Plan ahead when it comes to packing:
What do you really need? What items can you buy in your host country? Regardless of the length of your program, we urge you to pack lighter than you think you may need. Keep in mind you will likely purchase souvenirs and other items to bring back home. Shipping items home is very expensive, so leave some room in your luggage. To help you plan for your departure, see the luggage tips below.
You are typically allowed one carry-on, which must fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment, in addition to a personal item (laptop/purse/briefcase/camera). Check your airline’s carry-on size restrictions in advance. Certain items are restricted from carry-on luggage. For an up-to-date list of restricted items, check the Transportation Security Administration website. As a general rule, if an item is difficult to replace, it belongs in your carry-on.
Recommended carry-on items:
- Everything you would need at the airport—wallet, passport, credit cards, and tickets
- Medications—prescription and over-the-counter
- Eyeglasses & contacts
- A change of clothes
- Valuables—such as a laptop, camera, mobile devices, or jewelry
- Reading material, notebook & pen
- Contact numbers—most students are picked up from the airport by someone working with the program
- Money – U.S. dollars & currency of your study abroad destination
Contact your airline for current details regarding weight and size restrictions, excess luggage, and overweight luggage fees, as this information varies from airline to airline. Put your name, address, email, and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality.
Some general tips:
- Only pack what you can manage to carry on your own! Don’t overdo it! Set out everything you want to take and remove half it out. (We’re not joking.) If you are only traveling for a short amount of time you will want to remove even more! (Consider this situation: You’re a foreigner who just landed in a new country. You have to take public transportation via subway. You’ll likely have no one else to help you.) Only pack what you can easily carry.
- Keep toiletries to a minimum. Almost everything you will need in this category will be available abroad.
- Roll your clothing—it saves a ton of room in your suitcase.
- Leave extra room—you will be buying souvenirs, gifts, and clothing abroad.
Clothing should be culturally appropriate to your study abroad destination. Inappropriate attire is not only inconsiderate of the host culture, but you could also feel awkward and attract unwanted attention. To plan your clothing needs, check with the host country program provider and guidebooks for advice. When in doubt, dress nicer and more conservatively. On UMD Faculty-led short-term programs, the program leader is an excellent source of advice.
Don’t forget to pack light. Plan to wear the same clothes a couple of times throughout the week. During short-term programs, plan to rinse out underwear and shirts in the evening—it’s a lot more fun exploring the local areas than spending hours finding and using a laundromat. In semester programs, laundry facilities will generally be available; there will be no need to take innumerable changes.
You are no longer in the hallways of UMD, so you will not be able to wear pajamas everywhere. We encourage you to dress to blend in. Students around the world dress in a similar fashion with a few exceptions depending on the location. The clothes you take with you should be well-fitting, neat, and clean. Depending on the location, dress neatly for dinner, and don’t forget a fashionable outfit for going out!
There may be instances where you will need to wear something a little dressier than your normal attire. Plan to bring one nice outfit.
For information regarding bringing medication abroad, see the Health Information page.
Verify the voltage and frequency used in the country you are studying in, and purchase a converter before leaving. The U.S. uses 100-127 V at 60 Hz, but many other countries use 220-240 V at 50 Hz. You must use a converter for electrical appliances such as a curling iron, hairdryer, etc. Some items may be able to automatically convert the voltage and frequency. Check the owner’s manual or the device specification label.
In many countries, plugs are different than those used in the U.S. (type A and B). To plug items into a socket, a plug adaptor will also be necessary. Adaptors can be purchased individually or in a travel package. Oftentimes, these travel packages also contain converters. These are available at stores selling electronics or at specialized travel shops and should be purchased prior to leaving the U.S. Alternatively, you may wish to purchase electric appliances once abroad. Even when using a converter, some appliances such as curling irons and hair dryers do not work efficiently.
U.S. cell phones typically do not work abroad, unless they are unlocked and the sim card can be swapped out. Cell phones can be purchased or leased abroad, and past participants have found them extremely useful. "Pay as you go" phones are also popular. Many students buy a "pay as you go phone" when abroad to stay in contact with locals and friends and family back home. Plans vary, so do your research prior to purchasing. U.S. domestic calling cards will not work when calling from foreign countries. Check with the provider to search for options and more information before purchasing. Keep in contact with family back home using free internet applications such as Zoom, Skype, Facebook, What's App, Marco Polo, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts.
While connecting with folks back home is a positive and grounding aspect of being abroad, remember that you are abroad to learn about a new culture by being immersed in it. It can be difficult to maximize this experience if you never break away from home. So don’t forget to get out there and make new friends.
Computers & Devices
Many students have found laptops, tablets, or smartphones useful. Keep in mind you may need adaptors and converters in order to charge your devices. Check ahead to find out what sort of computer and internet access you will have while abroad.
Our Best Advice
When it comes to packing, the best advice we can give you is to only pack what you need. Better yet, only pack what you can comfortably carry. (Imagine landing in-country and you have to use public transport to get to the university—which may involve getting in and out of taxis, buses, subways, trains, or even boats.) Always remember you can (and are probably going to want to) buy things when there.