You’ve already nailed the interview and been offered a sweet internship in the country of your dreams. Good work! But now that your departure date is approaching, that empty suitcase sitting next to your bed feels a bit like it’s taunting you. What should you pack to wear at the office? Will everyone be in a suit or are jeans ok? Where is an intern abroad packing list when you need one?! Wait—
Before you start freaking out, calm your fears with this complete, top-of-the-line packing list for interning abroad. You no longer have to spend sleepless nights agonizing over what to pack for your internship abroad, just follow this advice to get your internship started off right!
But why can’t I just pack what I always pack…?
An internship abroad packing list can’t be that different from any other packing list, right? While it is a good idea to review general packing lists to ensure you’re not missing anything essential, it’s also important to keep in mind why you’re traveling. This isn’t just another vacation to the Bahamas, and you’re going to need more than a swimsuit and flip flops. Being deliberate about your intern abroad packing list now will save you from dealing with hassles in the future, guaranteed.
Personal circumstances that will impact what you bring
It’s important to start off your internship on the right foot, and that means preparing well before you step into your new office. Take a moment to review the details of your internship, as they will likely dictate what you put into your suitcase.
- Type of Job* Will you be working in an office setting or doing field research in the rainforest? It’s pretty obvious that you’ll need to think about bringing business attire to the office, while dressing for the weather will be more important for jobs outdoors. Make sure you’re totally clear on your job responsibilities before you head to the airport. That field research position might also include making occasional presentations, which means you should probably pack those dress shoes, too. *More on this topic later!
- Host Country How formal is your host country when it comes to work? Answering this question may take some research. In countries like Argentina and Japan, you’ll be expected to dress up much more than you’re used to, whereas offices in New Zealand are usually a bit more relaxed. Regardless of the level of formality, keep in mind that you should maintain a neat and professional appearance whenever you’re on the clock.
- Climate Check out the average temperature and weather patterns for your host city during the months you’ll be there. You may be surprised at what you find, and you’ll be grateful you thought ahead and bought that raincoat before heading to India during the monsoon season. Also, keep in mind that some countries may not use heating or air conditioning as often as you’re used to, so be prepared to stay warm (or cool) in all sorts of situations.
The comprehensive, all-inclusive packing list for internships abroad
Okay, so can we get to the intern abroad packing list already?! 😏
Now that you have some idea what types of clothing you’ll need to wear during your internship, what the weather will be like, and how formal your host country prefers to dress, you’re ready to start filling that suitcase like a pro.
First thing’s first. If you don’t already have a tried-and-true suitcase or duffel, now is the time to find the perfect piece of luggage. As an intern, you’re likely going to be parked in one spot during the week, so you don’t necessarily need an ultra-portable bag. Samsonite makes solid suitcases at a variety of price points, but you can usually find a deal at your local Target or TJ Maxx if you want to save a few dollars.
Even though a large suitcase is your best bet for checked luggage, remember to bring a smaller carry-on for weekend excursions. After all, if you’re spending the semester in Dublin, why not catch a flight to the mainland and explore Europe too? A small duffel or backpack is a great choice for a weekend away, and the Osprey Farpoint 40 ($160) pack fits the bill perfectly. With a removable daypack and tons of pockets, you’ll be able to focus on your weekend plans instead of packing. Another option is the REI Roadtripper Duffel ($39.95), which holds just as much gear at a fraction of the cost.
What you wear during your internship will vary depending on what you’ll be doing, but it’s important that you’re prepared to dress the part. After all, this internship is helping you achieve your career goals, so it’s vital to make a good impression. Now that you’ve done some research and know how formal your host culture is when it comes to work apparel, you can start picking out specific pieces.
Considering you’ll only be at your internship for part of the week, you’ll want to make sure you’re bringing shirts for both the office and wearing around town. Packing about a week’s worth of clothing is a good way to balance out space in your suitcase without having to do laundry too often. This means the majority of your wardrobe will be clothes you can wear to your internship, with a couple extra options for the weekend. Whether you need to wear a suit on a daily basis or just need items that are neat and clean will depend entirely on your host country and your specific internship.
Pants and Skirts
Similarly, the pants you pack should be a mix of work-appropriate attire and casual options for the weekend. Never assume you can wear jeans to your internship, so make sure you pack a few pairs of nicer slacks. Even if everyone else is quite casual, it pays to dress well at the beginning of your internship to show that you’re serious about your work. Women can also consider wearing skirts or dresses to the office, provided they’re modest and appropriate to the host culture.
It’s easy to get carried away with shoes, so try to keep what you bring to a minimum. To keep your intern abroad packing list light, bringing one nice pair for the office and a more casual pair for walking around town is a good idea, and you can also throw in a pair of tennis shoes if you plan to exercise in your free time.
If you’re in a warm climate or near a beach, a pair of sandals is also a must. It doesn’t really matter what kind of shoes you bring, but try to pack footwear that will match with the majority of your wardrobe. Even though you really love those bright red heels, a simple pair of black flats is probably the wiser choice. Keep in mind that you can always buy shoes when you arrive if needed, once you figure out the local style.
Depending on your destination, you may need an extra warm coat or a light windbreaker. If we sound like a broken record telling you to research your host country’s weather, it’s because what you pack really does depend on where you’re headed.
For cooler climates where a jacket is required, a standard trench coat is usually a good bet, and you can pick one up for not too much at a store like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, or H&M. Of course, department stores and designer brands have nice coats too, if you’ve got the cash to spare.
In warmer climates you may not need a jacket at all, but it’s best to bring along something waterproof if you’re headed to a rainy country. The Columbia Watertight II jacket ($60) is an affordable option that’ll keep you dry on your way to the office. Don’t forget to pack an umbrella, too!
Though you may be interning for a month or more, you don’t need to pack enough toiletries for your entire stay. That entire bottle of shampoo? Leave it at home. Your best bet is to pick up a set of travel-size toiletries to get you started, and then you can purchase whatever you need once you arrive. After all, trying to figure out which bottles are shampoo and which are body wash when you’re still learning to read Japanese is a fun challenge, right?
One exception to this rule is medications. If you don’t think it will be possible to obtain a prescription medication in your host country, make sure you bring enough to last you through your entire internship.
The Sea to Summit Hanging Toiletry Bag ($34.95) is just the right size for storing all of those travel-sized bottles, and the hanging design ensures you’ll be able to access everything, even in the smallest of bathrooms.
These days, everyone has their preferred tech gadget, and what you bring will vary on what you currently use. While some electronics will be really useful in your host country, think about which ones are necessary and which could be left at home. After all, keeping track of a lot of expensive gear can be stressful when you’re on the road.
Stick to the basics and bring your cell phone and a laptop, and consider leaving the rest at home. After all, the fewer screens you have to tempt you, the more you’ll have to go out into the world and meet locals, which is way more fun than streaming episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” anyway.
Before you leave, check with your cell phone provider to find out how much it’ll cost you to use your phone overseas (hint: it’s probably a lot more than you think!). If you can’t get your phone unlocked or would prefer to skip the hassle, you can get an inexpensive phone to use with a local SIM card for cheaper rates. Ekit offers affordable phones and SIM cards for travelers headed to most countries.
Don’t forget that you’ll also need to charge everything! Pick up the Skross World Adaptor 3 ($29.99); it’s a compact, lightweight device that’ll handle any plug configuration you throw at it, and it even has a USB port so you can charge everything all once.
A portable battery is also good to have on hand when you’re traveling, and the Goal Zero Flip 10 Recharger ($24.95) will keep your phone going when you’re low on juice and hours from the nearest outlet.
When you’re in another country, there’s nothing more important than your passport, so keeping it safe is vital! The best way to make sure you don’t leave it behind in a bathroom stall or a park bench is having a specific spot to keep it. Picking up a travel wallet is the perfect way to store your passport, travel documents, and credit cards all in one place, ensuring you won’t be pulling apart your backpack at every airport, train station, and hotel you visit.
The Samsonite Travel Wallet ($14) is a great choice for men and women, with room for a passport, boarding pass, credit cards, and local currency. For women, the Sherpani Lucky ($29.99) travel wallet doubles as a wristlet and is great for those nights when you don’t want to bring a purse out on the town.
Aside from your passport, you’ll want to make sure that you carry a copy of your travel itinerary, emergency contact numbers for your internship provider or host organization, and several ways to obtain money if needed (credit cards, debit cards, and/or local currency).
Special clothing considerations for specific internship fields
Not every internship is the same, which is why this packing list for interning abroad is only a starting point. When considering what to pack for your internship abroad, what you’ll be doing is the strongest indicator for what you need to throw in your suitcase.
Interns in finance, marketing, and other business fields need to seriously consider their appearance. Typically these types of companies value more conservative and formal attire, so it’s a good idea to do some research before heading for the airport.
You’ll likely need to invest in a suit or nice blazer, if you don’t already own one. Short of shelling out hundreds of dollars at a department store, you can probably get away with a couple smart-looking pieces from a store like H&M or Nordstrom Rack.
Women should also consider what kind of clothing is appropriate in the host country before bringing along shorter skirts or sleeveless tops. While this may be standard dress in some places, some conservative countries may cover up a bit more in the office.
When preparing for a career in the outdoors, the requisite clothing is a bit different. If you’ll be spending your days in a jungle blind or trekking across mountain passes hoping for a glimpse of elusive wildlife, you can put those heels and ties away right now. While we do recommend bringing at least one nice outfit in case you need to meet with officials or make a presentation, your priority is going to be packing clothes that can withstand whatever nature throws at you.
You’ll definitely need to pack comfortable footwear for any muddy, snowy, or wet conditions you’ll encounter. Check out REI for all types of outdoor-ready footwear, from sturdy hiking boots to water shoes.
Solid outerwear can also make or break your outdoor internship, so it’s smart to invest in reliable pieces that can withstand the elements and keep you comfortable. The Marmot Minimalist Jacket ($189) will keep you dry in a downpour and is a great investment if you’ll be out in the rain on a daily basis. For those who’ll be outdoors in colder climates, the Patagonia Nano Puff ($199) is the only puffy you’ll need to stay toasty warm all day long.
What you pack for your non-profit internship will greatly depend on what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be placed. Some non-profit positions in larger cities may follow similar trends as corporate internships, and you’ll be expected to dress up and meet with donors, plan events, and lobby government officials.
Other non-profit internships might take place in the rural area of a developing country, where you might be leading healthcare workshops for children, for example. In this situation, while it’s still important to have a neat and clean appearance, a formal blazer or tie might be out of place.
In these cases, it’s best to do your research and reach out to your internship site to ask for packing advice.
You’re ready for take off
Keep in mind this internship abroad packing list is only a guide, and you should customize it to fit your needs and your internship. When it comes to what to pack for your internship abroad, your best resource is to do your research and figure out in advance what you’re expected to wear at the office or in the field. Not only will it save you from the embarrassment of showing up on the first day totally under- (or over-) dressed, but it’ll show your employer that you’re serious about your internship and your future career.