Packing for university (international student perspective)

Tia van Loggerenberg

As an international student, I know from experience that starting your journey to university can come with some stresses, so today I’m hoping to put some of those stresses at ease with some advice on packing for university. I hope you enjoy it. 

Being an international student at a UK university is an incredibly exciting adventure, so first off, congratulations on accepting your offer to study at Durham University! The first part of that adventure is getting ready to leave home, packing what feels like your entire life into one or two suitcases and making your way to England. I know from experience that this can seem a bit daunting, so today I’m going to walk you through some packing guidelines of what to bring for uni as an international student, what you might need, and what you can get once you’ve arrived to save you luggage space. 

The essentials – everything you should definitely pack

First things first, let’s go through the essentials of what to pack. Clothes, obviously, and shoes, and toiletries. The things you can’t really leave your house without having/using. I’d recommend bringing at least one waterproof jacket/windbreaker and some winter clothes as Durham can get cold and rainy, and icy in the winter. Pack something smart you can wear for a formal occasion as Durham has lots of opportunities to dress up a bit, such as your matriculation, formal dinners, balls and more. And comfortable walking shoes!! Durham is a hilly place with lots of cobblestones and my greatest saviour is comfortable shoes for walking everywhere, as most students do. 

Beyond those basics, some other essentials I’d say would be any medication you need, stationery for your university work, chargers and adapters, and a towel. Whilst having lots of different outfit choices can be nice, you don’t need to pack your entire wardrobe. Rather pack a few things you can wear on multiple occasions, or layer up as it gets colder. You also don’t need to pack 20 different pairs of shoes – pack some comfortable walking shoes, a pair of smart shoes, something you can wear indoors like slippers, and one other pair if you want some variety. Another thing I would recommend is something from home – a stuffed animal, some photos, maybe some spices if you’re like me and love cooking. It doesn’t have to be something big, or a lot, because you’ll have luggage limitations, but having a home comfort of sorts can help make you feel more settled in once you arrive, and make uni feel a bit more like home.

Things you don’t need to bring from home or can buy in England

When it comes to the other bits, like linen and cooking equipment, that’s where it gets a bit more complicated. Local students tend to bring these things from home but for international students this is often not possible, or not worth wasting packing space. I’d recommend getting things like bedding and kitchenware when you’re in England, so it doesn’t take up room in your suitcase. There are usually loads of deals on Amazon or various websites to buy these items in sets. If you can’t sleep without a specific pillow, that’s a different story, but generally it’s easy enough, and not too expensive, to get all those things once you arrive. If you’re in a self-catered college, there are lots of deals for getting essential cooking items and crockery which I took advantage of, but if you’re in a catered college you won’t really need to worry about that. 

Suggestions for packing light

Another way to help you pack light is to avoid buying/bringing heavy things from home that you can get at the uni. For instance, many of the textbooks you’ll need can be accessed from the university library, or bought second-hand from other students so you don’t need to buy and cart heavy textbooks across the world. I also wouldn’t recommend bringing or buying lots of fancy stuff for decorating your room until you’ve arrived and seen what your room is like. Once you’re here, you can slowly get what you want so you aren’t wasting money unnecessarily. I only had one or two reading books, my teddy bear, and some fairy lights to start, but by the end of the year my room was very characterful, and I didn’t have to sacrifice packing space or hundreds of pounds. 

It’s all up to you

At the end of the day though, packing for uni is about you and your needs. The key trick I found was asking myself if I really needed this item – would it be frustrating or challenging if I didn’t have it? Or is it just nice to have and I could replace it at a later stage, or cope without it? Surprisingly, most things end up being just nice to have, and if you have enough room at the end, you can add a few nice to haves if you want. I know it can feel a bit daunting, but if you take it slowly, write out a list first, give yourself enough time to pack and save anything you don’t need or can get in England for once you arrive, the whole process will be as stress-free as possible.

I hope this blog post has been helpful, and good luck with your travels to Durham, and your degree overall! If you have more questions about anything like this, or Durham in general, you can reach out to myself and other university ambassadors on Unibuddy. I’ve also included my own packing lists as a reference if you need some help starting, but again remember to adjust them as you need! 

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Tia van Loggerenberg


Hi everyone! I’m Tia. I’m a third year international student doing Education Studies and I’m in John Snow College. I’m the founder and president of the DU Disney society, and when I’m not doing copious amounts of reading for my degree, I’m either watching Disney films (which I sometimes do for my degree), writing, or drinking too much tea.


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