A Material Girl’s Guide to Packing for Study Abroad

Photo credit to Madelyn Walthall.

Ciao! I’m Madelyn Walthall and this semester I am studying abroad with SAI at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. As I’ve settled in, unpacked and had my first week of classes, I am finally getting settled in here in the Eternal City. With that being said, the road to Rome was not an easy one. Not only the 12 hour flight, but the planning, the preparing and especially the packing all took more time than I’d care to admit. 

Like much of the Loma population, I too have a fascination with clothes and fashion. There is a common theme here at Point Loma Nazarene University that thrifting and going to local markets is the best way to find new pieces to add to your wardrobe. With the accumulation of clothing I had gathered in my year and a half in San Diego, along with everything else I’d had prior to coming to PLNU, packing everything into one bag seemed daunting. Especially keeping in mind it had to fit under the weight limit of 50 pounds. 

To begin, I laid out all of my favorites. Slowly I began to chip away from a giant mass of clothing to a smaller and lighter load. The key to packing for any long trip is to focus on the basics. For example, I chose three basic long sleeve shirts over one elaborately designed sweater because they were lighter and more wearable. As much as it pained me to leave behind some of my favorite things, they’ll be happily awaiting my return home. Packing more basic tees and long sleeves that can be reworn with different jackets or pants is a must. 

After picking through my pile and packing the basics, I looked for bigger and heavier items that I couldn’t leave America without. This included jeans, pants, jackets, hoodies and other bulkier things. With this, less is more, bonus points because these can be reworn often! 

Here’s where research is important. Knowing the weather patterns at the destination will ultimately shape what you bring and what you leave behind. In Rome, the winter and springs are on average a lot rainier than the seasons are in San Diego. So rather than bringing my collection of sundresses, shorts and tank tops, I knew that I would have to reserve that space for more jackets and an umbrella. Also for all the So-Cal locals, layering is the most effective way to stay warm when it is no longer 70 and sunny. 

So by this point, I had my basics packed, my layerable clothes, jeans and pants rolled away and jackets stuffed in every corner of my suitcase. However much room left over is yours to fill! This was, personally, the most fun part of my packing endeavor. The remaining 10ish pounds were dedicated to bright red jackets, dresses for if the sun ever peaks out behind the rain clouds and patterned sweaters to my heart’s galore. Ultimately, the time that you will be abroad is so short, and looking back you will remember all the places you saw and experiences you had, not the clothes you did or didn’t wear. 

For those interested in study abroad programs visit the study abroad office at https://www.pointloma.edu/offices/study-abroad-office

Written By: Madelyn Walthall