What to wear - study abroad experience

Posted 03 September 2013
Model students

Posted in


While it doesn't matter at all to some people, others find choosing what to wear in a new country one of the biggest concerns. Without doubt, parents of international students will occupy more than 50% of their child's luggage with clothing. In this article, I will guide you through the decisions that you should make when considering what clothing to bring to the UK as an international student.

Study abroad - How much to bring?

This is a critically important question, and it is hugely variable, much like the weather in Britain. If your college is in or near the city centre, I would recommend bringing a minimal amount of clothing and using the space for other items that you may want to bring. All city centres in Britain offer a range of clothing shops so you can stock up on items according to the weather when you arrive.  It is inevitable that everyone has different feelings of the weather, but coming from East Asia myself I do understand that parents are very concerned about extreme weather.

I would say most cities in the UK are very similar, so purchasing clothing is not difficult. There are affordable chains and boutique shops varying in price on every high street. If your college and your hall of residence are far away from the city centre, almost all high street brands have online shops and delivery services.


What to bring?

Weather wise, south-eastern England is moderately warm, and although it rains quite often, heavy rain is quite rare. As a male, I recommend a light-weight waterproof jacket (no matter if it's nylon or leather), t shirts, one shirt for formal occasions, three trousers with other accessories, socks and pants.  If you bring a week’s worth of clothes that gives you time to settle in before needing to do laundry and go shopping.  Buying a padded jacket is a reasonably easy task so I would recommend doing so in Britain, since you may not feel that it's as cold it sounds.

In cooler regions of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (the further north you go, the cooler it feels) you may need a wool or bubble jacket. However, these may be relatively expensive compared to other parts of the world so it is recommended to bring these to the UK instead.


What to wear?

In England there are a variety of styles to be seen around towns and cities so feel comfortable to wear what you usually wear.  Some colleges will provide you with guidelines or even a school uniform so this may not be your concern. For independent colleges like Bellerbys, you can wear what you like and since your clothing has a direct impact of how you present yourself, this can be a significant decision, especially on the first day of the term. If you are starting in the Autumn term, which is the most common option, I would say a jacket with short sleeves and a t-shirt will be comfortable enough to wear, since a British autumn will not be very cold. You may want to wear a shirt for the first day if you like, but I wouldn’t recommend a suit - you are here to study and it’s a good idea to ensure you are comfortable.  After the first day you should get an idea about what other people wear and you can make the decision yourself for the following days.

On formal occasions, such as a talk or a ball, it is traditional for men to wear a suit, a three-piece black and white suit will be common and a difference in colour can make you stand out if you’re looking to be different.

In summary, I would not recommend bringing too much warm clothing, because there is a big chance that you won't wear all of it and it takes up a lot of space in your suitcase. Besides, if it really is that cold, you can buy warm clothing in the UK.  As for style, the UK (especially Brighton and London) offers a range of fashion options and it’s your choice as to how you wish to dress and how much you wish to stand out.

Mickey Lee.