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As someone who spent the best four months of her life studying abroad in Rome, I’m a HUGE proponent for a semester abroad. It’s all the best parts of freshman year dorm-life…with a lot less of the actual school 😜 I spent my semester in Rome drinking an obscene amount of wine, diving deep into Roman history, searching for viewpoints and jetting off around Europe each and every weekend. Oh…and eating my weight in pasta of course. When it comes to buying gifts for friends going abroad, I’m pretty much the expert.
Although your friend’s semester abroad is guaranteed to be the time of their life, there are certain items that they don’t know they’ll need…until they need them. Thankfully your guru to all things study abroad is here to assist you with the best gifts for friends going abroad!
The Bests Gifts for Friends Going Abroad
When it comes to shopping for your friend moving overseas, sometimes practical gifts are the way to go. 4-5 months of nonstop travel requires a lot of specific gear, especially if your friend plans on hostel-hopping like most study abroad students. If you want something more exciting than a gift card, keep reading for my best gift ideas for someone moving abroad!
For those friends who LIVE for the travel content, an iPhone tripod is the perfect gift to give them before they leave for their semester abroad. Even if they don’t plan to solo travel, let’s be honest, sometimes our friends just aren’t getting the job done behind the camera.
Before I purchased my camera, I used this trusty iPhone tripod from Amazon. If your friend will be traveling with a camera instead of an iPhone, I highly recommend the JOBY Compact Action Tripod for travel. And if your friends are really serious about content…consider throwing in a 1T portable hard drive and memory card case!
Reusable Water Bottle
It’s always important to keep sustainability in mind when packing for a long-term trip. Help your friend moving abroad to travel as “green” as possible by gifting them a reusable water bottle.*
I’m a Hydroflask girl through and through. My trusty forest green Hydroflask has traveled with me to 30 countries and counting and has significantly helped me cut down on my single-use plastic waste! I recently stumbled upon this collapsable water bottle from Free People thats adjustable size is perfect for any trip.
*A reusable water bottle is a perfect travel gift for destinations like North America and Europe. However, if you have friends studying abroad in Asia, South America, Africa or the Caribbean be conscious about the quality of the tap water in that destination. You could always buy them a filtered water bottle instead!
Rechargeable Power Bank
I never travel anywhere without my trusty portable charger! Back when I had an iPhone 7, I would never leave the hostel without 2 fully-charged portables. Thankfully, my iPhone 11 is a bit more reliable, but it still pays off to have a high-quality power bank.
This Anker Portable Charger is my absolute favorite for only $25.99 on Amazon!
You have a lot of fun during study abroad. Unfotunately, one thing you don’t get a lot of is sleep. If your friend will be traveling on a broke-backpacker’s budget…their sleep schedule is bound to suffer during their semester abroad.
That’s why a travel neck pillow is one of the best gifts for friends going abroad! I love this inflatable neck pillow from Amazon. It holds its shape much better than stuffed pillows and helps you catch some much needed zzz’s on planes, trains and buses.
Another one of my favorite gifts for friends going abroad is cute and functional luggage tags. With the airlines losing luggage left and right nowadays, you can’t be too careful with your belongings. These customizable leather tags from Etsy make the perfect gift for friends moving abroad! Madewell sells a simpler, leather version or you can go the floral route with these tags from Vera Bradley.
For gifts on a budget, grab these affordable and functional luggage tags from Amazon.
Blank Recipe Book
For someone going abroad that loves to cook, consider gifting them a blank recipe book to keep track of all their favorite international eats! I’m a huge foodie and love to try new recipes during my travels. A blank recipe book would have come in handy for the cooking classes I attended in Krakow, Roatán, Thailand, Vietnam and Bali.
A Kindle E-Reader is the perfect gift for any friend going abroad. When your suitcase space is limited and you’re traveling the world living out of a carry-on, you don’t exactly have the space to lug around books. A Kindle is the perfect travel gadget that’s lightweight, affordable and keeps you from being bored out of your mind on 10-hour train rides and tedious Ryanair flights.
If you’re really looking to splurge on gifts for friends going abroad, consider upgrading to the Kindle Paperwhite. This version has a glare-free screen perfect for reading on the beach or in the sun.
Secure Travel Crossbody
If your friends are guilty of getting distracted by delicious food, beautiful architecture and too many glasses of wine…a secure, anti-theft travel crossbody would be the perfect gift to bring to their new home.
Keep in mind that anti-theft bags are not guaranteed to keep your belongings safe. Although they make it more difficult for pickpockets to make off with your wallet, iPhone and passport, you are still 100% responsible for watching your valuables at all times. Be sure to follow my safety tips for keeping yourself and your belongings safe as a solo female traveler.
Travelon offers a great selection of anti-theft crossbody bags that make the perfect gifts for friends going abroad! Consider this messenger bag with a water bottle side pouch, this anti-theft slim backpack or this classic mini shoulder bag.
Hostel Survival Kit
If your friends going abroad will be traveling broke-backpacker style, then they’ll be needing a trusty hostel survival kit! If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, they are very fun and VERY rustic. There are some essential items your friend will be needing to make their hostel stays comfortable and clean.
First, a microfiber towel. Most hostels will charge you to rent a towel, so it’s cheaper and easier to pack your own. Second, include a trusty pair of fflip flops. They’ll come in handy at the beach and are 100% necessary when it comes to sketchy hostel showers. Third, a pair of ear plugs and an eye mask will help even light sleepers catch some much needed zzz’s in a dorm room. Lastly, a combination lock will keep your valuables safe and secure in hostel lockers.
A stowaway backpack is one of my favorite gifts for friends going abroad since I bought my first one from LL Bean in 2020. The LL Bean pack remains one of my favorites since it’s lightweight, affordable and comes with an internal stow pocket for easy re-packing.
This is the perfect gift for the adventurer friend going abroad! When you’re packing up for a waterfall hike, ski trip or horseback ride along the Costa Rican coast, you’re not going to want to dirty-up your school bag. A stowaway pack is the perfect lightweight alternative for those messy travel adventures.
When I was abroad I purchased a VNP subscription for the sole purpose of watching Family Guy on Hulu 😂 Most U.S. streaming services – other than Netflix – won’t work once you leave the country, unless you have an active VPN.
Now that I’m a full-time digital nomad, I use my VPN for all sorts of things! As a student or remote worker, it’s a useful tool to have during an extended stay out of the country. Tunnel Bear is my favorite VPN! It’s super reliable, affordable and the bear gives a charming little “roar” every time it connects to the service.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
In both hostels and hotels, bathroom counter space is a hot commodity. It’s better to pack as though you won’t have any…and maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
For this reason, I would never travel without a hanging toiletry bag. If your friend is new to travel, they might have invested in a toiletry bag that’s going to make getting ready in hostels an absolute nightmare. Do them a favor and gift them a hanging bag, like this one from Calpak’s Terra collection or the Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag from LL Bean.
Another favorite from my list of gifts for friends going abroad is a trusty tech organizer. If your friend is going abroad as a student, chances are they’ll be traveling with a laptop, tablet, countless cords and chargers, cameras, power banks, portable hard drives…etc. With all that tech on the move, it’s easy for things to get lost. That’s why this Tech Organizer from Calpak Travel is the perfect gift for a friend going abroad!
If you’re searching for a gift that’s more on the sentimental side, look no further than a Pandora Charm Bracelet. Pandora is an international brand, so if you gift your friend the bracelet before they leave, they can buy charms in different countries along the way! It’s a beautiful way for them to remember all the amazing places they’ve seen during their travels.
Journeys Made Keychain
Another sentimental gift on the list of the best gifts for friends going abroad is this keychain by Journeys Made. Very affordable at only $21, this keychain makes the ultimate personalized gift for travel lovers. When they return home, they can purchase charms from each country they visited during their semester abroad.
I returned from my semester abroad furious with myself because I visited 10+ countries…and didn’t write a single thing down 🤦🏽♀️ That’s especially problematic when your goal is to start a travel blog…
A blank notebook makes a fantastic gift for any friend going abroad. I love Erin Condren’s personalized spiral options (super affordable at only $16.50) as well as their softbound notebooks. Etsy also sells some adorable travel-themed options!
Last, but not least on this list of gifts for friends going abroad is a (drumroll please) Polaroid Camera! I purchased this Instax Mini polaroid camera before my semester abroad and it was a huge hit. It’s the perfect way to create memories with new friends during the best time of your life.
Hopefully this list gave you plenty of ideas for gifts for friends going abroad! These are all items that I either used and loved during my semester abroad, or desperately wish I had packed. (Things are harder to order once you’ve departed the States).
If you enjoyed my guide to the best gifts for friends going abroad, you might enjoy my related posts below! And don’t forget to follow along for the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps.