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OSU students study abroad in 150 different countries, so it is unrealistic to create a "must-bring" list for every program. Although it is unrealistic to give one list that applies to all, here are some universal rules:
- Travel Lightly: What you pack, you have to carry (sometimes for several miles at a time). Carry your luggage around the block, up and down stairs, and then re-evaluate what you have packed based on what you can comfortably carry.
- Begin packing by setting out all items that you wish to take. Then, divide it in half and leave one-half at home. Every thing you take with you, you will have to bring back.
- Try to determine what the general population of your host country wears on a daily basis. Bring similar clothing.
- Try to be culturally sensitive as to the type of clothing you wear. For example, women in more conservative countries will find that short skirts, bare arms or legs, and shorts may not be appropriate in certain settings. Excessive informality may be seen as an insult in certain cultures and religions.
- Take clothing that is easily washable. The optimum articles are lightweight, washable and drip dry (check for synthetic fabrics such as nylon and cotton).
- Pack for comfort, not style.
- Make sure to pack at least one pair of comfortable walking shoes. Students often walk more abroad than they do at home.
- Interchangeability is essential. Dress in layers and bring mix and match items.
- Be prepared for all types of weather that you may encounter in your host country and any other countries you intend to visit during your time abroad.
- Consider the length of your study abroad program (one to nine months) and pack accordingly.
- Leave room in your suitcase to bring back souvenirs. You will most certainly buy things while you are abroad.
- Put your address on a luggage tag inside your suitcase as well as on the outside in case the suitcase breaks or is lost.
- Put a copy of your travel itinerary and temporary address on the inside of all luggage in case your bag is lost.
- Leave your valuables at home.
- Leave any irreplaceable items in the U.S. It is risky to take such items overseas. Things get lost or stolen during travel.
- Remember, in most countries you can buy anything you may need. In addition, if you forget something you really need, it can be sent to you overseas.
Two small suitcases are often easier to handle than one large one. Some students have brought an empty small suitcase to fill with souvenirs and gifts for their return trip home. Backpacks are great because they free your hands to hold tickets and handrails. Backpacks are useful as school bags and for weekend trips.
If you plan on traveling and sleeping in youth hostels, pack a sleep sack: two sheets sewn together like a sleeping-bag. Many hostels require you to have or rent one. Even if your hostel does not require one, you may prefer to bring your own sheets.
Seal spillables such as shampoo, toothpaste, etc., in baggies. Airline pressure can open bottles and products could end up all over your clothes. Pack enough toiletries for the first few weeks, then once you are in the host country you will be able to find suitable foreign substitutes.
Other items you may consider packing:
- A money belt to hide important documents
- A medical kit that may include bandages, first aid tape, burn cream, extra-strength aspirin, sunscreen, anti-diarrhea mediation, anti-bacterial ointment, disinfectant, tweezers, water purification tablets, salt tablets, skin moisturizers and insect repellent
- Battery operated alarm clock
- Zip-lock baggies for sealing spillable items
- Earplugs if night noises bother you
- Sewing kit and a few safety pins
- Travel book
- Address list to keep in touch
- Miniature photo album of your hometown/family/friends for show-and-tell
- Small flashlight
- Tiny lock
- Gifts for your host-family
- Small notepad and pen for writing down directions and unknown phrases and foreign words
When you think you may be finished packing, do a couple of tests. Make sure you are able to climb up and down stairs, imitating the travel in airports, bus and train stations you may have to go through. Also, airlines will charge for overweight luggage, so double-check their size and weight limits.