You are finally about to go to college! Yay! Going to college and moving into your dorm room can be a very exciting transition, but also the actual preparation can be a daunting process. In this blog I will give you guidelines on what to pack for college as an international student to help you stay in your ‘A’ game!

It is also important to keep in mind that different colleges and universities have rules on what you can and cannot have in your room, so keep this in mind as you think about what to pack for college. For example, scented candles, and anything with an open flame, are not allowed in traditional residence halls, therefore you will want leave your cinnamon-scented candle at home.


Less is always more. Focus on finding ways to make one piece of clothing work in many ways when you pack for college.  Here are some tips to consider for clothing:

  • Weather proof shoes and a good winter coat or rain coat, will help you in being prepared for wet and snowy days at campus. Examples are boots or trainers that have a firm grip. It’s always advisable for international students to purchase these shoes when they get to the United States or Canada.
  • A few of your favorite sweaters and sweatshirts.
  • The one thing you will want to bring in surplus is your basics (underwear, bras and socks).
  • Day to day casual wear.
  • A cultural outfit should for the cultural days hosted by your university and the local community.  


You’ll need to do laundry and wash your own clothes, so learn how to separate your delicate items and the bright red shirt from your favorite white blouse.  As an international student, coming from a dependent culture, transitioning to an independent setting in the US or Canada, can be a tough. Laundry essentials, such as soap and fabric softener, are not on the list of what to pack for college, mainly because of luggage policies at the airport, but you can buy them from a convenience store:

  • On buying detergent when you get to the United States or Canada, you might want to consider if it is eco-friendly. Most washing machines are now “high efficiency,” so they require a better, more economical and environmental-friendly detergent.
  • Make a point of labelling all your essentials when packing for college so that they don’t get mixed up with other people.
  • Packing pod sized essentials for convenience and easy to carry. Keeping in mind that when packing for college, you need to be mindful of space in the dorm room.
What to pack for college


There is a possibility you will be sharing a bathroom with a number of floormates or roommates, depending on the house setting. This is how you handle it like a pro:

  • Invest in some good rubber grip flip flops to ease your movement in the bathroom. These can be found in various stores in the United States such as, Target or Walmart or Old Navy.
  • Buy a shower caddie – one with holes so water drains – and keep your essentials in one spot.
  • Buy all of your shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, body wash, loofa and soap when you arrive on campus. These are not on the list of what to pack for college for students coming from Kenya, especially, these items are overpriced. You will find affordable and better brands in North America.


Who doesn’t like sleep? When it comes to bedding, just like bath and laundry, these are things you should purchase upon arrival, instead of in your home country. Products and even sizes of bedding are usually different from your home country.

  • Consider buying twin XL bedding as most mattresses provided by universities are this size.
  • Quality over quantity is always key. You will be in college for 4 to 5 years depending on program, so buy sheets and pillows that are more comfortable.
  • Your favorite blanket or pillow, or alarm clock or stuffed animal from home, to reduce homesickness and make you feel more, well, at home.

Other miscellaneous tips would be when packing for college would be;

  • Be weather cautious of where your school is located. For instance, have an umbrella for rainy days in the Pacific Northwest of the US/British Columbia.
  • Bring a digital camera. You are an international student! What better way to record these memories. Your phone might have a fancy camera, but what happens if you break your phone?
  • Keep close a map of the surrounding, it can be very stressful getting lost in a new environment.

 We will be discussing more on the actual lists based on various categories and some recommended brands by various universities on my next blog. Get that checklist ready!

By Genevieve Mohamed

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