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Over-packers, this one's for you.

I don't think you understand how much of an overpacker I am-- I brought two 70 pound suitcases along with a roller carry-on and backpack abroad. It's fucking crazy, but I couldn't resist bringing everything. Keep this from my mother...but I regret bringing so much with me. I found traveling with two incredibly large roller suitcases and a carry-on a very humbling experience; especially when I met people from my program traveling with just one suitcase. I am sure that my luggage spoke for me, as it warned them that I was a very high maintenance person... hahah. Due to the fact that it would have saved me many headaches and stares, please read my top few pieces of packing advice I wish I had listened to.

***Now... keep in mind I studied in Prague, so any clothing recommendations I make will be totally different from someone who studied in a hotter climate***

1. Do not bring a roller carry-on. I REPEAT DO NOT BRING A ROLLER CARRY-ON.

  • One thing I wish I'd known before studying abroad: European airlines charge for carry-on luggage. A $50 charge for carry-on luggage per flight, on top of your ticket and seat assignment, could possibly be the biggest disappointment to our bank accounts as college students. Now don't expect to get around these cutthroat, cheap, annoying airlines as they want your money. (A big fuck you to Ryan Air.) You really do get what you pay for with your flights (I will discuss airlines in another article) so don't expect for them to cater to your individual needs, you aren't that special. I cannot tell you how many times I had to pull sweaters upon sweaters out of my carry-on and place them over my existing clothes in front of everyone to avoid an extra $70 charge for my carry-on not fitting their requirements. I did get quite lucky a few times as I ran past the person checking the tickets to avoid them seeing my roller carry-on. The perfect travel carry-on from Patagonia was owned by my roommate, Anna, who was able to wear it like a backpack. Their mistake was thinking it was a backpack. She saved quite a bit of money with this investment as there is no charge for just bringing a backpack on a flight. Her patagonia travel size duffle could even hold more than my roller. Whether you listen to anything else I say or not, you should listen to this.

2. Make sure to fill those prescriptions for a minimum of 90 days!

  • The importance of this one cannot be overstated. As for me, I take a few different medications that are vital to my mental and physical health, and I'd be at risk if I were to go without these. Lexapro and Zoloft, medications meant to treat anxiety and depression, are two medications I know a lot of other students my age take. In my case, I take a pretty high dose of Zoloft every day, and even skipping one day of medications affects my mental equilibrium. My program warned me that shipping or mailing medications, even if they are prescribed to you, is nearly impossible as customs/shipping regulations do not really allow this. Make sure you talk to your doctor and prescription filler about having an adequate amount of pills before you travel overseas. You don't want to be stuck without them!

3. Seriously, chill out on the shoes.

  • In terms of shoes, I might have gone a little crazy. If I remember correctly, I brought around 10 pairs of shoes. TEN PAIRS OF SHOES. Do you know how much weight that was added to my suitcases??? I probably wore three pairs interchangeably and didn't even touch the others. I now recommend bringing 3-4 shoes max: two pairs of cute sneakers and a pair of black booties. You will be thankful to have cute sneakers you can dress up or down with any outfit as you will walk at least 10k steps a day. In my opinion, black booties are very important. While abroad, I found nightlife to be very significant, and most clubs have unspoken dress codes of wearing all black. To me, it is essential to have a pair of black booties with you that are both comfortable and stylish enough to wear while walking around any city or clubbing.

4. Bring your school backpack.

  • My attempts to be aesthetic and bring a tote instead of a backpack makes me hate myself. The truth is that no one carries ugly school backpacks like we do in the United States, but even though they aren't the most visually appealing, they are much more practical than a purse. In order to look fashionable, I tried to cram my computer, iPad, and notebooks into a small tote bag; that lasted a week before I bought a backpack.

5. As annoying as it is... leave room in your suitcase.

  • If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to pack lightly and leave room in my suitcase, I could probably pay for carry-on luggage on RyanAir. My wardrobe was largely donated at the end of the semester because I could not fit it in my luggage due to my resistance to those suggestions. Overpackers like me should not even attempt to pack a large puffer in the event of cold weather as there won't be space for it. As wasteful as it sounds, I would stick to buying a cheap puffer from Zara or H&M once you get there, and donate it before you head back home. We overpackers are also shopping addicts, so let's be honest, you'll be buying several outfits during your stay because new trends will be introduced during your time there. With this being said, I would especially limit yourself to 2-3 sweaters (chill, you can purchase more once it gets colder). I mention puffers and sweaters as they are some of the more bulky items. I won't explore other clothing items in this article because it would take up too much of your time, so you can decide on those for yourself.

As far as packing for studying abroad is concerned, these are just five of many suggestions I have. We all have unique advice, so do not hesitate to ask me or any of your peers who have studied abroad! Challenge yourself while packing: One big suitcase and one DUFFLE carryon. You got this!

Happy Travels,

Lily Cochrane


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