When it comes to cameras, pick out a price range and then do research. Your photos will be your best souvenirs from your study abroad experience, believe me, so don’t skimp out on the camera. I’ve known people that have gone abroad and not taken a camera! If your budget permits, look into a SLR camera like the Nikon 3100. Point and Shoot cameras have come a long way and can take some amazing pictures, so depending on what your photography style is, they may be a better option. Decide if you want a variety of features and high-quality shots, or if you want something that can fit in your pocket. (Also, some smart phones take great photos but may not offer the lighting, zoom, and setting options that a real camera will offer. Consider using your smart phone as a point and shoot and getting a better camera for those artsy shots.)
No matter what, before you go abroad, learn how to use your camera. Figuring out how to adjust the settings while on the Charles’ Bridge in Prague is probably not a great idea.
2) Suitcases, backpacks, travel bags? Stick with functionality over fashion.
Let’s face it, your travel bags need to be durable and hold a lot. You don’t have to go out and buy the best suitcases on the market, but I wouldn’t advise getting a cheaply-made suitcase that will rip or lose a wheel. Look on Amazon.com or Overstock.com for some good deals. If you are going abroad for a semester, you’ll want a suitcase with lots of space and functionality. A rolling suitcase with 360 degree wheels that is lightweight will be your best friend in large airports. Go for the most light weight suitcase you can afford–those extra pounds will come in handy when you are packing! Brands like SwissGear and Samsonite can be worth the price if you plan to do a lot of traveling in the future. Check out places like T.J. Maxx for great suitcase deals.
I would highly recommend getting a backpack for your side travels while you are abroad. I had an Osprey and lived out of it for a month, and it was great. You don’t want a huge backpack, but something portable, lightweight, and functional will do the trick. Some brands to consider looking at are Deuter, Eagle Creek, Osprey, The North Face, and Patagonia. Check out Sunflower Outdoor Sports downtown! Darker colored bags are better because brightly colored bags will make you stick out in a crowd. (And make it easier to target you as a tourist.) Unless you plan to take a sleeping bag or a lot of other gear, you probably can live without gear hooks.
3) Tablet. Entertainment in one place for those long plane, train, and bus rides.
You are going to be on long plane rides, trains, buses, and maybe even boats. No one wants to lug around books to keep them occupied and you don’t really want to sit there with nothing to do. Bring a tablet to edge away boredom. Tablets are lightweight, portable, and can hold multiple books. It’s a great thing to ask Santa for. Check out Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad, Microsoft’s Surface, Google’s Nexus, or Samsung’s Galaxy Note.
4) Adapters. Practical and necessary.
This could be a good stocking stuffer! They are extremely necessary and can be relatively cheap.
5) Shoes that you can walk miles and miles in.
Girls pay attention to this one especially. Get comfortable shoes! You will be walking around a lot and the last thing you want is to ruin your mood by having uncomfortable shoes on. You don’t see your shoes in pictures. Something functional and supportive is an absolute must! Try a bunch of different brands and styles out, and then break them in! Shoes take up a lot of packing space so try to find something that’s versatile too!
I’ll reserve making too many specific recommendations but if you are going in the winter, get boots. Gym shoes are always needed too.
6) Journal. You are going to be making memories so why not write them down!
Pictures are great to record memories, but a journal is great too! Write down your experiences that pictures can’t capture. Write about the crazy things that happen to you, your classes, your new friends you are making, sketch, write quotes, do whatever. When it comes to picking out a journal, try to find something durable, but small enough to carry around with you. Consider bringing a glue stick or some tape as well–you can attach coins, postcards, ticket stubs, drink coasters, napkins, and other mementos to help you remember your experiences.