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Ask the intern: How to pack for your internship abroad

“Hi Laetitia! I’m leaving for Hong Kong in a week and I’m starting to think about what to pack. I’ll be there for 24 weeks. I don’t know how to pack for a long trip and I’m worried I will forget something or bring too many clothes that I won’t wear. I’m not too sure what to expect either, so that makes it even harder! Any tips?” – Sonja



Hi Sonja, I had the same worry before I left for South America. There is a fine line between wanting to be prepared for your trip and overpacking. We always get told to ‘pack light’, but what does that mean? I’ve thought of 6 top tips which can help you fit your life into a suitcase for your 6 month trip.


How to pack for a long trip


1. Choose the right suitcase

In my experience it is essential to take the right suitcase with you. Since you will be taking an international flight and will no doubt travel around your destination, you will be happy to have invested in a good quality suitcase. I would suggest opting for a sturdy, spacious suitcase with side pockets to fit all your bits and pieces. Getting one with a side-handle would also be a good idea as it will be easier to carry and haul off the conveyor belt. A suitcase that can’t stand up by itself, or one with broken zips and holes will just be added hassle and stress when traveling. Remember to also bring a good day bag or small carry-on suitcase for weekends trips away from the city.


2. Make a list

When packing I find it very useful to make a list of all the things that you need to bring with you. Start about a week before you leave in order to avoid a manic packing rush the night before, and so you know which clothes to wash in preparation. Having a record of what you are bringing will also be useful on the way back to ensure that you don’t leave anything behind. Once you start writing things down, it will make it easier to cut out the items that you don’t need. You will soon realise that you won’t regret leaving them behind!


how to pack for a long trip


3. Pack for occasions

It can be tempting to want to bring all of your favorite clothes with you, but remember to be realistic about what you will wear. Consider the environment that you will be in and what you will be doing. So for an international internship in a major city, you will need professional clothes to wear into work. Equally The Intern Group organises various day trips and activities over the weekend, so make sure that you also bring comfy and more casual clothes for these occasions. In general, pack clothes that you can easily mix and match; this is also a subtle way of re-wearing the same clothes in a new outfit without anybody recognizing them. I would suggest not bringing too many clothes as you will surely want to buy some once you get to your destination. The less you bring on the way out, the more you can bring back home; so it’s a good excuse to pack light.


4. Bring layers

Another thing to consider when packing is the weather. Check what the weather will be like when you arrive, but also remember that you are likely to go through a season change during your internship abroad. The best way to prepare for this would be to bring layers. Chunky scarves and knits will take up too much space in your suitcase and are impractical. Instead opt for jumpers, cardigans and thermals to keep warm.


how to pack for a long trip


5. Be minimalistic

A key thing to remember is not to bring more than you can carry. Don’t fill your suitcase with heavy toiletries when you can easily buy these at your destination. The same goes for big boots and coats. Only take a few things you know you will wear; the rest can stay at home. You will be thankful to only have one suitcase to think about once you arrive at the airport and your parents have left.


6. Know how to pack

Once you’ve chosen everything that you’re bringing with you, it can be hard to fit it all in the suitcase. I think of packing like doing a puzzle; everything has its place and nothing will fit if you just throw it all in. Make sure that your clothes are folded and that you fill up all the little gaps. For example, put your socks in your shoes, and try to fit these shoes together so you can easily put your clothes around them. Another tip is to roll your clothes rather than fold them. This will save space and also avoid wrinkles in the folds. Make sure that you bring any valuables or fragile items with you onto the plane in a carry-on or backpack as they are likely to get thrown around a bit once your suitcase goes in the hold.

I hope this was helpful! In the event that you forget or lose something, remember that you are heading to a major city and with the help of The Intern Group, you will be able to find everything you need!


Need advice on anything related to internships abroad? Write to me at : [email protected]


Photo 1. based on Packing Suitcases, by Global Panorama, CC-by-2.0.

Photo 2. based on Packing List by Kathleen Franklin, CC-by-2.0.

Photo 3. based on Layer Queen by Solveig Osk, CC-by-2.0.

Photos and blog by Laetitia Nappert-Rosales

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!