Packing and Preparation


The golden rule of packing for a semester or year abroad is to pack light! Take lightweight sturdy luggage and a backpack and/or daypack. Put a secure luggage tag on all of your luggage and a piece of paper with your contact information (U.S. and abroad) inside each bag. While what you need will vary with your destination, here are some general suggestions.

What to take

  • Lightweight sturdy luggage, along with a backpack or small bag for weekend trips
  • As few clothes and as much money as you can (most students outside the US own fewer clothes and other things than most Wellesley students).
  • Money-hider (such as a money belt) for traveling.
  • Any prescription medications (leave in labeled container) as well as prescriptions for refills.
  • Spare contact lenses (with a month’s supply of solution) and glasses.
  • Photos of family, friends, home and Wellesley -- to enjoy and to show friends abroad (people really like to see photos).
  • Personal stereo or Mp3 player, if you wish.
  • Pocket dictionary (English - ....) of the country you'll be living in (handy for carrying around town with you).
  • Gift, representative of something American if possible (e.g.maple syrup), if staying with a host family.
  • Favorite recipe(s), esp. simple ones, as you may want to -- or be asked to -- cook something from home.
  • Wellesley t-shirt(s) to leave as a memento /gift for a friend.
  • Some cash in local currency (see finances section) and two credit cards (one for usual expenses and one only for emergencies).
  • One or two good travel guides.
  • Digital camera, if you have one.
  • Power outlet adapters, if applicable.
  • Non-plug alarm clock.
  • Wellesley College course catalog, PINs and passwords for access to on-line services (such as library services).
  • Copies of your passport, visa, credit cards and medical prescriptions in case they are lost or stolen. Leave another set with a family member or friend at home.​

What not to take

  • Too much: generally you should be able to pack all you need yet still be under your flight's luggage limit. Also, keep in mind that you’ll come back with more than you take, and shipping is very expensive. 
  • Anything you can buy while abroad (e.g., too many toiletries, school supplies, towels). 
  • Expensive or sentimental jewelry. 
  • Electrical appliances, incl. hair dryers. It’s better to buy inexpensive appliances on site. 
  • Anything prohibited by the federal government, FAA or airline. Check before packing your bags for a list of prohibited items.

Check out the on how to pack lightly!


Learning about your Destination

It may seem obvious, but it is essential to find out as much as possible about the city, country and local culture before you arrive. You want to find out about the laws, customs, dress, gift giving, politics, religious practices, etc. If you have a pre-existing health condition, such as asthma or diabetes, you need to inform yourself how you will treat this condition while you’re traveling abroad. The following are some resources:


  • Returned Study Abroad Students (in person & written evaluations, available in the OIS and/or on our list of Current and Past Study Abroad Participants
  • International Students on campus (check with Slater International Center). 
  • Faculty whose teaching and research interests focus on the region


There are thousands of web sites that will provide you with information on your study abroad destination. A few very general sites are listed below, but you should do a search for sites dealing with your specific destination. Let us know which sites are of most use to you, and we’ll add them to the next edition of the Handbook!

Books about Study Abroad

Maximizing Study Abroad: A Student’s Guide to Strategies for Language and Cultural Learning and Use, R. Michael Paige et al. (2002) 

The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton (2000)

The Unofficial Guide to Study Abroad, Ann M. Moore

Traveler’s Tool Kit, Rob Sangster

The Traveler’s Handbook, Jonathan Lorie, ed.

The Travel Detective, Peter Greenberg

Do’s and Taboos Around the World, Roger E. Atell

The Art of Crossing Cultures, Craig Storti

The Survival Kit for Overseas Living, L. Robert Kohls

The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning, L. Daniel Hess

The Art of Coming Home, Craig Storti (Deals with reverse culture shock)

Short Term Job Adventures, Michael Landes (1997)

Study Abroad for Dummies, Erin Sullivan (2004)

Work Abroad: Complete Guide to Finding a Job Overseas, Clayton A. Hubbs

Books about your Destination


Into Africa, Yale Richmond an Phyllis Gestrin

South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland, Barbara McCrea (1999)

Let’s Go: South Africa, Coverage of Southern Africa, Let’s Go Publications


Encountering the Chinese, Hu Wenzhong & C.L. Grove (1991)

With Respect to the Japanese, John C. Condon

The New Japan, David Matsumoto (2002)

Learning to Think Korean, L. Robert Kohls (2001)

South Pacific and Australia

Culture Shock! Australia, 2001, Ilsa Sharp

In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson

A Fair Go For All: Australian and American Interactions, George W Renwick, Revised by Reginald Smart and Don L. Henderson

Considering Filipinos, Theodore Gochenour

Great Britain

Divided By a Common Language, Christopher Davies et al. (1998)

Lonely Planet Britain
, David Else
Lonely Planet British Phrasebook, David Else 
Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson


Ireland Since 1690: A Concise History, Roy Douglas et al. 1999.

Continental Europe

Let’s Go: Europe, Let’s Go Publications

Hostelling International Guide (Volume I) – Europe, Hostelling International 

Exploring the Greek Mosaic, Benjamin J. Broome

French or Foe? Polly Platt

From Da to Yes: Understanding the East Europeans, Yale Richmond

From Nyet to Da: Understanding the Russians, Yale Richmond

Spain is Different, Helen Wattley Ames

Culture Shock! France, Sally Adamson Taylor (1991)

Culture Shock! Spain, Maire Graff (2001)

Culture Shock! Italy, Raymond Flower (2003)

Los Espanoles de Hoy, John Hopper

Culture Shock! Successful Living Abroad, Mark Hempshell
Work Holidays Abroad, Mark Hempshell

Latin America

Cuba Diaries, Isadora Tattlin (2003)

Good Neighbors: Communicating with the Mexicans, John C. Condon

Let’s Go: Central America, Let’s Go Publications

Let’s Go: Mexico, Let’s Go Publications

The New Key to Costa Rica, Beatrice Blake (1999)

Understanding Spanish Speaking South Americans: Bridging Hemispheres, Skye Stephenson (2003)
Lonely Planet series

Culture Shock series

Middle East

Culture Shock: Morocco, Orin Hargraves (2001)

Border Crossings: American Interactions with Israeis, L. Shahar and D. Kurz

Discovering Islam: Making Sense of Muslim History and Society, A.S. Ahmed

Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Westerners, Margaret K. (Omar) Nydell

Women Abroad

Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad, Henry de Tessan, Christina, ed.

Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers, Morris, Mary, in collaboration with O’Connor, Larry. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

Safety and Security for Women Who Travel, Swan, Sheila and Laufer, Peter. San Francisco: Traveler’s Tales Inc., 1998.

Are You Two…Together? A Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide to Europe, Van Gelder, Lindsay and Brandt, Pamela Robin. New York: Random House, 1991.

A Journey of One’s Own: Uncommon Advice for the Independent Woman Traveler, Zepatos, Thalia. Portland, OR: The Eighth Mountain Press.

East Toward Dawn: A Women’s Solo Journey Around the World, Nan Watkins. 2002, Seal Press, NY.

Without Reservations. The Travels of an Independent Woman, Alice Steinbach, 2000, Random House, Inc., NY.

Women in the Wild, True Stories of Adventure and Connection, Lucy McCauley, 998, Travelers’ Tales, Inc., CA.

Gutsy Women-More Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road, Marybeth Bond, 2001, Travelers’ Tales, Inc., CA.

Women Travel: First-Hand Accounts from more than 60 Countries, Natania Jansz, 1999, Rough Guides, London.


Most of the books are available from one or more of the following websites:

The Globe Corner Bookstore in Harvard Square (90 Mt. Auburn St.; ( has the most extensive selection of travel books in the Boston area. This bookstore also sponsors a travel author lecture series.