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My Packing Guide for Studying Abroad

My Packing Guide for Studying Abroad


Now that I’ve been living abroad for a few months, I started to compile a list of packing tips for those who are thinking about studying abroad for a semester. I did plenty of research before this trip and so many of the recommendations were very helpful (and why my “what I’m glad I brought” category is so extensive)!

Before reading my list, it is important to note a few important details. I am studying in Milan, Italy which is a major hub for fashion. It also tends to be around 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months and once April hits temperatures can be closer to the 70s or 80s.  It also tends to be pretty rainy since it doesn’t often snow. Lastly, I checked one suitcase and on the plane brought my backpack and crossbody bag. Given all of that, here is my list!

What I wish I brought: 

American snacks

This might seem silly, but trust me you’ll miss them! I was able to find Oreos which are a favorite of mine, but I missed goldfish, pretzels, and other savory snacks. Bring your favorites – especially for the plane!

Black clothing

Milan is known for their fashion and one thing I noticed is that they wear a lot of black. Like a loooot of black. I came prepared with a few black tops, a black rain jacket, and a pair of black jeans, but I wish I had brought a few more things. My crossbody bag was light blue which was completely fine, but had I known when I bought it that black would have been a more neutral option, I might have gotten that. 

Summer clothing

The weather got warmer here faster than I thought and I only brought a few short-sleeve shirts to wear. I wish I had brought more to stay cooler during my last month in Milan. You ask anyone who knows me well and they can confirm that I do not like wearing dresses. However, when traveling to places with warmer temperatures, having a few summer dress options would have been nice. 

4. Locks

Most hostels will not provide you with a lock and I did not bring one ahead of time. I ended up buying a cheap one at the grocery store, but it would have been easier (and cheaper!) to buy a few on Amazon and bring them with me instead. 

What I’m glad I brought: 

Day-trip backpack & cross-body bag

Not only would this have been a lifesaver had my luggage gotten lost on the way there, but having a good backpack was also super convenient to have for weekend trips. The number one thing I’m grateful that I brought was my cross-body bag. I’ve worn this bag every single day whether I was leaving the country, heading to class, or just going to the store. Unfortunately, since pick-pocketing is common in Europe, having a bag across the front of your body is a game changer and a great option to have. 


Given that Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world and my favorite article of clothing is sweatpants, I was a bit worried about what to wear. After doing some research, I decided to pack lots of sweaters and a few pairs of jeans and I’m glad I did. I rotated through different combinations of those throughout the week. When my family came to visit, I had them bring me some sweaters I decided not to pack since I was conscious about not over-packing. But if you have room, take them!

Minimal toiletries

In my backpack on the flight there, I included a small toiletry bag with all of the essentials in travel bottles. After I arrived in Milan, I bought full-size bottles of lotion, shampoo, conditioner, etc., and saved the travel-size items for my weekend excursion. This system worked super well! 


One of the last things I purchased was a small umbrella from Target. I wanted something compact that wouldn’t take up much space. It rained more than I had anticipated, so I’m so glad I brought one. 


I opted to leave my heavy winter coat back home and that was a smart decision. With me, I brought a jacket, a raincoat, and a vest. This ended up being perfect as I had options but none of them took up much space when packing. 


As I said earlier, Europe in general does not sell things in large quantities, and that includes medicine. For over-the-counter products in the States (Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Zyrtec, Dayquil, vitamins, etc.) these are really helpful to purchase before you leave. Take into consideration that the labels for medications in Italy (or other countries in Europe) will be in a different language and you’ll want to make sure you’re taking the right product and the right quantity!

Portable charger & outlet adapters

Bringing a portable charger (or two!) with you is a staple. You never want to run the risk of your phone dying when you’re out and about and still need to get back home. Also, I know some people who waited to buy outlet adapters until they arrived, and to save yourself the stress, buy them ahead of time! 

Credit card

I did not have a credit card before coming to Milan, but I got one to avoid the exchange rate fees. Although those charges might seem small, they will build up! It’s a great way to save money by using a credit card without foreign fees. 

Tide stain stick

I was not planning on bringing one, but I saw one in the Target aisle and couldn’t help myself. This ended up being one of the best things I bought! The towels at my apartment were all white and if they’re stained, I get fined. I avoided those a few times thanks to my tide stick. 

Reusable bags

These have been a LIFESAVER! I brought two tote-sized reusable bags and I use them for everything. Often places like the grocery store will make you pay for bags so it’s much cheaper/easier to bring your own. I’ve also used them for my laundry bags and are super compact to take on a trip, too. 

What I wish I left behind: 


I am not a sneaker-head. I usually have one pair of shoes that I wear consistently and never alternate. For some reason, I thought this would change this semester, and it most certainly did not. I wore the same pair of white Reeboks the entire semester. I loved having these shoes as they were comfortable, reliable and went with every outfit. However, that meant I neglected to wear my tennis shoes and brown boots which I had also brought. I wish I had left those at home and brought another similar pair of white sneakers. For those who are like me, I would bring shoes you know you are going to work with most outfits and keep it to a minimum. 

Brightly colored clothes

Like I mentioned earlier, Italians love to wear black so my bright blue long-sleeve did not fit in. Of course, you can wear what you please, but in a personal effort to fit in, I wanted to dress more like the locals and wish I left my brightly colored clothes at home.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but linked here is the full packing list that I made & used! My biggest tip is to start packing early! I made a list and began packing about two weeks before I left. That gave me enough time to check my list several times, buy what I needed, and make sure I didn’t forget anything. For those who are thinking of studying in Milan (or in Europe in general), please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! 

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