The ultimate packing list if you are going to study abroad this year

For many of us, the new school year/semester is coming very fast and very soon. For some of us, a new education year is nothing special - you just have to set the alarm clock back into ‘I have got to get up early’ mode and go to school, college, university or however you want to call it.

However, for some of us starting a new year means more. It is related to moving out of home sometimes into a new city or even into a new country. This is related to getting familiar in a new surrounding and starting a new life where you don’t know where to find the best coffee in town, how to ride the bus or how to speak the language (cheers to all langblrs out there ;) ).

For all of you who belong to the second type of people, I dedicate today’s post. Organizing all the things that are related to such a move and saying goodbye to all your loved ones needs enough energy. You should not spend your time thinking about all the items that you need to pack for the big journey. And for this reason, I provide you with the ultimate packing list if you are going to study abroad this year. If you’re missing something that you would never leave at home reblog this post and add your most important travel gadget/item!

With that being said, travel safely and pack wisely ;)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


  • Bath towels
  • Brush
  • Face wash
  • First-aid kit
  • Flip-flops (in case you have to share your bathroom)
  • Floss
  • Hair straightener (no hairdryer, buy it at your destination)
  • Hand towels
  • Makeup (eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush etc.)
  • Makeup remover
  • Nail products (nail polish, clippers, file)
  • Patches
  • Pain medication
  • Razor
  • Thermometer
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Travel-sized shampoo, lotion, deodorant)


  • Alarm clock
  • Blanket
  • Decoration (e.g. pictures of your friends and family)
  • Earplugs
  • Favorite pillow
  • Mattress pad
  • Pillowcases
  • Sleeping mask


  • All of your chargers
  • Batteries
  • Calculator
  • Extension leads
  • Headphones
  • Laptop
  • Smartphone
  • USB stick

Kitchen (buy this stuff at your destination)

  • Favorite candy from home
  • Kitchen scale


  • Bujo or a traveller’s journal
  • Driver’s licence
  • Extra bags
  • Financial aid information
  • Important addresses
  • Luggage tags with your contact details
  • Medical insurance card
  • Passport
  • Passport photos
  • Travel details & confirmation
  • Travel tickets
  • Visa
  • Water bottle
  • Wallet (Cash, coins and credit card)


  • Coat
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Jacket
  • Scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun protection
  • Umbrella
  • Water-resistant boots
  • Water-resistant jacket


  • Accessories (few, please!)
  • Bottoms
  • Blazer
  • Dress
  • Hoodie
  • Jeans
  • Pajamas
  • Shoes
  • Skirt
  • Socks
  • Sportswear and athletic shoes
  • Sweaters
  • Sweat pants
  • Tops
  • Undergarments

Extra tips

  • Before you overload all of your bags contact your university and try to find out which of the items they will provide. Perhaps there is something like a starter kit they offer so you do not have to carry bulky bed or kitchen items with you.
  • Take only your favorite clothes with you. But there is this fancy dress that you own that one day could look so cool? Leave it at home. You won’t wear it. Period.
  • Don’t take things with you that can be easily bought after your arrival. This includes hair dryers, kettles, flat irons, big bags, stationery, kitchen items etc.
  • In case you want to travel with additional luggage ask your airline before your departure date regarding their conditions. There are airlines that offer an online check-in for your additional luggage or a pre registration. If you take advantage of such offers you can save a few coins.
  • Don’t forget to make a (digital) copy of your most important documents and cards!
Why am I learning German again?

We get it. You just learned that there are 16 forms of the word “the” or “a” or that the line between accusative and dative lies in whether there is movement involved. You stay up at night wondering why Mädchen (girl) has a neutral article and you keep insulting strangers with your dutzen.  You put your book down and wonder, “Should I have taken Spanish?” 

It goes without saying that we are biased, but we would answer with a resounding “no”. Or yes (in fact, many of our diplomats also speak Spanish), but in addition to German. Here are our arguments for why:

Word of the Week: Blumenpracht

If you visit a small town in Germany in the spring or summer, we’re sure you’ll see at least one Blumenpracht on someone’s balcony. That’s because Germans love to show off their flower displays!

The term Blumenpracht comes from the words Blume (“flower”) and Pracht (“splendor” / “glory” / “magnificence”). A Blumenpracht describes a glorious display of flowers - one that has any nature lover turning their heads in awe. A Blumenpracht is more than just a few flowers in a pot; it’s a very serious display of flowers that goes beyond what your average person would have at home. This type of flower display requires lots of attention and care.

Originally posted by annataberko

But a Blumenpracht is not necessarily found in someone’s home or garden. It can also be found in public spaces - like a park or botanical garden. If it makes you whip out your camera or stop in awe, then you’re surely looking at a magnificent Blumenpracht.

Applying to a German University

Have you ever wondered what it would be like, not just to study abroad for a semester or year, but rather to be a full-time student at a German university? These thoughts may cross your mind, and may be held back by looking around to see everyone else staying stateside. We assure you, however, that there are others out there applying abroad. Germany has some of the top colleges in the world (3 in the top 50) and generally comes at a much lower cost than those in the states.

This said, we get that it is an intimidating process to apply abroad. There are fewer people to ask questions and guidance counselors aren’t typically informed about options. We’d like to do our part to help! As such, we recruited American CBYXer (see here: ) Mackenzie to answer your questions on the application process. She herself is currently at the end of the process with acceptance letters in hand.

What made you want to apply to a German university for grad school rather than an American university?

I completed my bachelor’s degree at Jacobs University in Bremen Germany, and I’ve been working with a German organization since graduation, so Germany is sort of like a second home for me. Other than that, cost plays a big role.

What was the first step to applying to a German university? Could you give a general step-by-step process of what took you to now deciding on a specific university?

I started off by searching for different masters degree programs in public policy, political science and international relations. Once I had a list of programs, I narrowed it down based on location, program quality, and university reputation. When I began the process, I didn’t think of considering any German-language programs. I’ve learned German for about 6 years now, but I didn’t think that my written German skills were strong enough to pursue a degree program 100% auf Deutsch. Once I started shopping around, I realized that taking the TestDaF (basically like TOEFL for non-Native German speakers) would give me more options down the road, and allow me to apply to a few of the bilingual programs I found particularly appealing.  

Other than price, what is the biggest difference between applying to a German v. American university?

German universities need a stamped form for everything from language requirements to internship experience to high school transcripts, and this can be quite time consuming. I was quite surprised when I had to call my high school in Kansas to tell them I needed an extra copy of my high school transcript.

Do you need to know German to study at a German university?

Not necessarily. Almost all of the private universities in Germany are taught exclusively in English, and more and more public school programs are being offered in English as well. This being said, it doesn’t hurt to be able to read a bit of German to help you navigate the application process as well as your future life in Germany more generally.

Explain the language requirements and when you would need to take those tests

Oh boy. This was by far the most stressful part of the process. Once I discovered that one of the programs I had planned to apply to had a TestDaF requirement, I was pretty nervous about how I should get started. Luckily, I knew a few people who had already taken the test, so I asked for advice on how to prepare.

The TestDaF has reading, listening, writing and oral components, and is graded on this scale:

The program that I wanted to apply for required a minimum average score of 4, but I know that some programs have other requirements (e.g. at least a 4 in all categories, minimum 3 etc.)

To prepare, I had a friend bring back a prep book from Germany (they are surprisingly hard to find on Amazon), and I worked from the book. The test is similar to standardized tests in the US in that a lot of the process revolves around familiarizing yourself with the style of questions, and making sure that you are able to complete the exam within the given timeframe. Once you know what to expect, and can identify your weaknesses, it is much easier to prepare.

What do you predict will be the full cost of your studies?

It depends. If I decide to study at a private university, it will cost me roughly 30% of comparable programs in the States. For example, the Masters in Public Policy (MPP) at an elite private school like Georgetown has a sticker cost of around $50,000 year, whereas the MPP program at the Hertie School of Governance is priced at 16,250 euros/year.

If I accept an offer to a public school program, I will only need to cover my living expenses (rent, health insurance, public transportation pass, etc). In a German city like Berlin, these costs are all very reasonable.

What is the difference between public and private universities from the perspective of someone applying?

I’d say the differences are pretty similar to the differences in the States. A private school education will get you smaller classes, more one-on-one time with professors, better networking and/or professional development opportunities etc. Because Germans can attend university tuition free in Germany, public university programs are often quite large so the experience is a lot less individualized. I should say that this really depends on the program though!

What advice would you give an American starting the process of applying to a German uni?

Do your research, read the fine print, and make sure you understand all of the requirements! Most of the application deadlines are later than US university deadlines, however, some special programs (particularly the ones designed for a more international audience) have earlier deadlines. To be on the safe side, start doing your research about a year and a half before you plan to start the program. Also, always get stamped copies of everything- because Germans are old school like that.

What were the most helpful resources as an American in finding a university/applying?

I found the TestDaf website helpful, as well as the universities themselves. When I emailed a program contact, they typically got back with me within a few days.

Have more questions for Mackenzie? Shoot them to us and we’d be happy to follow up with a video on follower-questions!