Indiana University Overseas Study

Archive for the ‘Packing’ Category

Less is More

Susanna Sorrells - Seville, Spain

I have the worst habit of over-packing. At middle school sleepovers, I was the friend who brought a full-sized duffel bag for one night. What can I say, I just like to be prepared. Recently, however, I have learned that the contents of your bags can only prepare you so much.

Before I began packing for this semester, I had a list of what I thought I needed. It was a fair list consisting mostly essentials. Then, when I actually started to pack, I was having separation anxiety with some of my clothes. I had everything I wanted to bring to Sevilla scattered all over my room at home. I looked at my two empty suitcases, back at everything in my room, and then back at my suitcases. I had to reconsider some of my choices.

Despite this initial dilemma, I successfully managed to fit four months’ worth of everything I needed (or thought I would need) into my backpack, one carry-on sized suitcase, and one suitcase that I checked at the gate that came in just shy of the 50 pounds mark (thankfully).

Once I started traveling around other parts of Spain and Europe I learned a lesson very quickly: it’s always easier to travel light. My middle school self would be doubtful, but I can attest that it is indeed possible to pack for a weekend trip in a backpack.

Backpacks are great. You can maximize the space in a backpack pretty easily and be hands free while on the go. Packing light is simply always the best option. It prevents you from having to check one bag and potentially having to pay for it. It prevents you from having to go to baggage claim upon arrival. Traveling light is significantly easier — not just in airports, but when traveling by bus, train, and/or ferry too.

So how can you pack light but still be prepared? With the mindset that less is more. For clothing, check the weather forecast in your final destination and think about what activities you will be doing. If you wear the same pair of jeans twice, or even the whole weekend, no one will really notice.

The main reason I—someone who tends to over-pack—have come to terms with traveling light is because what you pack won’t define your trip. The most important thing about traveling is the experience and the desire to see and learn new things.

Study abroad has taught me that material things, including what you pack or don’t pack, really do not determine the outcome of your trip. So if you pack smart, but light, and have that less is more mindset, you will be prepared for your trip.

Susanna Sorrells


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

On My Way


I am currently at the Indianapolis International Airport about to begin my Journey to study abroad in Berlin, Germany. I will be participating in the program entitled, “Communications, New Media, and Journalism,” and I will be learning material that will go hand in hand with what I am learning here at IU in the journalism department. Not only will I be living in a beautiful and vibrant city, but I will also be studying material in line with my passions.

Adam at the airport

Me standing at the center of the Indianapolis International Airport after checking in for my flight to Berlin, Germany.

If you would have told me two days ago I had made it to the airport, fully packed and ready to go, I would not have believed you. Procrastination really takes on a new meaning when it comes to me. But here I am, waiting to board my plane. I wish I could tell you saying goodbye mom and dad and my boyfriend was easy, but it wasn’t. It was a very teary-eyed goodbye actually. It’s not my fault I’m surrounded by a lot of love in my life, and I’m sad to leave that behind, even if only for 5 months. I am however, very much looking forward to my upcoming trip now that my suitcase is packed, and I’ve said my goodbyes.

I will say, besides saying my goodbyes, one of the hardest parts of preparing for my trip has been packing my suitcase. There is so much that you would love to bring, but really should leave behind in order to have space for more important items. For example, I would have loved to have packed my fuzzy blanket, but I know I can always just buy one once I arrive. I did not, however, hesitate to bring my camera. I am now ready, as my mom said, to “let the journey begin!”


The Trip Before the Plane Ride

Abbey Hudetz. London, England

The thing that people don’t tell you about leaving to go abroad is that once the realization hits that you are going to another country for months on end, you essentially turn into a powder keg of emotions. In less than a week I will be on a flight to London, trying not to look like an idiot while I blow up my travel neck pillow and flip through Skymall magazine to figure out which of my million-dollar ideas I thought I had originally conjured have already been invented. Studying in London and travelling Europe will undoubtedly be the most romantic, existential, and invigorating experience of my life thus far. I harbor no inhibitions about the trip itself, I know it will play a poignant role in my development as a person and my worldview. But when it comes to leaving the people that I love, on some subconscious level, I am not quite sure how to confront my emotions. I am going to break down the roller coaster I have experienced thus far.

Phase 1: Irritability

Let me preface this by saying that I love my family. But this past week, I have been a trip. I know it, too. I was snapping at my brother without valid reason (how dare he ask to borrow my iPhone charger while I’m using it???). Needless to say, I have not exactly been a regular ray of sunshine. My mother tried delicately confronting me about this attitude problem – big mistake. “Oh, you don’t enjoy my company?” I barked back. “You do realize I leave in a week, right?” She explained that my departure was precisely the reason she thought I was showing such uncharacteristic irritability toward the people I care about most. She hypothesized that at a subconscious level, leaving them behind would be much less painful if I left upset with them. I immediately felt like I had been splenetic toward the people that I had meant to cherish my short window of time with. Cue the next phase…

Phase 2: Sentimentality

After those maternal insights, I realized that I had to abandon my immature behavior and face my reality head-on. I was about to leave my family, friends, and the country that I have called home in a few short days. I began to cherish every moment with my loved ones, almost obsessively. When you start to get emotional about clean laundry and leftovers simply because they remind you of home, it may be a red flag that you are somewhat unstable. Needless to say, I found it therapeutic and essential to carve out time for my loved ones. I opted to spend my New Years’ Eve at home rather than in a crowded party with strangers, probably one of the best memories of my break thus far.

Phase 3: Nerves, Nerves, Nerves

I write this phase about an hour before I am supposed to be whisked to the airport. I think I have quadruple-checked for my passport. I am utterly convinced that I have forgotten some essential item to make room for something frivolous, like the five bottles of nail polish that I could not bear to part with. I am a notorious over-packer, but somehow I always seem to leave behind some integral piece of the travel puzzle. I have butterflies that consist of equal parts excitement and panic. I feel as though someone took all of my emotions and threw them into a blender on the high setting. All this adrenaline will make it impossible to find solace in sleep on the plane, but the jet lag will be worth it.

Abbey Hudetz - Redefining herself through a global experience

Up, Up and Away!

Erica Ewen

Many emotions are coursing through me as I await my first flight, with my final destination in Berlin, Germany for the next 4 weeks; excited for the experiences ahead, sad to say goodbye to my family for a while, and anxious for the traveling process to get underway.

If you are anything like me, you have over-prepared (and probably over-packed) for the next few weeks ahead. There are many things that are essential to overseas travel like your passport, phone, money, etc., but there are also several things that are necessary that might not be as apparent to you unless you ask or are a seasoned world-traveler yourself!

Converters: European electric outlets are different from those in the United States and without your converters (I purchased mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond) you are sure to melt your cords and ruin your possessions. I also purchased a converter specifically for my phone from my cellphone provider.

Camera: This is a more of a personal preference item, but I have considered it a necessity for my trip. My iPhone camera would probably suffice, but I convinced my sister to let me borrow her Nikon D3100 with a 18-70mm lens. I can candidly say that I have no idea what those numbers mean, but I wanted to be able to capture all the things I will see with the best equipment!


Some of the necessities: passport, camera, backpack, jacket!

An Open Mind: This should be a day-to-day necessity, in my opinion, but it is especially needed when traveling to a new place with 10 other people that I have never met. I’m (somewhat) prepared for the culture shock and possible homesickness that I might face after a few days in Germany, but I can also say that I plan to combat that by remembering why I chose to come to Berlin in the first place. I really wanted to be immersed in the city that I have previously learned so much about in my courses at IU and learn about how the city and the culture has changed and how the people have adapted to that change.

I am thoroughly excited to be in Berlin and start this adventure!

Erica Ewen - exploring German History through experience

Waiting Room of Adventure

Sarah Whaley

Almost all my friends are gone. They are back to school, back at work, or already on their overseas adventures. I am home: washing dishes, working Monday through Thursday to pass the time, and scribbling tentative packing lists. And I still have a couple of weeks to go.

I don’t think I have ever experienced such a strange time in my life. I know I’m about to embark on a life-changing adventure, but I’m still here. It’s perplexing and I feel as if, in a way, I’m not entirely in existence anywhere. Half of my self is in Indiana, avoiding packing out of fear doing so will make my trip nonfiction. (Seriously, all I’ve done towards packing is put my suitcases in the hallway.) The other half of my self is already 10,000 air miles away in Adelaide, battling giant spiders and sea snakes. A bit dramatic, but if recent news is anything to judge by, my brain is doing me a favor by preparing for war.

Luggage & travel guide

My meager attempt at packing.

At first, the worst part about being in this antechamber of adventure (waiting room, but I like the way “antechamber of adventure” sounds like it could be the eighth Harry Potter book) was that my friends are no longer a campus walk away. But now I’ve reconnected with old friends at home and I’m spending almost every weekend traveling the state to see the rest. The worst part of waiting now is how my trip to Australia is all anyone wants to talk to me about. And I can’t even count the number of times the same people have asked me when I leave. I know they’re not anxious to be rid of me, but on darker days my mind sometimes goes there.

The first dream I had about Australia was a couple of months back. In the dream, I couldn’t make any new friends at University of Adelaide, and when I came back all my friends here had forgotten about me. The friends I told about the dream laughed at me to say, “As if that would ever happen.” But for as much as I laughed at myself in front of them, it’s still a legitimate fear. As legitimate as my fear of giant spiders and sea snakes.

Though I’m still struggling to feel fully in existence anywhere, my hope has been replenished thanks of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Diaries. Specifically, I’m given hope by the words of Mia’s father: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”

Traveling literally halfway around the world alone for the first time is incredibly terrifying. But while I’m clinging to these next couple weeks at home, I’m also anxious to move out of the waiting room and into my adventure. Fears of being friendless or bitten by animals aside, I could not be more excited. Not only will my overseas study give me the opportunity to take interesting classes, live within a different culture, and make new friends, but it will give me the opportunity to really get to know myself. After all, when all that you know is left behind, all that is left is you. I am looking forward to meeting myself in Australia.

View all posts by Sarah

Packing for Barcelona: The First Test

Katie Bosler

So, you are getting ready for your semester abroad. You have never been more excited. What seemed like a dream freshman year is finally here. You hit every deadline and meticulously checked off all of the requirements.

But there’s one small catch. How does one pack for an entire semester?

When attempting to assemble your entire closet into a single suitcase, you need to be prepared to “let go.” I know it’s not easy, girls. You probably have an emotional attachment to EVERY article of clothing you own. But now it’s time to say goodbye.

In my daydreams, I envision myself walking along the cobblestone streets of Barcelona. I’m picturing a much trendier, cooler version of myself wearing clothes seen only in magazines. During these sporadic dreams, which occur only during class and study time naturally, I’ve come to realize that taking every t-shirt and pair of jeans isn’t a smart move, and it’s definitely not going to make up for my lack of “euro” attire.

So instead, I have come to the conclusion that my wardrobe will revolve around seven staple items that will rotate among my daily and nightly outfits. Among this collection are two pairs of short, ankle boots for walking (black and brown, of course), two pairs of trusty jeans (light and dark wash), a light, navy blue jacket (perfect for mid-fifties temperatures), a patterned scarf (how euro!), and my loyal brown wayfarer Ray-Bans (a must have for photos). While these items may not seem like much of a start to my Barcelona wardrobe, I have no doubt in my mind I’ll be able to tie them into whatever I assemble in my attempt to look as non-touristy as possible!

clothes for packing

the seven staples


As for the rest of the items I’ve imagined myself sporting in my daydreams, I’ll spend my two and a half weeks of winter break begging and convincing my parents to take me shopping because I’ll NEED to be fashionable there (c’mon, Dad!).

Spring semester in Barcelona will see a range of weather and temperatures. I know it will be a good idea to pack for all kinds of weather due to our weekend visits to other countries with different climates. I’ll pack a heavy-duty winter coat (daydreams of the Swiss Alps) as well as good walking shoes. I will also throw in a swimsuit (or two) and shorts because if I don’t travel along the coast and see the many beautiful beaches in Spain come April, I’ll be one unhappy camper!

So, it’s time to start packing. Let’s get ready for the most memorable semester of our lifetime!

View all posts by Katie

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