The ultimate, definitive list for university packing — international student edition

list for university packing
Instant noodles -- the ultimate broke university student meal and one of the top things that make it onto the list for university packing. Source: AFP

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the intimidating task of applying and getting accepted into a school abroad. But now comes the hard part: preparing your list for university packing. 

How does one pack for life abroad? Especially when this trip isn’t just about having the time of your life travelling and exploring, but also putting your head down and studying too? 

Fear not, for we know exactly what you need to bring along for your journey abroad and have the tips to help making packing easier. 

list for university packing

Avoid overpacking by creating a list to guide you. Source: AFP

Why is a list for university packing essential?

Packing up your things and leaving home for a few months or years can be chaotic, so having a list for university packing helps ensure that you don’t forget anything important. 

You’ll be able to stay organised by using a list, and you can even break down what you need to pack into categories, going through each item and checking it off as you pack. This systematic approach reduces the chances of you forgetting something.

Plus, having a list helps you avoid the stress of packing at the very last minute. When you’re in a hurry, you’re more likely to throw unnecessary items into your suitcase or forget important things. You may end up overpacking or, worse, leaving your essentials behind.

list for university packing

Check the laws in the country to ensure you do not pack any prohibited items. Source: AFP

What you don’t need on your list for university packing

Here are five items that students often pack but don’t actually need:

  • Excessive clothing

While it’s tempting to pack your entire wardrobe, you don’t need all your clothes. Instead of packing multiple outfits for every occasion, focus on versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched. 

  • Too many shoes

Shoes can take up a lot of space in your luggage. Limit yourself to essential pairs suitable for the climate and walking. 

  • Too many electronics

While you need essential gadgets like your laptop, phone, and chargers, packing multiple devices can be unnecessary. Think about whether you really need items like that tablet, e-reader, or PlayStation.

  • Full-size toiletries

Packing large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries can make your luggage unnecessarily heavy. Opt for travel-sized containers and buy the full size once you have settled into your new place. Many stores worldwide carry popular brands, so you’ll definitely find what you need locally.

  • Prohibited items

Certain items may be prohibited in the country you are going to. This could include certain medications, food items, and electronics. Before packing, find out the customs regulations of the country to avoid any issues.

list for university packing

No matter how well you pack, you won’t be going anywhere without your passport. Source: AFP


8 categories you must have on your list for university packing 


1. Passport and plane tickets

You can’t travel without your passport. Make sure it is valid for at least six months beyond your programme’s end date. For example, if your programme ends in May 2024, your passport should be valid until at least November 2024. This ensures you have proper identification and can travel if needed during or after your studies. 

And while most airlines are going paperless by sending your plane tickets via email, having a physical copy of your ticket can come in handy when you find yourself scrambling to get internet connection.

2. Documents

Ensure you have all essential documents on your checklist. This includes your visa, identification, driver’s license, proof of health insurance, and your acceptance letter from the university. 

These documents are necessary for legal identification, accessing healthcare services, and confirming your enrollment status. 

3. Cash 

It’s good to note that some countries still prefer using cash over cards or e-wallets, and having cash comes in clutch even when you’re in countries that are cash-free. 

Having local currency on hand can be helpful for immediate expenses like transportation, meals or small purchases upon arrival. It’ll also come in handy for the time prior to you setting up your bank account.

4. Medication

Medication is one of the most important things to include on your list of university packing. This includes prescription medications and any over-the-counter medications or supplements you regularly take. 

You’ll also want to carry a copy of your prescription in case you need a refill or medical assistance while at university. 

list for university packing

Make sure you pack the appropriate clothing for all weather conditions. Source: AFP


1. Appropriate seasonal clothing

Different seasons require different outfits, so remember to pack basics that can be layered or paired differently.

T-shirts, sweaters, and jeans will most likely be your staples. You’ll appreciate packing a set or two of formal and business wear for potential presentations, interviews, or formal events. As an international student, you might even want to pack a set of your traditional clothes for festivities, like a sari or a dashiki.

2. Shoes

It’s important to pack comfortable shoes for walking around campus and attending classes. You will probably need a pair of sneakers for everyday wear, sandals for warmer weather and dress shoes for more formal occasions.

If your destination tends to snow, get yourself a good pair of water-resistant and slip-resistant boots so you don’t take a fall.

list for university packing

Don’t forget your favourite spices to cook all your favourite meals. Source: AFP


Put away the pots, pans, and other kitchen tools — these bulky and heavy essentials can be purchased everywhere in the world, so save your luggage space for the items that are more difficult to acquire.

Still, we understand that some of you (especially those in this student forum) wouldn’t mind giving up precious luggage weight to bring a rice cooker along, and that’s okay.

Other kitchen essentials you may need include:

1. Spices 

Packing spices for university can be essential, especially if you want to recreate dishes from your home country or add familiar flavours to your meals. 

If you’re craving your mom’s chicken biryani, having the right blend of Indian spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala can make all the difference.

Since some countries may not have a wide variety of spices readily available, bringing your own ensures you can enjoy meals that remind you of home.

2. Snacks

Include your favourite snacks on your list of university packing as they may be unavailable overseas and are a great source of comfort when homesickness hits.  

Whether it’s Vegemite for Australians or kaya spread for the Singaporeans and Malaysians, a snack that reminds you of home will always be a good investment in the long run. 

list for university packing

Don’t forget your favourite cuddle toy on your list for university packing. Source: AFP


1. Bedsheets 

While you can purchase bedsheets at your university town, it’s worth considering buying them back home. By packing along your bedsheets, you won’t have to spend the first night or week sleeping on a bed without the sheets.

Take note of what size your room’s mattress is before you make the purchase as you don’t want an ill-fitted bedsheet.

2. Mattress protector

Did you know that bed bugs are commonly found in college dormitories?

Dorm room beds can often be dirty, and you don’t want to sleep directly on them. A mattress protector is a barrier, ensuring a clean sleeping surface. Using a mattress protector also helps maintain the mattress’s condition, which may be important for getting your deposit back. 

list for university packing

Sunscreen is essential to protect you from harmful UV rays. Source: AFP


1. Skincare 

Moving to a different country with different weather conditions can and will affect your skin. 

Bring only the most basic essentials such as sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, a cleanser and moisturiser to start off. As you get used to the new surroundings, you’ll be able to find products that are more suited towards your skin in the country itself. 

2. Shower essentials

Have a set of travel-sized shower essentials in your list for university packing to ensure you have the basics when you arrive. Remember to pack your toothbrush too! 

Pro-tip: Make use of your supermarket or grocer’s delivery feature and purchase heavier and bulkier items with the service so you can have them delivered to your door. This way, you won’t be struggling with your bags of necessities and can focus on getting perishable items like food instead on your first trip to the grocers. 

3. Slippers

Bathroom slippers could also be useful because dorm rooms typically have shared bathrooms. You don’t want to be putting on your sneakers or boots for every trip you make to the bathroom. 

4. Portable bidet 

Did you know that many countries do not have bidets in their toilets? This includes common study-abroad destinations like the UK and the US

If you are used to having a bidet in your toilet, this could be an adjustment for you. Thankfully, you can now buy portable bidets online to overcome this little culture shock. 

list for university packing

Your laptop is an essential on your list for university packing. Source: AFP

Electrical items:

1. Laptop 

Phone aside, your laptop will be your second most important electrical item that’ll help you through your studies.

While some universities have on-campus computer rooms for all your needs, having a personal laptop allows you to do all your university work from the comfort of your room or wherever you choose to set up for the day.

2. Universal adapter

A universal adapter is essential when packing to go abroad. It ensures that you can plug in your electronic devices, like laptops and phones, regardless of the socket type in the country. 

For example, if you’re from Asia and studying in Europe, you’ll need an adapter to fit European outlets. Without it, you may find yourself unable to charge your devices until you find one. 

3. Chargers 

Chargers are a must-have item on your university packing list to keep all your devices powered and ready to use. 

From your phone to your laptop, and from your wireless earbuds to any other hand-held devices, packing a charger is almost as important as packing the item itself.