For me, studying abroad was the very beginning of a lifetime of travel. After I was finally accepted to the Irish Writing Program at University College-Dublin, a moment of panic set in. I had never ridden in an airplane and, on top of that, I had no idea what to pack. I spent hours researching study abroad packing lists. The two main takeaways? Pack minimally (because you will buy items when you’re there) and to bring lots of proper rain gear.
One large piece of luggage
Backpack as carry-on
As you might have guessed, studying in Ireland requires a lot of rain gear. If you skimp on that, you’re going to have a lot of uncomfortable excursions.
No matter which semester you study abroad in Ireland, you’re going to need a raincoat. And the second you decide to go somewhere without it, it will start raining and you will end up desperately searching for a tourist shop that sells emergency rain ponchos. And you will feel ridiculous.
All of the Irish women wore rubber rainboots too, so you won’t feel out of place. If you want to save room in your bag, you can buy easily buy them at the Irish low-price retail store Penneys once you arrive instead.
Alternative pair of shoes (1)
Shoes are probably the most controversial part of packing lists. In most cases when I’m traveling, I only bring one pair of shoes: my Doc Marten boots. I love them because they can be dressed up or down or even worn on short hiking trails. And I love that one single pair of shoes has been on my adventures. If you were studying abroad in a less rainy climate, I still might recommend just bringing these, but they don’t stop water quite like a pair of real rainboots so, in this rare case, I recommend bringing both.
Bring these if and only if you already use them for a fitness routine at home. If you do not exercise now, you aren’t about to start when you’re busy studying in and exploring a country full-time.
Clothing is where you’re most likely to over-pack. Pack what you think you need then remove enough that you have extra room in your bag for any clothing you buy in Ireland.
Tops that can be dressed up or down (3-4)
Dresses/nice pants (2)
Sports bra (1)
They don’t call it study abroad for nothing! Remember to bring the items you typically need on your home university campus.
Bringing really valuable items alone when traveling usually makes me nervous, but while you’re studying abroad, it’s likely you’ll really need it.
Bathroom and self-care items
Many of these items are highly dependent on your individual needs. Note that most of these items are very common so, if you’re running out of room in your bag, just skip packing these and buy them there instead.
Solid shampoo. conditioner bars, and bar soap
Tooth care items
They can double as scissors you’ll need for who-knows-what. I remember several people asking to borrow mine while I was studying abroad.
International power converter/adapter
Power outlets in other countries operate at a higher voltage than in the US and also have differently shaped sockets, so you’ll need a converter. Several of my classmates did not bring adapters so their devices would plug in but no converters. One totally fried her laptop by doing so. I paid $40 for mine(click to check the current price) and it’s become a companion for all my international travels.
SIM card remover
Before I studied abroad, I had hardly even heard of a SIM card. I followed good advice to not spend my money on an international plan with my regular American carrier and instead buy a SIM card with an Irish phone number once I got there. It was only about €40 for the SIM card and a basic plan with a little calling and texting but a lot of data—perfect for navigating. You’ll need the tool, though, for when you need to switch back to your old card. Trust me, searching for a paperclip in the Dublin airport is not easy.
Pro tip: Tape the SIM card tool to the inside of your passport so you can’t lose it!
Cell phone external battery pack
I used this so much while I was studying in Ireland (though lots of people asked if it was a vape pen 😆). It’s essential if you plan to use your phone’s Maps app to navigate, call an Uber, or meet up with friends. I liked this version because it was only $10 when I bought it (click here to check the current price for this charger) and, unlike some other chargers, a color-coded light indicator can tell you if it’s actually charging your device or low on battery.
Non-essentials will improve your study abroad experience
Kindle Fire or Paperwhite
I brought a Kindle because I was studying Irish literature and all of those books would have really sent my checked luggage over Aer Lingus’s weight limit. I would highly recommend the Kindle for anyone who loves reading and needs to save space. Plus, you can check out some Kindle books or even borrow them from your local library to save money and resources.
Waterproof backpack cover
Yes, more rain gear. Several of the day trips I went on with my classmates would have been a lot more pleasant if I hadn’t been worried about all of the stuff in my backpack getting ruined by the constant drizzle.
The water is pretty safe in Ireland, so bring a water bottle so you can save money and go green.
Grocery stores in Ireland will charge you for each plastic bag you use, so you’ll quickly get used to bringing your own. Plus, if your reusable bag is fairly large, it can double as the perfect dirty laundry hamper to carry your clothes to the laundry room.