Before I Leave For My Host Campus


In planning what to take, remember that closet and other storage space at international schools is often limited so pack only essentials. Currently, transoceanic flights allow two bags to be checked through to the ultimate international destination. Students checking their bags to an intermediate international city and then rechecking the bags on another flight may be informed of weight limitations of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) or less or of restrictions to fewer checked or carry on items. Be prepared to pay a fee if necessary. If in doubt, check with the travel agency as to what limits apply to both checked baggage and carry-ons.

Other items, such as bulky clothing for winter, may be sent by mail . Regular mail can take up to six to eight weeks for delivery (three months in Spain), but in can also take as little as one-two weeks depending on the mail service purchased (air/air freight). All packages will be charged customs fees when they arrive at international countries. For customs information be sure that USED CLOTHING is clearly indicated even then there may be a customs charge. It may well be worth airline surcharges to take these items as extra baggage to have them when you want them (although you may find bargains in local shops, some things are more expensive abroad).

Have a copy of any prescribed medications you may be currently taking (signed by your doctor). If border control officials find you in possession of certain prescribed medications, it can lead to serious problems. Outside of the US, there is a list of controlled substances that are considered illegal in other countries (you may want to research this list). To prevent complications, carry required medication in clearly labeled containers and copies of any applicable prescriptions.  Students taking regular prescription medications are advised to take at least a three month supply. Such students typically must purchase additional medication in their host country- which is not a problem as long as they are able to supply a pharmacist with the generic name of the medication, as well as the ingredients. But be aware that the medication may not contain the exact ingredients as the original prescription (due to certain ingredients being considered illegal).

In packing your carry-on bag, be sure to include personal toiletry items, a change of clothing, and any prescribed medication. Students have been occasionally separated from their luggage. However, be sure to stay within size and weight limits for carry-on bags to avoid paying an extra fee. It is wise to take an inventory of what you packed in your luggage for insurance purposes- in case your bags are lost or stolen.

As a stranger in a foreign land, you may unknowingly make such evident more than once, making yourself a target for con artists or thieves. DO NOT TRUST YOUR BAGGAGE OR PERSONAL EFFECTS WITH ANYONE other than an agent authorized to do so. Guard your carry-on baggage and other luggage whenever you travel, especially on trains/buses and at the airport/bus/train stations.

Current and former ACA students are essentially unanimous in suggesting the following:

  • Do not leave home without your passport!
  • Take $100 worth of local currency before entering the country, including coins or bills of small denominations for renting luggage carts.
  • Credit/debit card (American Express not recommended)
  • Phone charger while traveling
  • Take additional scans of the first page of your passport in case your physical passport is lost or stolen .
  • Take an International Driver’s License and state or provincial driver’s license, if you are planning any international driving.  Contact American or Canadian Automobile Association offices for details.
  • Take adapter plugs for any electrical appliances being transported.  Include a converter if the appliance is not for 220 volts.  Be sure voltage and wattage ratings of the converter are adequate for the appliances taken.  Adapter plugs and converters are not the same; bring both.
  • Bring warm clothes and comfortable close-toed shoes for school days as well as travel.  School buildings are not heated as much as North Americans may be accustomed to – usually not above 65 degrees F.  Think in terms of clothes that can be layered.  It can be chilly in the morning, warm by midday and cold again at night. This is true at all campuses.
  • Take a back pack. It will be handy for independent traveling and is not as easily damaged.
  • Keep in contact with your parents, regarding any changes in your itinerary while traveling, and once you have arrived safely to your destination.

Because needs and priorities differ so markedly among individuals, it is impossible to produce a list of “must take” items  for a year abroad. It is only possible to indicate some of the items that previous students have indicated as having a high priority.