Indiana University Overseas Study


Emily Blankenhorn - Berlin, Germany

If you’re planning on studying abroad or taking an extended trip, it’s difficult to know what to pack. Aside from your favorite sweaters and jeans, you have your jewelry, socks, and scarves, not to mention shoes. On top of that, should you bring all that makeup? You also have pajamas to think about. If you’ll be abroad for an entire semester, you will most likely experience multiple seasons. This makes it even more difficult to pack because you have to make sure to narrow your options down in order to have enough to wear for the full 5 months’ time. I didn’t realize how many clothes I really do wear until I was forced to pick and choose. I am here to give you some advice about how to choose what to bring and what not to bring.

unpacked into small closet

Overall, just choose a few of your favorite items and bring those. Don’t bring anything from home that you don’t wear every week, because you won’t wear it here. European style is pretty laid back, so thus far I haven’t worn anything nicer than jeans and a flowy top. That being said, nobody wears sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt to the store, like you would see everywhere in the U.S. My go-to outfit for when I leave my residence is black leggings with a sweater and some black boots. There are so many variations of this outfit that I can wear and be comfortable in while also not looking like a tourist or worrying I don’t fit in. Berlin style is composed of a lot of dark colors and a lot of black, so I didn’t even bring anything pink or light blue. Maroon, hunter green, black, and grey are worn a lot and they match with basically anything so it’s easy to mix and match outfits. This is helpful when you don’t bring a lot of clothes but you don’t want to get bored of wearing the same outfit over and over again.

Notebook and Travel Journal

As for non-clothing related items, definitely bring a book for the flights you’ll take on your way to your destination, but also for while traveling between destinations. I bought the new Stephen King compilation of short stories so it’s easy to read one to pass the time during travel. Also, bring a journal to document everything in. It’s easy to forget what you did yesterday, let alone what you did last month. I have a notebook (the red one) to document what I’ve done in bullet points. I always prefer to write when, where, and what occurred, but rarely how I felt about it. Luckily, my mom had gotten me a travel journal (the brown one) before I left the U.S. This has more specific questions printed in it for you to answer about how you felt at the time, what you saw around you, how the air smelled, and much more which increased my mindfulness drastically.

packing light

Anyway, in Berlin most things are pretty inexpensive, so it would be cheap and simple to purchase anything here that you feel you need but didn’t pack. In this case, just remember that you only have the luggage you came here with! The last thing you want is to be flying back to the states and have an oversized bag. Something else to keep in mind is that wherever you are traveling, there will be limited space for belongings. For example, I didn’t even think about how small the closets would be here in my CIEE dorm. I’ve attached some photos for reference, but upon first look they are so small! If I were restricted to this space at home I would never be able to fit all my clothes and belongings in there. Strangely enough, I ended up having an excessive amount of extra space once I unloaded all my clothes. I have quickly adapted to this life of less and feel as though I’ve simplified my life a bit.

Emily Blankenhorn

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