Pack for a semester abroad like a pro


By Shalayne Pulia

I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever to have the chance to drop everything and find my way studying abroad in Europe. Now that my trip to Verona, Italy, is less than a week away, I figured it would be a good time to start thinking practically – packing practically that is.

Notorious for an extensive shoe collection, I knew packing would be an issue. But my family and friends have scoffed and joked long enough about my one bag, one carry-on limitations. It’s time I prove them wrong and compile my favorite advice for stuffing your whole life in a less than 50-pound bag.

1. Roll it all up

Sixteen years of figure skating across the Midwest has taught me this one. When traveling with just a carry-on, space saving is key. Rolling your clothes conserves more space than you may think. Start out by laying them as flat as possible. Fold the arms in on tops and one leg over the other on pants and roll from there. This will let you see more of your clothing options right in your suitcase too for weekend trips once you are already abroad.

2. Consider Comfort

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Rolling your clothes is one thing, but from someone who bought risers for her bed to increase shoe storage space, shoving all your shoes into one suitcase is nearly impossible. The solution? Don’t.

From talking with students who have gone abroad, especially to Europe with all its cobblestone walkways, comfort is much more important than shoe style. Find a couple solid pairs that you know will be comfortable after hours of strolling foreign city streets and pack them first. It will be easier to fit your rolled clothing in all the crevasses left by the more awkward shoe shapes.

As hard as it is for me to leave behind my favorite pair of heels, packing like this reminds me what’s more important. I’ll be fortunate enough to stare up at the gorgeous architecture of Italy; I certainly won’t be staring down at a pair of cherry red pumps.

3. Love your Layers

Keep it simple with the outfits. I may be heading to one of the most stylish countries on the planet, but packing plain tops that are prime for layering will come in handy. You can read all day long about the climate of your study abroad destination, but most of the time the weather is as unpredictable as European train schedules (I hear they are rather less than reliable).

Packing outfits that can be layered not only helps you be prepared for changing weather, but also will give some variety to your limited wardrobe. Get creative with accessories. Jewelry and scarves are easy to pack and can change the whole look and feel of an outfit.

4. Be Prepared

I am beyond excited to get on that plane and finally head to Italy, but I have to be sure to prepare for something to go wrong, too. You will most likely find yourself distracted with the new sights, sounds and smells of your temporary home to remember where you set your wallet or phone, not to mention tourist destinations have their fair share of pickpocket pros.

Keep cash, important papers cards and maybe even a mini map close to you. I usually stick some cash in a couple different places like a sock, inside a shirt or jacket and in my purse to make sure I at least have some cash on me if something goes wrong. I also bought a money belt for my credit cards, debit card, IDs and passport. There are plenty of other options like a necklace/lanyard version or even a fanny pack if a money belt just won’t work. You should also make copies of your passport and important IDs to keep with you in case yours is lost or stolen. This isn’t the fun stuff to think about, but it’s better to prepare now than have to deal with it later.

5. Experience it All

My favorite advice is simply to take a step back and remember why you are trying to shove six months worth of clothing into one tiny bag. You’re not going for a new catwalk to sport the best and brightest items filling your closet, you’re going for the experience of a lifetime — the chance to lose yourself in a foreign city and grow as a person. Plan to immerse yourself in your destination’s culture; don’t try to bring everything from home with you. Let your temporary home leave its mark on you.

Shalayne is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected].