PACKING FOR YOUR STUDY ABROAD EXPERIENCE
Mark your luggage tags clearly ahead of time with your name, address, and the phone number of your destination. Also keep this information inside your bags. Keep your luggage close to you and locked with a TSA-approved lock.
Avoid oversize and overweight luggage. Check your airline’s website for weight limitations, overage charges, and checked bags fees. Airlines restrict the amount of luggage that passengers are allowed to carry. In general, passengers on international flights are allowed one or two checked bags (sometimes there is a charge for one or both bags), each weighing no more than 50 pounds. In addition to checked bags, passengers are generally allowed one or two carry-on bags that can fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat. Requirements can vary from carrier to carrier and change often so it is your responsibility to contact your airlines to determine these requirements. Please note that intra-country flights usually have even lower limits. Therefore, if your program includes an in-country flight, you should pack less or be prepared to pay for extra luggage.
You will have to carry your own luggage. It is a good idea to pack your bags a few days before departure and try to carry them when you are tired. Eliminate items that are not essential. Don’t take anything that you would hate to lose. Leave at home all unnecessary credit cards, expensive jewelry, or irreplaceable family objects! Take a collapsible piece of luggage or leave room in your bags for items acquired abroad.
When packing your carry-on luggage, consider including:
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses and cleaning solution (less than 3.4 ounces)
- Map and directions to your destination
- Any medications that you use (keep medications in their original labeled containers to make customs processing easier and carry a letter with you from your physician attesting to your need to take the medications, especially if they contain narcotics)
- Basic toiletries (containers must hold less than 3.4 ounces each and all must be placed into a quart-sized, clear plastic bag)
- At least two changes of clothes (if your checked luggage gets lost, you will have be basics until it arrives from the airport)
- Water bottle (empty until you’ve passed through security)
- Reading material
- Cell phone and/or iPod/MP3 player
Do not pack any sharp items such as jackknives, scissors, nail clippers, etc., in your carry-on luggage.
Converters & Adapters
Electrical service varies throughout the world. Most outlets will not accept the two- or three-pronged plugs that are standard in the United States. Therefore, if you intend to take small appliances, you will need a set of adapter plugs that will “adapt” U.S. plugs to the plug system of your host country. Additionally, you will need a voltage converter to “convert” the U.S. voltage of your electronic devices to the local voltage. These items can be purchased at electronics stores such as Radio Shack or Best Buy.
Electric converters work for appliances up to 1600 watts, at least for a while, but good ones are expensive. Don’t be fooled by cheaper versions because they will burn up your appliance and perhaps cause a fire. Because of the voltage difference, U.S. appliances often short out, even with a converter. It may be to your advantage to buy electric appliances on site. If you are bringing expensive electronic equipment such as a computer, obtain all necessary conversion information from a professional before departure.
If you intend to travel before or after your program, make arrangements for storage of your luggage. Do not assume that your luggage can be stored at your housing location during dates outside of the program. Daily storage charges in train stations and airports can be quite costly.
A recommended packing list can be found on the Packing Checklist
Most travelers pack too much clothing. Take only what you expect to wear. Bring sturdy clothes that stand up to multiple washings and be sure to bring items that go with most of your other clothes so as to maximize your wardrobe. Although public laundry service is available in most places where students will be staying, it is advisable to bring dark colors that will not readily show the dirt. Your clothing should be hand-washable and require little care.
- USD ID card
- Clothing for layering- tank tops, shirts, sweaters, pants, shorts, skirts
- General- socks, undergarments
- Walking shoes
- Flip-flops or slippers (in many countries it is not appropriate to walk around barefoot)
- Rain jacket & umbrella
- Jacket or coat (depending on climate)
- Bathing suit (depending on climate)
- A nice outfit
Learn about the typical climate of the locations you plan to visit. Also take into consideration clothing that is appropriate and respectful of the local culture.
Medicine and Toiletries
If you choose to put any of the items below in your carry-on luggage, all liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in three-ounce or smaller containers. All such items must also be placed into a single quart-sized, clear, zip-top plastic bag.
- Prescription medicine: clearly marked with patient name, physician name, drug name, dosage, and written physician prescription explaining the condition and use (NOTE: this may be required in order to bring these medications through customs and into the country)
- Over-the-counter unopened medication (i.e., any medications that you take on a regular basis or that are especially effective for you). Although your host country may have the same drug, it is probably called something different and may be difficult to identify at your time of need – or not available at all
- First Aid Kit: include bandages, first aid tape, antiseptic wipes, burn cream, extra-strength aspirin, anti-diarrhea medication, Benadryl™ or similar antihistamines to treat allergies, and a first aid guide
- Comb and/or brush
- Sunscreen, moisturizers, cosmetics, bug repellant
- Tampons/sanitary pads
- Eyeglasses, sunglasses, contact lenses and cleaning solution
- Hand sanitizer
Other items may include:
- Battery-operated alarm clock (if not using cell phone)
- Camera and extra memory cards
- Flashlight (if not using cell phone)
- Download useful travel apps on computer, cell phone, iPod, tablet, etc.
- Cards and/or games
- Carry-on luggage for weekend travel
- Sewing kit (scissors, if included, must be kept in your checked luggage)
- Stuff bags, plastic storage bags
- Change purse (several countries
- TSA-approved luggage lock
- Luggage tags for each of your bags
- Re-usable water bottle (make sure it is empty before going through airport security)
- Adapter and voltage converter
- Laptop computer
- Textbooks (if applicable) and notebooks for class
These documents should be carried with you (not in your luggage):
- Passport (leave copies with your family)
- Cash, credit cards, ATM card (make photocopies and leave one copy in the US and take one copy with you abroad)
- ACE/EuropAssist medical insurance ID card (Located in Learning Content of your online study abroad application)
In the U.S. because of Skype, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, Smart phones, cell phones, etc., you may have the ability to stay connected with your family 24/7; however, be aware that this may change while you are abroad. Access communication and e-mail abroad may not always be as readily available as it is in the U.S., even in parts of Western Europe where you would expect access to be comparable.
In general, local and long-distance telephone usage is much more expensive in foreign countries. Calls made directly through U.S. long-distance companies are the least expensive way to call the U.S. – simply dial the access code for the country from which you are calling (Country Codes), plus the U.S. country code (always “1”), followed by the appropriate U.S. area code and local number. You may find that local phone cards work better, but it is still advisable to bring a U.S. card.
Many public phones abroad require phone cards instead of coins. The cards are inserted into a phone slot and debited as you place calls. You can purchase them at post offices, grocery stores, and other locations for varying fixed prices.Avoid expensive calls from hotel phones – there is usually a surcharge.
If you are living in a home stay, ask about phone use. Most families will object to your use of the phone, even for local calls, because they are not free. Since your family may not discuss this situation in advance, it is important to ask what is expected in order to avoid conflicts.
Be aware of the time at the other end of the phone. Even if you call at a reasonable hour where you are, it may be the middle of the night elsewhere! And if you promised to call your family upon arrival, remember to do it!
International Cell Phones
The Office of International Studies Abroad STRONGLY recommends that students have a cell phone while abroad. Below are some options:
Purchase a Phone Upon Arrival to International Site
This is the most affordable option as calling within country is charged at the local rate. Many study abroad providers will give guidance to students upon arrival regarding the recommended vendors to consult. These typically operate on a pay-as-you-go system.
Rent a Phone/SIM Card Prior to Departure
By renting a cell phone or SIM card prior to departure students will have their international number in-hand prior to arrival to the international site. Students in the past have used Cell Hire and have been satisfied with this service.
Bring Own Phone
Most standard U.S. cell phones will work outside of the United States, but you should check with your current cell phone provider as international roaming fees can be expensive. You may find that they can temporarily upgrade you to a tri-band phone that is capable of receiving service abroad, allowing you to use your current phone number abroad. Be sure to discuss rates and fees, though, as they are likely to be higher than what you pay for domestic service, and have more restrictions.
Other Affordable Ways to Stay in Touch:
- Google Voice Free to call computer to computer, very cheap calls from computer to phones
- Skype Free to call computer to computer, very cheap calls from computer to phones
- Viber Free texting using wifi
- WhatsApp Free texting using wifi
- Face Time
Mail can easily be sent internationally, but will take longer than mail within the United States. Letters should be marked “air mail” to ensure prompt delivery. If it is not marked, mail may be sent by surface mail and can take up to three months to be delivered. Mail sent internationally must include the destination country as a final line in the address to ensure delivery. Prior to departure, you will receive an email with your contact address and telephone number abroad. It is advisable to leave a copy of this information with family members.
You will be responsible for knowing the information that USD sends to you through your USD email account. If you are using a different email account, be sure to forward all USD email to any commercial email account you may be using. NOTE: USD will only send email communication to students’ USD email account.
Helpful Communication Tips Prior to Departure
- Establish a communication plan with your family. This plan may need to be altered once you have settled into a routine.
- Always have a secondary way of communicating. Students and parents should both have a list of emergency contacts with them at all times, including contacts at USD’s International Studies Abroad Office and on-site, the student’s address while abroad, etc.
- Telephone, e-mail, Skype, prepaid telephone cards, instant messaging, blogs, etc. are some of the communication methods that you can use.
- If you use Skype, make sure your family knows your screen name. You may also dial phones in the U.S. directly from an internet café or computer lab abroad. Check out Skype for more details.
Personal Document Safety
Leave at home all credit cards, keys, and other items not needed abroad. Make photocopies of your valuable documents and maintain an “emergency file” at home containing copies of your: airline ticket, passport, traveler’s checks, driver’s license, blood type and Rh factor, eyeglass prescription, name of doctor and dentist, supplemental insurance policies, and the ATM and credit cards you take abroad. Leave one set at home and keep another with you in a separate place from the originals. Leave a copy of your itinerary and contact information with family or friends at home.
NEVER pack your passport or any other important documents in your checked-in luggage or in your carry-on luggage. Passports (including visa page), ATM and credit cards, and money should be worn in a pouch or money belt as close to your body as possible. Be aware that certain reading material or literature that you carry with you may offend Customs officials of some countries.
If your passport is lost or stolen abroad, contact inform the on-site faculty/staff immediately.