and [I] wore them most of the time." Lauren Kaplan, Emory University '13, abroad in London fall 2012
There's no denying the fact that Paris is considered one of the most fashionable places in the world. Keeping up with the Parisians may seem daunting, but really, almost anything goes when it comes to style there. "[You can] wear anything and get away with it," says Marisa Marano, who visited Paris during a semester abroad in Barcelona in spring 2012.
However, on the off chance that you run into Karl Lagerfeld, it's hard not to want to look your best. "There's a lot of pressure to dress well, so I brought a lot of nice clothes and shoes with me--unfortunately, I pretty much destroyed all my leather boots with the amount of walking I was doing," Alice says.
In Paris, it's a juggling act between being trendy and being comfortable. But when it comes down to it, when you're mixing and mingling with tourists from around the world in a two-hour wait outside the Louvre, no one really notices what you're wearing.
A major faux pas, according to Paris Escapades is rocking your classic sweats. The website suggests leaving "your hoodies and matching sweatpants, white tennis shoes, shorts, and bright colored nylon windbreakers at home." While it's most certainly okay to be comfortable, Parisians aren't too fond of a typical suburban housewife's closet. Instead, try a pair of leggings, comfortable boots, and a big sweater. It's cozy, but it's not outdated.
What's the major upside to Paris, though? The idea of going au naturel. Parisian women typically don't obsess over their hair and makeup, and instead choose a more simple look. That means while you're visiting this cosmopolitan city, you can set aside the flatiron, embrace your inner beauty, and not worry about your next blowout.
Unlike Europe, Australia and New Zealand are all about outdoorsy activities.
"You can bungee jump, do a canyon swing, or try Zorbing," Truong says. "There is also the terrain in the Australian Outback, so [it's] not exactly the place to be sporting your heels." On top of all that, Australia and New Zealand also have tons of surfing, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Adventure is just calling your name!
So what's a collegiette to pack for all this high-action fun? Well, the number one thing to remember is that fall in the U.S. actually means summer in Australia and New Zealand. That means pack for the opposite temperatures that you'd experience in the U.S. However, the Australian sun is harsh, and Truong recommends you pack clothing that protects you from sunburn and a lot of sunscreen.
When it comes to places like Sydney and the Eastern coast, "it's all about summery breezy clothing, not very different from the California lifestyle," Truong says.
But if you venture up North, expect to do a lot of hiking, rock climbing, and camping. Walking shoes might be a must for Europe, but in Australia comfortable hiking shoes are absolutely mandatory. As Lesley Siu, an American University collegiette who was there last spring, puts it: "No one wants to explore a rainforest in uncomfortable shoes!" And since the sun is hotter than a shirtless Ryan Gosling, Reynolds, and Lochte combined, a hat is a necessity--I'm pretty sure there's almost nothing worse than a burnt scalp.
But outside of the adrenaline-pumping activities, Australia is a laidback place. "There aren't any specific [fashion] rules people should know about. Vintage is popular. Footy [Australian football] is a huge sport, so you'll see locals wearing colors and gear to support their local teams," Lesley says.
The Middle East & North Africa
It's no surprise that when it comes to this region of the world, modesty in dress is essential. With religious and political tension at an all-time high, as tourist, it's better to blend in than cause a scene in a bodycon dress, ripped jeans, or crop tops.
Egypt is hot--really hot (I'm sure you were just blown away by this information). So, "sun protection is a must there because it's the desert heat that can wreak havoc," Truong says. Speaking of the desert, another news flash: Egypt is a desert, which means it'll get chilly at night. But one or two light sweaters will do--after a day in the heat, you may want to embrace a colder evening.
But besides the obvious pyramids, what is there to do in Egypt? SO MUCH! From riding camels through Giza to archeological digs, Egypt is a country overflowing with culture and outdoor outings.
"Comfortable clothing such as cargo pants, sturdy shoes, and short sleeve shirts are pretty acceptable - no midriff baring tops, no halter tops or short shorts," Truong says. This is North Africa; you can't parade around in your best American Saturday night party attire. It's not only disrespectful, but it's also unsafe.
Truong recommends women pack conservative clothing that covers your knees and shoulders, so don't even think about packing your crop top collection or short shorts. For a complete list of clothing to bring (for a short trip--multiply by how many days you're there), check out Contiki's website.
Morocco is one of the most unique study abroad destinations. It'll take some time for you to get adjusted to the Moroccan lifestyle--but once you do, it'll be the experience of your life. Unlike other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, Morocco is relatively safe, making it one of the more popular tourist destinations in the region.
Filled to the brim with culture, language, and sights, it's easy to get lost taking Morocco in. However, it is a conservative Islamic country, meaning that all travelers must be respectful and dress appropriately.
"Modest dressing is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from being targeted as both a woman and a foreigner. It's inevitable that comments will be made, even if you are/look like you are of Arab origin (though it's worst if you're blonde)," Marissa Alioto, a Bowdoin College collegiette who studied in Morocco in spring 2012, says. "You don't have to cover your head [there], although you might decide you want to. I didn't, because it felt disingenuous to me, but I did wear sunglasses because it made it easier to ignore men on the street."
Like Marissa said, drawing attention to yourself, especially as a woman, is not recommended whatsoever. So instead of packing your favorite short shorts and spaghetti-strap tank top, try a longer pant and a short-sleeved shirt. Incredibly helpful tip: don't flaunt any cleavage. It may be socially acceptable in the U.S., but you have to remember: "We're not in Kansas anymore."
As for other packing musts, Marissa swears by scarves. They can be bought all throughout the country, so bring some of your favorites from home, but make room for that inevitable scarf-shopping spree in your future. Not only does this accessory keep you warm during chilly nights, it also allows you to mix, match, and switch up your look--no one will ever call you out for being an outfit repeater like Lizzie McGuire.
But don't forget, collegiettes, Morocco can and will get cold at night, so layer up! Pack a few light sweaters and a fall coat. When in doubt about the weather, just throw one of them in your bag and you'll always be prepared.
While winter in New York is snowy, in South America, it'll feel like summer never left. But before you get too caught up in packing your favorite floral dresses, remember this: South American weather can be about as temperamental as Mother Nature can get. "South America is about layers. Because the climate can be tropical at times, it's good to be prepared for any type of weather--hot one minute, then rainy the next," Truong says.
From the rainforest to the mountains to the desert, South America has just about every type of climate, so packing can be tricky. But one thing that's a packing must is a backpack.
"I felt like I was always on an excursion, no matter what country I was in," says Hannah Grover, a senior at Lafayette College who studied abroad in Chile in spring 2012. "There's always another mountain to hike or desert to hike through, and without a backpack, I don't know what I would've done. Backpacks are by far the biggest necessity for South America, especially because you're always on the go."
Let's start with a fun fact: Chile holds the record for the longest dry spell in the Atacama Desert--it didn't rain for 40 years! While it's definitely seen rainfall since then, you still shouldn't expect too much rain while you're in Chile. During Hannah's five-month semester abroad there, it only rained once.
"You'll definitely never be held back by the rain in Chile," Hannah says. "It's amazing being in a place that feels like it's perfect weather every day."
Seeing as most Chileans live in Santiago, you're most likely to be found hanging out in the city during the day. But unlike Paris and London, Santiago isn't the epicenter of the fashion world. In fact, it's a laidback area where there's a lot of walking to be done. There's no need to worry about being hip or chic; instead, Chileans seek comfort in their clothing, and if you plan on walking around the city for hours on end, definitely go for comfortable footwear, too.
However, don't go too overboard with your American style. Like in the Middle East, shorts aren't part of Chilean culture. "Girls would receive more 'piropos' (or cat calls) when in shorts," Hannah said. "It was a pretty sure sign that you weren't a local."
And when it comes to mingling with the locals, watch your back--literally. Pickpocketing is common. But how can you avoid getting robbed? Besides being aware and cautious at all times, Hannah recommends a cross-body bag. And for further protection, keep your hand over it all times. That way, no one will dare take anything from you.
There are endless activities in Asia calling (screaming) your name. With about 50 countries to explore, it's easy to find exciting places to explore. With to so much to do and so little time, packing is probably the least of your concerns. From the Great Wall to the Thai Islands, we've got you covered.
But before you begin, a general note for Asia: bars and clubs tend to be more conservative, especially with the music played and the drinks served. If you plan on exploring the nightlife, remember to look your best, but leave the chunky, flashy statement necklaces at home.
Fall abroad in China may have the best weather ever. Temperatures generally range from 50 degrees to the mid-70s, so just picture early spring in the U.S.
Spoiler alert: you'll be doing a lot of walking. So what does that mean? Comfortable shoes (I don't think I've said it enough!)
"All terrain shoes would also be helpful as you may be visiting the countryside more so than the big cities," Truong said. When it comes to China, you're most likely going to be walking on uneven surfaces and stairs. I mean, do you really want to walk the Great Wall of China in flip-flops? That just sounds like an accident waiting to happen.
But more importantly, while you're in China, you're definitely going to be visiting religious temples. Now it may seem obvious, but I'll say it anyway: dress appropriately. Pack your Temple Wear, as Contiki calls it. That means your ankles should be covered and your outfit shouldn't be revealing. In this situation, it's always better to be more conservatively dressed than not. Contiki recommends wearing a sarong (which can be purchased in Asia), and a short-sleeved shirt that's respectful but won't make you sweat.
Thailand seems to be the perfect mix between beachy fun and cultural engagement. From lounging in the sun to exploring religious temples, the country has so much to explore. So, if you plan on soaking up the sun on the sandy shores of Thailand, pack accordingly. It is a beach. Truong recommends "reef sandals for water activities (or any shoe that can tie to your feet - not flip flops)." According to Contiki, these shoes are essential not only for water activities, but also for visiting local houses and pagodas.
But more importantly, just what is appropriate to wear to Buddhist temples and palaces? Like in China, modesty is key. However, the Bangkok Grand Palace (one of the main attractions in the country) has a laundry list of prohibited attire. Some things to keep in mind: no open-toed shoes or too tight (and therefore revealing) pants. To see the entire list, check out Contiki's website.
So, collegiettes, while you're traveling the world, just remember these packing musts before you jet off to any destination. Au revoir, adios, and ma'a salama. Safe travels!