What to Pack for Great Britain
There is no such thing as taking too little, although it's hard for us to convince students that this is true. Just ask someone who has studied abroad before, and you'll probably be advised to leave as much as you can at home.
"Pack everything you might need, then take half of it out," was one student's advice. It will be there when you get back. Let practicality be your guide for packing.
Keep in mind that overseas it's perfectly acceptable to wear the same outfit a few times in one week. If you plan carefully so that all articles of clothing mix and match, you can create plenty of different outfits from a minimum number of items. Also remember that the weather can vary quite a bit throughout the day and from town to town. Choose clothes that are good for layering.
The leave-half-behind rule. You are going to have to carry whatever you pack by yourself, so leave behind half of what you think you need. You will be limited to two pieces of checked luggage and one carry-on bag on the flight, and even that is more than you can comfortably carry. Large, hard-sided suitcases are tough to carry and even more difficult to store.
- USE DUFFEL BAGS with wheels or a good, internal frame BACKPACK. Closet space will not be as generous as what you are used to, so even if you can get it there, you won't necessarily know where to put it.
- No one has ever complained about taking too little luggage. If you don't believe this, talk to a student who has done it before. Every year we see unhappy students struggle to get a mountain of their own luggage on and off busses and up and down stairs. Don't be one of them.
- We'll say this in a more serious way. Neither Arcadia University nor our group flight carrier can guarantee the immediate transport of more than two pieces of stowed luggage and a carry-on piece. Students should be prepared to move their luggage through airports, on and off busses during orientation, and up several flights of stairs to their rooms. Student rooms are normally equipped with only a foot and a half of hanging space and two, three-foot bureau drawers or the equivalent shelf space, and emptied luggage is usually stored under beds. Keep this in mind when you're packing.
Britain tends to be cool and damp compared to the United States. Fall and spring are usually fairly mild, but from December to March temperatures can drop below freezing. Although it won't get as cold as it does up north in the States, the damp penetrates and buildings may not be heated to your normal comfort level, especially at night. Be prepared to dress in layers!
Heavy snow is not common in the south of England and Wales, but it is cold enough for a light dusting of snow.
Summers are usually cool too, but hotter temperatures are occasionally enjoyed. Most buildings aren't air conditioned the way they are here, so there's no escaping it when a heat wave does set in.
Let practicality be your guide. Americans frequently stand out overseas in their bright clothes, sneakers and backpacks, but jeans are a student uniform in Europe just as they are here. Keep in mind that in Europe it's perfectly acceptable to wear the same outfit several times in one week. If you plan carefully so all articles of clothing mix and match, you can create plenty of different outfits from a minimum number of items.
Returning students say you should bring:
- A raincoat with a warm lining (detachable is best) or waterproof jacket. Ski jackets are okay for colder weather but aren't as good in rainy, damp conditions.
- Bring a lighter weight jacket, windbreaker, raincoat or jean jacket for warmer weather. Just make sure a sweater fits underneath.
- Jeans. Bring several pairs. Corduroy and khaki pants are also recommended. Beware! "Pants" means underwear in Great Britain, so be sure to call them your "trousers" when talking to a Brit.
- You will do more walking in Britain than you do at home, so bring one or two pairs of comfortable walking shoes. Also bring one pair of dress shoes (women will find flats more versatile than heels). Students often commented that they brought too many pairs of shoes. All agreed that two pairs of comfortable walking shoes and one pair of dress shoes are plenty.
- Leather boots are good for winter, but make sure they're waterproof. Snow boots are not necessary. Outside the cities, Brits wear "wellies," which are heavy rubber boots, great for the muddy countryside, but of little use elsewhere. Bring hiking boots if you plan to hike. Bring running shoes if you like to jog.
- Turtlenecks. They'll keep you snug when the central heating seems to be lacking. Pack a couple if you like wearing them.
- Pajamas. Flannel pajamas are great for cold weather. A couple of students suggested bathrobes, but this could be too bulky.
- London Internship Students will need to dress professionally at their placement assignments. Finance and Parliamentary interns (male and female) are required to wear suits.
- Wool sweaters and sweatshirts. You'll probably buy more wool sweaters overseas anyway.
- Cotton t-shirts. Long sleeve and short sleeve. Good for layering when it gets really cold.
- Hat, scarf and gloves.
- Bathing suit.
- Underwear and socks. You'll probably want at least two weeks' worth, because doing laundry is expensive. Don't forget wool socks. Women may want to take tights, although they are cheaper and more varied in Britain at stores like Boots and Marks and Spencers.
- British students do not wear pajamas, sweats or yoga pants to class. Bring them if you want to be comfortable in your own room, but don't plan on wearing them out.
- Umbrella. A must! You can also buy this in Britain to save space.
- Accessories, such as belts and costume jewelry. Leave your expensive jewelry at home. You'll find lots of funky accessories in markets and street stalls.
- Pack at least one nice outfit.
Our advice is to choose things which are easy to keep clean and can be washed and dried at the laundromat. It is very difficult to dry hand-washed items properly in your room, and dry cleaning tends to be much more expensive than in the U.S.
Some accommodation may provide hangers, but most will not. It will be easy to purchase them in the UK if necessary.
Sheets and towels
Some accommodation provides linens, while others do not. Refer to your program-specific housing information for details. Bed sizes are different in the UK, so do not bring fitted sheets with you. It is easy to purchase linens inexpensively after you arrive.
If you can help it, don't bring electrical appliances from home. The electrical current in Britain is 240 volts at 50Hz (cycles per second). (Most of Europe is on 220 volts at 50Hz.) In the U.S., it is 110 volts at 60Hz. You will not only need an adapter to plug in your appliance, you will also need either a transformer and adapter plug or a dual voltage appliance which can be switched from 110 to 240 volts. (The difference in the number of cycles means that appliances with motors may not work as well in the UK as they do in the U.S.) Most returning students agreed that converters are expensive and a hassle. If you use a hairdryer or another electric styling product, it is probably better to buy an inexpensive one when you arrive. You can find them easily and cheaply in many stores. If you really want to bring one from home, try finding a version with dual voltage (brand names include Krupps, Braun or Conair). Dual voltage electric shavers can also be purchased here in the U.S. (Philips, Braun and Remington are just a few name brands). Otherwise, plan to either buy an electric shaver in Britain or use a blade razor. Electrical appliances that are usually dual-voltage include MP3 players, cell phones, digital camera chargers and laptops. You will likely only need an adapter plug to use them abroad.
Some students choose to bring personal laptops for convenience. All British universities will provide computer labs for your use, but you may wish to have your own laptop with you. The majority of modern laptops are dual voltage and will work in Britain with only an adapter plug. Most accommodation has either wired or wireless internet available, and connecting to the internet from your room may be free or may involve an extra cost. It is helpful to bring a small portable USB drive to transfer files to the computer lab for printing, and a Cat 5 or Ethernet cable in case you need to connect to a wired network port. Make sure that your laptop is insured.
Many students say that they either couldn't find their own brand of solution abroad or that it is very expensive in Britain. Allergan is usually stocked, but Bausch & Lomb may be hard to find. Ciba Soft products available at Boots are recommended for soft lenses if you don't want to bring supplies from home. Your favorite brand may be available but packaged differently (different color and bottle size), so you have to look around carefully.
Bring a spare pair of lenses. Also, take along a pair of glasses for emergencies (or if you plan to take overnight trains).
If you play an instrument, you might want to think about taking it along. However, large instruments, such as guitars, may count as one piece of luggage on the flight. Your instrument should be properly insured and safeguarded.
Most students say leave it at home. But if you are an intrepid cyclist, you probably won't be happy without it. You'll need to check with the airline for specifications about packing your bike. Be prepared for the possibility of an excess luggage charge as well. Be aware that bicycle theft is a problem on most British campuses. Students studying outside London were the most likely to say a bike is handy. But their overwhelming advice is to rent one or buy a cheap, used one and sell it before you leave. In London, the resounding opinion about taking a bike is "No!"
A backpack and book bag
You'll need a small bag for books. You may also want a larger bag for weekend trips, but keep in mind that larger backpacks count as one piece of luggage. Check with your airline for their luggage allowances.
If you live in one of our Arcadia student houses or in a self-catering residence hall, you may find it convenient to have some of your favorite recipes handy. Photocopy some recipes instead of packing the entire cookbook. You'll save luggage room and weight.
A camera will help you to capture your overseas experience. Small digital cameras are great and provide an easy way of taking pictures of your experiences abroad and sharing them with friends and family both in-country and back home. Remember to bring extra batteries, memory cards, and the cable that allows you to download the pictures to your computer.
One word of caution, though, cameras disappear. If you have an expensive camera, have it insured.
You'll find everything you could ever want at Boots or Superdrug in Britain. Bring a supply of basics to get you through the first month. By then, you'll have found the best local shops for whatever you need.
If you take a prescription medication make sure you have enough to last your entire stay abroad. Don't assume that you can get the same medication abroad. A prescription from home will NOT be filled in Britain. You'll need a new one from a British doctor before you can purchase a refill. Be sure all prescriptions you take with you are labeled with your name, the name of your physician and the generic name of the medication.
Photos from home
Bring along your favorite photos of your family and friends. You can decorate your room with them. You can also show them to your British friends.
Academic papers, fax and phone numbers, e-mail addresses
Bring a copy of your most up-to-date transcript with you in case you need to make any changes to your class schedule. Be sure to have the contact information for your academic and study abroad advisors at your home school as well. Familiarize yourself with your home school’s course catalog and registration process from overseas.
Packing Tip #1
You will be moving a lot during the first week of your program - from orientation to your permanent program accommodations. Pack the toiletries, a towel and clothes you'll need for that first week in one bag so you don't have to pack and repack all your luggage.
Packing Tip #2
Your carry-on bag should contain all the necessities to live for one or two days in the event the airline loses your luggage.
Security and Insurance
The Arcadia University College of Global Studies supports the guidelines described in "Responsible Study Abroad: Health and Safety Guidelines" for program sponsors, participants and parents by the Interorganizational Task Force on Safety and Responsibility in Study Abroad. To view the complete text of these guidelines, visit on our website.
A little common sense goes a long way Do not bring any valuables which promote theft and cannot be easily replaced. Put identification labels inside each of your bags (not just on the outside). Leave a list of your travelers check numbers with your family. We also recommend that you leave a photocopy of the data page of your passport (passport number, the date and place of issue) at home and keep a copy with your belongings in case it is lost or stolen. To insure your baggage and personal effects inexpensively, investigate adding a rider to your family's homeowners' policy or purchase personal possessions insurance.. Arcadia University does not insure your possessions against loss or theft, but you can and should. Some other valuable tips to protect yourself include:
- Leave irreplaceable items of high monetary or sentimental value at home.
- Do not carry a lot of cash.
- Use safes in hotels and hostels.
- Wear a neckpouch with your money and passport in it inside your coat or clothing.
- Pickpockets and petty thieves sometimes target tourists and other unsuspecting newcomers. Be very careful to protect your belongings, especially during the your first few days in the country.
Shipping and Storing Personal Effects Overseas
If you pack carefully, you will be able to fit all that you need within the airline baggage allowance (two checked pieces and one carry-on). We strongly recommend against your planning to have things sent to you after you settle in overseas. Customs declarations must be made on all packages sent overseas. Import taxes, even on used items, can equal or exceed the original purchase price of the items. Labeling all boxes with the statement "Used Personal Belongings" may avoid the tax charge. However, these taxes are regularly imposed on shipments from North America by all European Union countries. Customs delays and processing can cause inconvenience. If you must have extra things sent to you, please pay special attention to the following notes.
Shipping overseas can be very expensive, so you may want to comparison shop to find the best rates. You'll have to wait until after you have moved into your permanent program housing, because you'll need to give your family the specific residential address. The Arcadia University London office has no facilities to handle packages or to store luggage in advance of the program starting date. If you are planning to fly over early to travel, you can arrange to store your heavy luggage in London at the Heathrow or Gatwick airports. Some major European train stations also have storage facilities.
Whatever you do, do not send a trunk. Even if you can find a freight forwarder to ship it and clear it through customs, it will be difficult to handle once you get it, a problem to store, and even more troublesome and expensive to send back home. There are also storage facilities in London.