Packing Up: The Girl’s Guide

I did a post similar to this a while ago, but have recently decided to revamp it and provide more insight into what to pack for a semester abroad. I would love to hear your feedback, so please comment at the bottom. Enjoy!

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Above is everything that goes into my suitcase for a semester abroad. Seem impossible? Trust me, it’s not!

Packing clothes for a semester abroad is daunting, especially as a female.  These clothes have to fit the culture, fit the months of changing temperatures, and (hopefully) fit in one suitcase. Below I have compiled a list of the 10 best tips that I learned after packing for a semester abroad and given examples of how I lived fashionably out of just one suitcase for four months.

Tip 1: Remember that you are the only one that will be carrying your luggage. A one suitcase packing list is essential and efficient.

Tip 2: You will buy new clothes when you figure out what is in style where you are. You will do yourself a big favor by packing lightly at the beginning so you are able to fit everything in at the end.

My Travel Outfit

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Tip 3: One of the easiest ways to pack light is to wear your heaviest items on the flight.

In my case, that would be this cozy green sweater and my favorite brown boots. These boots are easy to deal with through security and I always take off my shoes on flights anyways and wear thick fuzzy socks instead. I tend to get very cold on planes so sweaters, scarves, and socks are my best friends, especially when I’m traveling overseas.

For great travel sweater options, check out these links!

{Forever 21} {Forever 21} {Forever 21} {SheIn}

My Tops

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One “stand out” striped tee, two long sleeved shirts: black and white.
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I love a statement tee, a loose boyfriend style tee, and two tanks to layer or wear alone when it gets warm.
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Here are three variations of sweaters to keep me warm: a light cardigan to layer, a long, heavy cardigan that could be worn as a jacket, and a light pullover that could be a top or layered.

Tip 4: Pack your clothes making sure that each item can make an outfit with three other items.

It is a really great rule of thumb to make sure that I am packing smart and really putting everything to use. These tops and sweaters have a similar color scheme so they are able to be layered or worn with different bottoms.

Tip 5: In order to better blend in with the locals and not stand out as a tourist, I really recommend NOT bringing any school or sorority spirit wear. It is a really easy way to make yourself a target to pickpockets and other types of cons. 

My Bottoms

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These skirts are adorable to wear in warm or cool months (with tights). They are neutral enough to go with any of the tops I brought and I can dress them up and down.

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It’s important to know how the culture you’re studying in dresses during the different seasons so you don’t find yourself sticking out. In Spain, we learned that the people don’t dress according to temperature, but rather to the date. So they will battle a hot day in May with jeans and a long sleeved shirt on rather than a sundress because it is technically not summer. In order to blend in, I really utilized my cropped black pants as a lighter garment while still being respectful to the culture.

Also, a nice pair of yoga pants really came in handy during travel days. These got me through long train rides, unexpected picnics on the airport floor, and came in handy when running to a gate to make a flight.

My Dresses

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I have a weak spot for dresses because they are so effortless to wear and you can accessorize them for any type of occasion. I have three long sleeved dresses: one statement, one little black dress, and one super functional yet light sweater dress. I also have one short sleeved dress to wear with a jacket and tights in cool weather or alone in warm weather.

For cute and versatile dresses, check out these links:

{She In} {She In} {Forever 21}

My Shoes

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Don’t forget to factor rain into the weather! These ankle boots are a great option that don’t take up much room in a suitcase. Also the tennis shoes are great for hiking if you get the chance.

Tip 6:  When it comes to shoes and traveling, practicality beats style. But it’s when practicality and style come together that you have hit the jackpot.

I usually make this happen by sticking gel inserts onto the heels of my shoes and that makes shoes like ballet flats (my favorites) much more comfortable.

Tip 7: DO NOT BRING HEELS. They are heavy, take up lots of precious space in your luggage, and are too difficult to walk in on cobble stoned streets at 4am after a night out. Trust me on this. You will regret bringing them no matter how cute they are.

My Jackets

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Packing jackets is a very strategic part of the packing process. Depending on where you are going, you could require a winter parka or nothing at all. Spain was very temperate and I was able to get away with a lightly lined waterproof jacket and simply layer underneath if I was cold. As the weather transitioned to warmer, I could easily switch into my vest. Finally, my cropped leather jacket had the ability to dress up night time outfits and still provide warmth against the wind and chill.

Tip 8: If you plan on going on some adventures, rather than packing skiing or surfing equipment, rent it on site. It is reasonably priced and saves you the stress of figuring out how to lug it around.

For easy travel outerwear, check out these links:

{Forever 21} {She In} {Forever 21}

My Accessories

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Since my wardrobe is so neutral despite my love for color, I have decided to bring a couple scarves to brighten up my daily outfits: two for fashion, one for warmth. The thing about scarves is they are the item that I collect when I go places, so I know that I will be adding to my choices as I travel which makes it easier for me to only bring a few.

Tip 9: Know your audience. Bring a shawl when traveling to or visiting places that require more modesty (religious points of interest especially).

I also packed a neutral belt, two pairs of black opaque tights, and two pairs of leggings to wear under long shirts, skirts, or dresses. Keep in mind, in Europe, leggings are not pants, just supplemental warmth.

Tip 10: Regarding underwear, pack enough to avoid doing laundry for about two weeks. This will ensure you are safe to travel for longer periods of time without having to worry about washing. Remember to plan ahead because you will most likely not have the option of a dryer so you will need to allow time for your clothes to dry before traveling.

I hope these tips helped! I really value packing lightly and this actually served me for an entire semester! It is possible, I promise! Plus, it leaves me plenty of room to shop…

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