Packing Tips from a Study Abroad Alumna

September 27, 2017

One thing I wish I'd had more information about before arriving at John Cabot University in Rome is knowing what to pack! For many students, Rome is a brand-new environment with a different climate and set of fashion rules that is hard to prepare for in advance. Knowing what to pack can save a lot of headaches, especially with limited suitcase space and a lack of stores like Target to pick up quick “necessities". My home university held informational workshops that gave us a little information on what to pack, some of which turned out to be misguided, but no concrete list to go by. The internet is overwhelming when it comes to what Italians wear and how to blend in; I mean, we can’t possibly look like fashionistas every day at school, and high heels certainly don’t work on ancient cobblestone. Every student is different and will have a different idea of how they want to approach fashion or packing, but I will give a few pointers on some of the items I wish I had brought, and things I brought but shouldn't have. Sorry, gentleman, this advice is going to be more directed towards the ladies!

The beginning of the semester was the most difficult for me because I didn’t pack enough summer clothing. I was told by my school and a few other sources that Italians don’t wear shorts or sandals, so I followed this advice and it proved disastrous. Don’t underestimate the hot, humid climate of Rome. Try to stay conservative, but DO pack shorts, tank tops, and some kind of flat sandal that is comfortable to walk in. Having clothes mailed is a lengthy and expensive process that you want to avoid, believe me! The weather is usually hot until mid-October so you will get a lot of use out of summer clothing. Even after that, temperatures will still be mild, so have layers and short-sleeved shirts on hand.

For the colder months, bring one large winter coat such as a pea or trench coat and something that is made for rain. Leather jackets are also a great choice and very popular, but you may want to buy one here for the quality. There is a rainy season in Rome, so I suggest purchasing cheap rain boots upon arrival (to save space; discard when you leave). This leads me to shoes…bring only the essentials and shoes that go with everything. Pack some kind of boot, a pair of tennis shoes (for workouts or hiking), a simple flat or nicer walking shoe, and a pair of wedges. Heels are not practical! The pair of heels I brought sat in the corner of my room and collected dust.

Remember that you will spend a lot of time in your apartment (I misjudged this) so bring comfortable and warm clothes like sweatpants and a hoodie to lounge around in, especially for the colder months. The apartments get very chilly, and heaters are not functional until early November. In addition, bring PLENTY of socks and underwear or you will be doing a lot of time-consuming laundry. Washers in Italy can take up to two hours to complete a cycle and there are no dryers. Make sure the clothes you pack are wrinkle-resistant and can withstand multiple washings.

The single best piece of advice I received before I left was that Italians wear almost all black clothing, and it turned out to be the absolute truth. From jackets to pants, scarfs, hats and shoes, black is the color of choice for the citizens of Rome and copying this is the easiest way to blend in. Black is the simplest way to have less clothing that matches everything. Romans also dress nicely to do just about anything, so wearing yoga pants, an oversized shirt, and tennis shoes will instantly brand you as a tourist. Classes get hectic and sometimes you just want to wear comfy clothes and go eat pizza, but try to avoid this - after all, this is the capital of fashion! Don’t get me wrong: the Italian students are just like us. Contrary to what I was told, they too wear jeans and Converse shoes, just with a little more flair.

Packing efficiently and effectively will help you have a fluid and stress-free transition into life as a study abroad student. Do research and take advice from people, but don’t forget to keep your own personal sense of style. After all, when everything around you is new and confusing, you will want to feel comfortable in what you are wearing. Study abroad is meant to promote cultural exchange, so absorb ideas and style from Italy, but share your own style in return. Happy packing!

packing tips, study abroad, study abroad tips, studying abroad in Rome,

Jourdan Wilke
Study Abroad Fall 2015
Finance & Accounting Double Major
Texas Tech University
Learn more about studying abroad at John Cabot University.

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