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Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or have never left home before, getting to ready to study abroad in the USA is a big deal. After all, you’re not just packing for a short vacation, you’ll be getting ready to move to a new country for a few months—or a few years. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with trying to figure out what to bring, don’t worry. Check our expert study abroad packing list and you’ll be able to stop procrastinating and start packing.
With any trip, there are a few things you must bring. Studying abroad is no different. Here are a few things every international student should have on their student packing list.
- Your passport.
- Your I20 form. This will be used at the airport when you enter the United States as proof of your legal status in the US.
- Cash and/or Credit Card. It’s a good idea to have both, if possible.
- A pen—you’ll need it for filling out the customs form (Starting 2018, most entry airports in the US has implemented Automated Passport Control. No paper Customs declaration form is needed for entering the passport control).
- Your acceptance letter. It might be asked for when you are arriving in the United States.
- A printed copy of your flight itinerary. When you book your ticket with StudentUniverse, you will get an electronic itinerary. However, it’s good to have a printout with you as well, just in case you don’t have Internet access or in case your phone runs out of battery.
- Your medical record. Getting accepted is not the end of the paperwork you’ll need to do for your new school! Before you arrive, one of the things you’ll have to do is complete a physical examination. Your school will give you requirements for this and you’ll need to bring your medical record and documents with you.
- Your favorite clothes. Everyone has some clothes that you just can’t leave behind. You might also want to bring a few of your favorite clothes depending on what climate your new school will be in (you will need warm clothes if you’re studying on the East Coast of the USA!). But don’t bring too many clothes—there’s plenty of shopping and discounts year-round in the US and you can buy clothes while you are here.
- Shoes. Pack a few pairs of your favorite shoes, and don’t forget your slippers for the shower!
- Socks and underwear.
- Stationary. Although your school’s bookstore will sell stationery, if you really like cute stationary or if you have some notebooks and pens you really love, you might want to bring them with you.
- An extra pair of glasses and contact lenses. It’s important to be prepared in case something unexpected happens, like if you break or lose your glasses. Even though all international students have to purchase health insurance, not all insurances cover eyeglasses, so it’s good to have a backup pair just in case. In addition, bring an extra pair of contacts. In the United States, you usually need a doctor’s prescription to buy contact lenses, so it’s a good idea to bring your own even if you don’t usually wear contacts at home.
- Some medicine from home. Although your school will have a nurse or health center on campus, you will usually need to make an appointment in advance to see a nurse or get medicine. In addition, the medicine in the United States can be different than what you are used to at home. It’s very helpful to just bring some medicine from home for colds, stomachaches and headaches.
- Your favorite snacks. This is a must on any study abroad checklist! Sometimes you just need the comfort of your favorite food from home. Thankfully, there are a lot of Chinese supermarkets in big cities in the United States, so you’ll be able to get lots of your favorite foods and ingredients at these markets. One thing to remember is that you won’t be able to bring any meat products into the US.
Things You’ll Need That You May Not Have Thought of
- Accessories. Of course you can get accessories in the United States, but there are more options in China. There are also usually more reasonable prices on accessories in China. If you have space in your suitcase, you should definitely add these to your study abroad packing list.
- Your Chinese sim-card. Although you’ll want to get a local SIM card when you get to the US, you’ll sometimes need to receive text messages at your Chinese number. For example, there are times you’ll have to receive a verification code at your Chinese number.
- Phone charger and cases.
- The Essential Balm. Many students recommend bringing the essential balm to the US. There aren’t many places in the US that sell it and it’s useful to have on hand for bug bites and other small problems.
Things You Think You’ll Need, But You Won’t
- Bedding. You may think that you’ll need to pack bedding, but it’s easier to just buy new bed linens when you arrive in the United States. If you plan ahead, you can look up the size of the beds at your university on the school’s website, buy your bedding online, and then have it shipped directly to your school. Some places where you can buy bedding online in the US are Amazon, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea, Kohl’s and more.
- Printed Photos. Getting photos printed out is a great way to decorate your room and ease homesickness. However, it’s just as easy to print photos from local stores in the US like CVS and Walgreens. You can also upload digital pictures to websites like Shutterfly or FreePrints and have printed photos shipped to your school. On the other hand, if you want to print out posters, you might want to do it at home. American posters are more expensive and might not have the images you like.
- A power strip. Save space in your luggage and just buy a power strip when you get to the US. They are commonly sold here, and besides, some of the ones from home might not fit in the American sockets.
- Cooking utensils like rice cookers. These cooking tools are really heavy—too large to pack! Plus, they are commonly sold in America, so you can just buy one when you arrive.
- Tea and a tea set. If you are really picky about your tea, it might be comforting to have tea from home!
- Some small gifts from home. Giving your roommate and your new friends small gifts from China is always a great way to start a conversation and a friendship.
In the end, don’t let yourself be too stressed or overwhelmed by packing! You might feel like your packing list is getting quite long, but the most important things to have are some money and whatever is essential to live for about a week. Most of all, remember to bring your clear plan for the future and your passion! Take heart and be courageous: you’re going to enjoy your life abroad.