Study Abroad in Spain: What to Pack for a Semester in Spain
So you’re on your way to study abroad in Spain -- congratulations! Before you hop on that plane and embark on your new adventure, there is one more mountain to climb: packing. You may have asked yourself: what do I pack for a semester in Spain? There are as many methods to packing as there are approaches to traveling. Some prefer to haphazardly throw items in a suitcase and hope for the best, while others may prefer to do a little more planning. Whichever category you fall under, here are essential items to bring with you for your semester in the enchanting country of España. Remember studying abroad in Spain has the potential to be life-changing, in all the right ways, and the last thing you want is to have your experience studying abroad in Spain be dampened by not packing the right things for your trip!
Comfortable and versatile walking shoes
Compared to many places in the US, Spaniards walk quite a bit: to and from public transportation, to the store, to class, to restaurants. Regardless of the city’s size, you’ll be walking. Bring good shoes so you can enjoy the journey! Trust me, your feet will thank you. Want to know what else you can leave at home?
Enough beauty supplies to last until you can restock
First, hair. I didn’t know about peluquerías, so I ended up bringing enough supplies to last the entire semester. If you are less inclined to haul a small beauty supply store around in your bag, consider local options. For example, Peluquería Afro Mari Cruz has a wide selection of hair care products and they can ship supplies to you while you are abroad. (Check out other Black Hair Salons in Madrid here!)
Second, makeup. If you like to get jazzed up and throw on some foundation and lipstick when the mood strikes, it is in your best interest to have enough to last the entire semester. Finding foundation to match your melanin is easier in big cities like Madrid or Barcelona, but can be trickier in small towns as options will be more limited. Where do WOC buy makeup in Spain?
Versatile clothing items
Rather than stuff your suitcase within an inch of its life with clothing, try to leave room for souvenirs and other items you’ll bring back home. Packing strategy plays a key role in making this work. Pick items that you can mix and match and items that are appropriate for a variety of settings and situations. Jeans are the most common example. It is no secret that they work in a wide variety of scenarios and can be dressed up or down. They are also great for walking (see point #1).
For me, versatile clothing also looked like a jean jacket or a black shift dress. I could wear either of them to class, on weekend trips, to bars, and on walks around the city. Everyone in Spain probably saw me wear it at least once. Of course it is okay to bring that statement piece, but strategy is key. Are you a curvy girl in Spain? Here’s our list of places where you can find cute, fashionable clothes to show them off!
Outlets vary by country. Some have two pins, others three, some are round, others straight. Make sure you carry the proper adaptor so you can keep your devices charged and ready to go.
Copies of important documents
In case of emergency, it is critical to have copies of documents such as your ID, passport, and credit or debit cards. Keep these copies in a separate secure location away from the actual ID, passport, or credit cards. That way, if you lose one you won’t lose them all.
However life-changing your experience in Spain is, the sad truth is that you will inevitably forget things: funny moments, sad moments, even details of moments you swear to always remember. Such is the nature of the human brain. Keeping a journal helps combat that loss and encourage time for reflection and appreciation. It is a great tool for personal growth and will be great to look back on and read in the years to come. Here’s why you should keep a journal abroad!
A collapsible duffle bag
These are convenient for weekend trips and, should you leave with significantly more than you arrived with (like yours truly), you can put the extra items in there! No overweight bag fees!
A gift for your host family (if you are doing a homestay)
Bringing a small gift to your host family is a fun way of sharing a little bit about yourself and your home while also expressing your appreciation. The gift doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive—the important part is in the act of demonstrating your gratitude. Plus, it serves as a great conversation starter and icebreaker during those first moments of introduction and adjustment.
Block out the haters and the sun. It’s a win-win.
A “nice” outfit
Shorts and sweatshirts may be your clothing of choice, but it’s not a bad idea to carry one dressier outfit. I’m not advising anyone to squeeze back into their prom dress or tux, but it is nice to have something you can wear to a fancier restaurant, event or party.
One staple “going out” outfit
Spain is a social country full of social people. If you or your friends decide to go out, then you’ll have an outfit on hand. Leave the stilettos at home and opt for something you can be comfortable in and still look good. After all, face planting on cobblestone is not cute in any country.
Your sense of adventure!
Cheesy, I know. But hear me out. It really is critical to bring your best attitude because it can make or break an experience. Be open-minded and approach the semester knowing that there will be moments of discomfort, but also remember that leaving your comfort zone is an important part of growth.
Lastly, packing is very individual and no one knows you better than yourself. If you love to exercise, bring workout clothes. If you plan on joining a music group, bring your guitar. If have medications you need to take, pack those too. It is also important to consider the where and the when. The weather varies by location and time of year. The south tends to have a more Mediterranean climate while the north is rainy. A few minutes of research before you leave can save you from being ill-prepared later on. Enjoy your time studying abroad in Spain, and with these packing tips, you’ll have no problem moving through these Spanish streets like a local!
Ultimately, a little pre-packing prep is all you need to get your semester started off on the right foot. ¡Que vaya bien!
Kalyn is a Jersey-born, California-bred recent grad with big plans for the future (that may or may not include meeting Beyoncé and Solange). Although currently stateside, she plans to find her way overseas again soon. In the meantime, you can generally find her in a library, watching House Hunters International, or posting photos on https://www.christineandriley.com.