10 unique and actually useful gift ideas for students studying abroad

As I told you in my previous post, I celebrate my birthday last week. I’ve had a great time and cool and useful gifts. This, and the fact that the holiday season is almost here, inspired me to write a gift guide, a list of gift ideas for students studying abroad.

unique and actually useful gift ideas for students studying abroad

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Is your friend moving away to study in a foreign country for a while? Do you want to give them something special, thoughtful, and useful? I made this list of gift ideas for students studying abroad from first-hand experience. I can assure you that if you pick one gift from here, you cannot go wrong.


If your friend doesn’t have one already, you can’t go wrong with a backpack. Especially one that can be used for school, but also as a cabin luggage.

white water walk in niagara falls

During my first year of college, for my birthday, I bought myself a North Face Borealis Backpack and I’ve been using it for everything since then. It’s perfect for college, as it has a lot of different pockets: for your phone, for your keys, for your wallet, lip balm, lunch box, medicines, there’s even space for pens, and it has a laptop sleeve. I also use this backpack every summer during my road trips. It’s the perfect size to bring it on a plane as a cabin luggage, and it’s quite comfortable to carry it around even when it’s heavy. It’s waterproof, it has those super great waist straps and, for extra security, you can add a lock to the zips.


As we’re living in the digital era and we always carry around lots of electronics, those need to be charged. A lot of other essential items, like a hair dryer or an electric toothbrush, need to be plugged in. Unluckily, different countries have different plugs.

Trust me, you can never have too many adapters. I have 4 and I’m always looking for a way to make room for more devices. So, go ahead and buy your friend an adapter, either a universal or a country specific one.

External battery

Since we’re talking about electronics, another essential thing to have is a portable battery. This is essential for those awesome days when there are so many views to take pictures of. Or for those long days of travel when listening to music drains the phone battery. Your friend will be thinking of you every time they get a low battery warning and another half day away from a socket.


Even if we’re in the digital era and your friend is planning on sharing the whole adventure on social media, or perhaps a blog (make them read why they should start a blog while living and studying abroad), a proper journal is an awesome thing to have. It could be used to take notes of all the things one shouldn’t miss, to make little bucket lists of places to visit and restaurants to dine at, or to write down personal thoughts and emotions that don’t belong on social media.


My first travel journal was on a plain Moleskine notebook, I loved that I could write and draw. But I quickly converted to the Squared Moleskine Notebook. I can still draw on that, but it’s so much easier to write on a squared (or ruled) notebook while you’re on the road, trust me.

DIY travel guide

This is a more personal gift. It will be even better if you’re a crafty person and you can bring one handmade with love. What you should do is: research your friend’s destination and create a custom itinerary or a list of all the attractions you would love to visit. Tell your friend to go to all those places and send you a postcard from there.


If you’re into fashion and you’d like to buy a piece of clothing for your friend, a scarf is the perfect gift. A shirt might be cool too, but you need to know the size and sometimes people have a different taste. A scarf is a bit less personal, but it’s so useful. Especially if someone is moving to a cold place. But even in a warm place, it can be used as a shawl during a cool night or when the AC is killing you.


This might sounds funny. But I actually put on my shopping list to buy at least 3 packs of my favorite hand cream. I know there will be creams where I’m going, but it took me years to find one that is perfect for my skin. I know I’ll have to make some trials and errors before finding another perfect match. So buy your friend’s favorite cream.


For the book lover a Kindle is the perfect gift. Even if they are all for printed books and don’t like e-readers, when you have to fit everything in a 23kg luggage, a Kindle seems like an amazing idea and your friend will be very happy to have one. Along with the Kindle, give them a long list of good books to read. Also, make sure they Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited, they can get unlimited reading and unlimited listening to a lot of books for less than 10$ a month.

Gift card

Gift cards are a student best friend. Just be sure to check that the shop will be available at your friend’s destination and that they’ll accept gift cards bought in another country.


Food is a great gift, maybe the best of all. But be sure to check if it’s allowed in the destination country.

Do you have a friend who is moving abroad for a semester? What do you think about these gifts? Do you have any other suggestion?


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  • Rose Sahetapy

    Adapter is is the best gift I have in mind now. It’s perfect to bring to to countries with different plugs. Overall love your ideas.

  • Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    I love the idea of a backpack for travel! With a good backpack you can conquer anything!

  • I totally agree that an adapter is the best present. Its something thats overlooked when people go travelling!

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    External battery is key! My brother has traveled to Europe twice and he always brings his external battery and wifi hot spot. It really helps us stay in touch so we know he’s safe. This is a really great list!

    Elizabeth Ann // http://www.lovedoinglife.com

  • These things are all very useful. I have a lot of Germany friends who came to the US as Au Pairs and I always send them gift cards to make their stay a little bit easier.

  • These are all great ideas! I might be studying abroad soon, so now I know things to ask for before I leave!!

    Caitlyn | http://www.collegewithcaitlyn.com

  • Sabra of Great Green Heron

    Love the ideas! Did some studying/working/traveling abroad when I was in my 20s. Since I used film back in those days (and a lot of it), I’d suggest SD cards or other digital storage for all the pics!

  • These are all certainly very useful 🙂 I was an international student once and would have loved to receive any of the items you listed above 🙂

  • Jasmin N

    These are some wonderful suggestions! That list is good for the ones who’s having a family member or a friend studying abroad 🙂

    ~ Jasmin N

  • These are such great suggestions! I’m thinking of studying abroad next year, so I’ll definitely send that list to my family and friends! 😉

  • These are great suggestions you have put together here, I find more and more people are backpacking so that is definitely a great choice. Happy Belated birthday!

  • Jessica

    These are all such great suggestions! The backup battery I think would be the most important along with food!
    xo Jessica

  • Karoliina Kazi

    Fantastic gift ideas. A good quality backpack is an amazing and useful gift and will last for a long time.

  • Love these ideas! I was given an adaptor when I was a college student one Christmas and definitely used that a lot! I like the journal idea, too.

  • These are great suggestions! I especially like the travel journal – I sell one of my own because I think it’s so important for people to capture their memories somehow (even if not on a blog 🙂 )