European Study Abroad Packing list

The Ultimate Packing List for Studying Abroad in the South of France

The following is a guest packing list by Jessalyn Pinneo. See all packing list posts here.

French class was one of my favorite parts of the day as soon as I started taking it in seventh grade, and I think I started dreaming about studying abroad in France about halfway through my first class.

Eight years later, I landed at Marseille-Provence airport, thrilled to be starting my year in an immersive study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence. It remains one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and the memories of lavender-scented sunshine, rich red wine, and olive oil-soaked baguettes topped with creamy cheese haven’t faded a bit. I hope your experience will be every bit as wonderful as mine was.

For short-term travel I pack as lightly as possible, but when you study abroad, especially for a full year, you’re essentially moving to your destination, and you need a bit more. I took one big, jam-packed suitcase, one massive duffel bag (that really should have had wheels…), a daypack and a small purse. It was a lot to manage coming and going, but for me it was worth it. If you’re more comfortable living a bit pared-down for a while, feel free to shorten this list to suit you.

Clothing

Despite the intimidating reputation of the French fashion industry, you don’t need to be a fashionista to blend in. The key is in embracing classic basics and avoiding logos, baseball caps, shorts, hoodies, and running shoes. I’d recommend underpacking rather than overpacking in this category (I speak from the experience of having done the opposite my first semester!) – France has plenty of fun boutiques, markets and chain clothing stores with reasonable prices if you find you need to expand your wardrobe.

5-7 shirts and blouses – Avoid t-shirts except plain, nice ones in solid colors.

3-5 sweaters – This depends on what time of year you’re going. Make sure your shirts/blouses work with them as layers!

2-4 skirts/dresses – A little above the knee or longer is preferable – Mediterranean men are incorrigible enough even when you’re not showing any skin.

– Unless I’m doing a lot of hiking, jeans are my all-purpose pants. Substitute whatever yours may be.

1 pair of nice slacks/trousers – It never hurts to be prepared for a dressier occasion.

1 swimsuit – For the fabulous Mediterranean beaches!

1 light jacket – I bought mine for €50 (that’s 50 €, à la française) at one of Aix’s open-air markets and wore it virtually non-stop every spring and fall for the next five years.

1 winter coat – Yes, the South of France gets cold. Bitterly so in November and December, although snow is rare in most places near the coast. I took a gray pea coat and never felt out of place.


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