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Packing for university: a guide for international students

You’ve applied to universities, you’ve accepted your place and now the time has come to move to your new home for the next few years. But what should you bring with you?

    Grace McCabe's avatar

    Grace McCabe

    Content Writer, THE Student
    August 2 2022
    student packing


    Moving to university involves a lot of packing. But what should you bring with you? With airline luggage restrictions and limited space in residential halls, there are things you will need to pack and other items you can organise once you get there. 

    Although it’s tempting to pack everything you own, remember that you’ll be sharing space with other students. It’s also more practical to buy the larger items once you arrive and know how much space you will have.

    Don't forget to download our packing PDF to make sure you don't forget any items. 

    Travel items 

    Economy plane tickets usually only include one piece of check-in luggage, and sometimes you will even need to pay more to bring anything extra beyond your carry-on luggage. So, check what your allowance is before you start planning what to pack.

    Once you know what you can fit in your large suitcase, you can plan what to take on board with you. Books and music devices are useful to keep you occupied during the journey. You can also include toiletries (that are allowed on the flight) and a change of clothes, especially if it’s a long trip.

    Important documents 

    As well as your passport, you will need to ensure you bring your visa information, proof of funds and insurance documentation. 

    It is advisable to keep all these items safe in a dedicated folder and ensure you have digital copies too. Carry this in your hand luggage and have it handy to access if needed when you arrive in the country or at your university. 


    Although laptops are expensive, they are an excellent investment for your time at university. You can study wherever you like if you have your own laptop, rather than being confined to the library or the computer lab. From taking notes during lectures to using it as a TV, laptops have many uses. Lots of great deals and student discounts can help you find a well-priced option. 

    Depending on where you’re travelling from you may need to bring adapters so you can plug in your devices. One thing you don’t need to worry about is a printer. Printers are not only expensive initially, they also cost a lot to run. All universities will have printing facilities for students to use, which will save you buying your own one. 


    Your chosen accommodation will affect how much you need to get for your kitchen. If you are staying in catered accommodation, you will only need basic items like mugs, glasses and cutlery for snacks. However, you won’t need all the cooking items on our list. 

    If you are living in self-catered accommodation you may need more kitchen items. Remember that you will be sharing the kitchen facilities with other students so you may be able to split up the list and buy a few things each, such as pots, pans, plates and cleaning supplies. It’s also worth including items like a cheese grater, colander, chopping board and knife.

    As students it’s difficult to find the money or time to cook fancy meals so it’s useful to stock the cupboard full of staples that you can use in lots of recipes. For example, pasta, chopped tomatoes, tinned food and basic spices are long-life ingredients that can be used in lots of ways. You may also wish to save some student recipes digitally or pick up a recipe book to give you lots of meal ideas. 

    Ultimate guide to moving to university 
    Tips for finding student accommodation 
    Five things you hadn’t thought to prepare for as an international student


    One of the ways you can help your new room feel like home is through your bedding. If you have space, you might want to bring one or two sets from home so it feels and looks familiar. You can then gradually purchase more when if and when you need it.

    Photos, posters and other trinkets will also help make the space feel more like home. Some students use fairy lights or patterned hangings to cover the walls and add personality to their room. These personal items will also help bring you comfort if you begin feeling homesick.

    At home your family may play music or have the TV on in the background. You can set up your laptop or phone to play those familiar sounds. 

    Equally, when you move away from home a big change is the smell. Why not buy some of the same candles you use at home or use the same cleaning products to help freshen up the room and add that touch of the familiar.

    Bringing a few of your favourite snacks or condiments from home could also help in making your new accommodation feel less alien.


    It’s extremely tempting when packing to include everything you own. However, there’s simply not enough space to do this. Start by choosing the garments you wear most, then build on this with additional items to go with them. Don’t take up your limited wardrobe space with pieces of clothing you haven’t worn in several months.

    It’s also worth considering the season or climate you are moving to. If you are used to a colder country and you are moving somewhere warmer, you may want to consider light layers. Alternatively, you might need to pack thicker layers to stay warm. 

    Finally, include slippers and comfy loungewear to relax in at home, and if you are using a shared shower area, pack a pair of flip-flops. 

    Many social events take place on campus, especially in the first few weeks of term, so it’s a good idea to pack some outfits for going out in and maybe some fancy-dress items.


    You may have a shared bathroom or a private bathroom but either way it’s best to buy cleaning products as soon as you arrive. Not only will this mean you can keep your bathroom clean throughout the term, but you can also start fresh and get your cleaning routine nailed down early to maintain hygiene. 


    Other items may be helpful but it depends on your type of accommodation and preferences. 

    A drying horse will help air out your clothes after they have been washed and will save you money on the dryers in the laundry room. 

    A basic first-aid kit is another item you probably won’t use often but is handy to have. Items such as painkillers, throat lozenges, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser are all useful to have on hand in case you develop a cold or start feeling ill.

    Equally, any contraception you feel comfortable using can be stored in this kit, and many universities hand out free condoms during the first few weeks of term.

    As well as your travel and health insurance, you may find want to take out contents insurance. It doesn’t cost a lot for students and can give you peace of mind to know that your possessions will be protected. 

    Is a car necessary? 

    Some international students may wish to rent or buy a car once they are settled at their university. However, many university towns will already have great public transport links so a car may not be necessary.

    If you do decide later in the year that a car may help you get around, see the local area or get you to your part-time job then be sure to check whether parking is allowed at your accommodation and whether you need additional permits.

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