5 Things You Need Before Studying Abroad

When I studied abroad on Semester at Sea, I was the girl with way. too. much. luggage. It was my first time truly out on my own in the big, beautiful world and I couldn’t wait! But, I was also so afraid of forgetting something *essential* (you know, like my UNC jersey — I was missing March Madness that year), that I packed anything and everything I could into 2 GIANT suitcases. And, even with all of that over-packing and over-preparation, there were still quite a few things I wish I knew I needed for studying abroad. So, learn from my mistakes, friends! If you’re going abroad this Fall or next Spring and wondering what to pack for studying abroad, you’re going to want to stock up on these 5 essentials that would have made my life a lot easier, and are guaranteed to make your semester abroad even better.

1. A debit card with no foreign transaction fees

It’s important to think about money a lot before gearing up for a few months abroad, and, I’m sure by now you’ve worked out a budget (so you don’t accidentally blow all your money on a weekend in Ibiza or buying limoncello shots in Florence for your entire class), but have you thought about how you’re going to literally pay for everything during the trip? Many places abroad don’t take credit card, so it’s always important to have cash in their currency on you! But, most US banks charge astounding rates like $5 every time you use a foreign ATM. This is where a no-fee debit card comes in the clutch.

The best no-fee debit card for foreign travel that I’ve used is the NB Debit Card from Needham Bank. I highly recommend opening up an NB Checking account with them if you travel a lot, as their debit card comes in so handy no matter where you are in the world! NB Checking customers can use any ATM in the world and they’ll reimburse you for every single machine fee automatically; essentially making every ATM a Needham Bank ATM.  Also, I love that they’re a small bank with all of the personal touches and customer service that brings, but with all the technology to compete with the big banks.

2. Great walking shoes

Yes – I was the girl who thought her Jack Rogers could make it through 4 months of touring the world. And yes – I was very very wrong.

Let’s face it –  you’re going to be on your feet A LOT when you study abroad. Exploring cities, plazas, churches, museums, beaches, boardwalks and coastlines all over the world. So you’re going to want the right (read: both comfortable & cute) shoes to take with you. And if I had one shoe brand I could take with me on any trip anywhere in the world – it would be Allbirds.

Allbirds, made famous for their super-soft wool runners (that feel more slipper than sneaker), have perfected the travel shoe. And, their focus on sustainability and creating eco-friendly footwear is something no other shoe company has quite mastered yet (for example, the industry standard in flip flop shoes is a petroleum-based outsole, so Allbirds invented their own material derived from sugarcane to use instead!)

My favorite Allbirds for traveling are these white wool runners (super soft for long trips on planes, trains, and buses, and great for long days walking around Europe), as well as their new “Sugar Zeffers“- adorable flip flops that feel like you’re walking on clouds, and instantly put you in a vacation mindset (I love these yellow ones for beach days!)

3. The perfect travel suitcase

I’m a firm believer that there are few things in life more reliable than a great suitcase. My beautifully-designed AWAY suitcase has been everywhere with me, strolling along the cobblestone streets of Europe, splashing in puddles during rainy season in Bali, begging for its life on the ground as I stuff it WAY more than I ever should. It’s a part of every single one of my trips, and and it always manages to be under 50 lbs. (TG for that Medium checked size, if I had the large checked I would always be overweight!). I highly recommend grabbing one of these before studying abroad. They’re lightweight, beautiful, and super-functional.

4. A great reusable water bottle

I preach about my reusable water bottles all the time (i.e. in my recent post on My Favorite Travel Essentials), but FOR GOOD REASON! These babies are a life-saver while traveling. Long flight? Boom, hydration. Day at the beach? My s’well keeps things cold for 24 hours. On-the-go all day? My colorful  BKR glass bottle is my absolute favorite travel accessory.

And, by choosing to use a reusable water bottle, you’re helping the environment (did you know we throw away enough plastic a year to circle the earth four times? Seeing as it can take up to a thousand years for plastic to degrade, that’s not great news).


5. A portable charger & a universal travel adapter

Lets face it, just when we think we’re soaking up the moment and not using our phones too much, our battery hits the dreaded 10%. When you’re out and about all day, you’re not going to have access to a charger – so it’s important to invest in a good portable charger for your phone and electronics.  This one from Anker is highly rated on Amazon and can be used to charge your camera as well.

& while we’re talking Amazon buys – make sure to stock up on a travel adapter as well – I like this one by Conair because it works with all of my hair tools & electronics by converting the wattage  so you don’t end up blowing out the outlet (or melting your electronics!!)

*This post was sponsored by Needham Bank. Needham Bank is a member of the FDIC and a member of the SIF. As always, the views expressed are mine alone and based on personal experiences I’ve had with these products!


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  • Beautiful pictures like always.

    April 2, 2019