Life from a Suitcase: Tips for Study Abroad Packing


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By Audrey Danser

Packing for a long-term trip is no easy ordeal, especially if you’re concerned with fashion. I was recently faced with this packing predicament (and might I add much fashion anxiety) when I prepared my luggage for a four-month long study abroad experience.

How was I going to do without my vintage gold beaded clutch with the delicate nearly-there strap or that perfectly structured LBD that makes me feel like Audrey at Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Or even my yellow snakeskin sandals that are completely impractical for city walking but are just too cute that the look themselves make up for the blisters that come later. As I tried to pick out what I was going to bring with a 50-pound limit, including all of my other essentials packed alongside, I couldn’t help but wonder, would I have to be unstylish in Europe?

I answered my own question in the first week on location. If you pack smartly, a minimized wardrobe can be quite versatile and a 20″ suitcase is more than enough room.

If you’re anything like me, I envisioned myself with a changed fashion style across the pond–perhaps a little more edgy and daring. Chances are, however, if you don’t wear it at home, you won’t have a sudden and drastic change in style while traveling. After the first few weeks, no matter how hard you try, you’ll revert back to what is most comfortable for you to attend class, study and play in.

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Sophomore Megan Reschke, who studied for a semester at University College Cork in Ireland, avoided packing frivolous statement pieces by receiving guidance from blogs of students who had studied abroad in Europe.

“I spent a significant amount of time looking into the general style of my particular country,” Reschke said. “I decided not to bring anything too trendy, just because I wasn’t certain that trends in Kansas were the same as trends in Ireland.”

Making a wardrobe feel new during several weeks and the same clothing is all about working with the composition–pairing unexpected materials, textures or subtle patterns to create a unique look.

Senior Mary Rose Scarpelli, who just returned from her second KU study abroad experience, advises that shoes are the best investment.

“Here I walk a lot, there I walked a lot,” she noted, and adding that an investment pair of versatile boots and walking sandals purchased specifically for these trips were worth the while.

Apart from smart shoe choices, neutral outer wear is important because a jacket is how you present yourself to the world: it is worn walking to class, worn out to the pub on chilly nights, and is seen in all of your tourist photos that you’ll post on your blog. It is key to keep the design, fit and color (camel or black) simple. A basic form can easily be transformed by a bold scarf, broach and statement bag.

Ultimately, when choosing the perfect travel wardrobe, keep in mind that the less you pack now, the more room in your luggage later for unique finds you’ll discover abroad. Those pieces will be introduced into your home wardrobe soon enough and will have a much more significant meaning to you than that extra pair of plum-colored Harlem pants you had once considered packing.


Edited by Katie Gilbaugh

Photos by Audrey Danser