Going to a new place is nerve-wracking and exciting alike, but before one gets to explore new horizons, we all have to face the task that is terrifying for the undecided and a dream for list lovers: packing for a stay abroad.
Obviously, I’m talking about staying in a different city, country or climate zone for longer than just a few weeks, as you do for a gap year or, as in my case, a semester abroad. One way to go about it is throwing your favorite items in your suitcase and buy anything you need on-site when you arrive- definitely the fastest route to take. However, that can get pricy fast – especially if you are on a student budget. In contrast, the blessedly organized among us might write an elaborate list and plan out the exact number of socks needed to survive four months in St Andrews. If you are in between these extremes, you can go to task with a strategy with these three pointers for your stay abroad:
First of all, your wardrobe needs a solid groundwork and that means basics. Subtle designs, unicolored shirts and everyday jeans. What use is your sparkly green top when you know from experience that you’re only going to wear it with that one particular skirt, and if you take that skirt, you’d also have to pack the matching ankle boots and – you probably get the point. Not only are basic items easily combinable and easy to wash (a real advantage, when you don’t have a full closet at hand), they can simply be embellished with different accessories. The fake or real gucci belt (be honest most of us cannot tell the difference anyway) jazzes up a lot of basic outfit combinations. Or even better, mix it up with local accessories!
Next, add some clothing items you can transform or wear in different ways. This ranges from reversible jackets to garments that you can turn into another look just with a twist or by tacking them into a pair of jeans. Blouses, for example, are always a fine choice: wear them casually tied with a knot, properly buttoned up for an interview or all preppy tucked into a skirt. Furthermore, if you’re going to study abroad, chances are, an opportunity to dress up arises. Whether it’s a flat party with a theme, Halloween or Carnival, I have learned from experience you should always have one piece of clothing with you that can be turned into a costume. Often one can use the simplest pieces of clothing to play dress up. Scarves, ponchos or in my case a bath robe and a pair of sunglasses.
And last but not least, definitely pick out some (!) of your favourites to accompany you. These little pieces of home can be comforting and make you feel comfortably like yourself and thus more confident wearing them, which is always of advantage when you have to gain a foothold in a new environment. Plus, bringing your own style might also have the fabulous side effect of contributing to a diverse style landscape. Having spent only a couple of weeks in St Andrews, I am already amazed by the individuality and non-conformity some students wear on Market Street.
My go to outfit when travelling to the British Isles or Scandinavia consists of a blazer, sweater dress and shiny shoes, all held in cold tones. Tights are also a must for me as I am not as resistant to the cold wind as most of the local people seem to be.
Of course, a great outfit does not guarantee a successful stay abroad and especially in our age of taking an exorbitant number of pictures, we should always remind us that while the picture will last forever, the feeling most likely won’t, so remember to soak up every moment. Also, you will probably never have the right outfit for every occasion at hand, as there is only so much space in a suitcase. For example, I did not take St. Andrews’ ball culture into account when packing for my semester abroad. Even if I had, how could I have known that students like to combine rubber boots with their evening gowns?
You can, however, take the necessary steps to have a wide selection with you without going over the weight limit. At any rate, if you’re comfortable and confident with your wardrobe, you have one less detail to worry about.