Dorm Room Essentials for International Students in the U.S.

Dorm Room Essentials for International Students in the U.S.

Are you having trouble deciding what to pack for your university dorm? It’s alright. New students never really know what amenities to expect in new dorms.

Your dorm room will be your haven. This is the place you’ll yearn to go to after long lectures and tiring events. You will want it to be equipped with all your favorite things. However, it is important to prioritize the things you pack from home, because luggage charges at the airport can be frightening.

You should check the dimensions of your dorm room on the university website. It will help you understand the amount of stuff to pack.

You have to distinguish between essentials that you must pack from home, and other things that can be purchased upon arrival.

Absolute Essentials

Important documents

Your dorm room is your new home in a new country. You have to ensure that all your important documents are safely tucked inside your cupboard. Pack your passport, identity proofs, student visa, financial aid forms, and any other essential documents required by your university.

Remember to carry your health insurance papers. You will need them in case of a medical emergency.

Toiletries and shower slippers

You may not understand the importance of shower slippers if you’ve never used a communal bathroom. Believe it or not, not everyone has the same hygiene habits as you. Communal showers can get dirty in your residence hall.

First-aid kit

If there’s one thing you may have trouble finding in a new country, it will be your preferred painkillers. Do not risk it with unknown medicines. Pack your essential first-aid items from home.

It is a good idea to maintain a proper first-aid kit in your dorm room. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and money by avoiding a trip to the health center for minor issues. Of course, with health insurance, you should always seek medical attention if necessary.

Important electronics

A dorm room typically only comes with a bed, an empty wardrobe, and a desk. Electronics are usually to be brought from home. Your university will list the items that are required, such as a computer, printer, etc. However, certain electronics turn out to be lifesavers in university:

  • Portable phone or laptop charger for when you’re in a rush or running late for class
  • An electric kettle to make a quick cup of coffee or tea in the mornings
  • Mini-fridge to keep drinks cold and perishable items fresh
  • Desk lamp for the nights when your roommate is asleep but you have assignments to finish
  • Noise-canceling headphones so that you can block out noises from the hallways and adjoining rooms
  • Extension cord, because dorm rooms usually don’t have enough power outlets

It is a good idea to purchase electronics from home, as they can be really expensive in the U.S. Just keep in mind that American power outlets are 120 volts. If your device or charger doesn’t support dual-voltage, you may have to purchase an adapter or converter.

Class supplies

University stores charge quite a lot for basic class supplies. It is much more cost-effective if you bring them from home. You will essentially need some notepads, pencils, pens, sticky-notes, and a stapler.

Hangers and wardrobe organizers

Dorm room cupboards are usually small and cramped. University students like to keep a variety of clothes. If you’re someone who loves to add new things to your closet frequently, you will need wardrobe organizers.

You can bring the same hangers that are in your bedroom cupboards at home. They will increase space and keep your closet organized. Who has the time to maintain a clean closet in a university anyway?


You should add a few picture frames on your desk and other items of personal significance around your dorm room. Take your most loved photos and soft toys along. It is natural to feel lonely at the beginning. Items like these will remind you of home and give you comfort.

Things to buy after your arrival


Although students believe that they should stock up on clothes before leaving for college, that usually turns out to be unfavorable. Most university students try to fit in with the crowd by imitating the style of other students. Students in different parts of the country have different styles.

If you’re comfortable with how you dress, then that’s great too. But most students like to observe students around them and shop for similar items. It can help you feel like a part of the community.

Moreover, it is much more effective to buy clothes according to the weather. It will probably be hot when the semester begins. As winter approaches, you will have plenty of months to purchase warmer clothes.

Not having suitable clothes for the winter can cause medical problems like fever, cold, cough, and headaches.  Not only will that affect you academically, but it will also burden you financially. It will take time to get accustomed to the weather.

Make sure you have enough health insurance coverage from day one of your arrival in the U.S. While you may not be able to avoid weather-related health issues in the beginning, you can avoid the financial burden of health check-ups.

Shopping upon arrival will also help you save space in your luggage.

Cleaning supplies

Different universities have different facilities for cleaning dorm rooms. Upon your arrival, you will learn more about yours. Nevertheless, every student needs basic cleaning supplies like:

  • Cleaning wipes
  • Dusting rags
  • Handheld vacuum
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Rubber gloves

You should also invest in a laundry bag, as they will prevent you from making a mess around your room.


Yes! You heard that right. Believe it or not, there will come a time when you begin to get tired of eating out. Having a few utensils in your room will be a blessing. You essentially only need a plate, fork, spoon, mug, and a glass.

It also helps if you have a reusable water bottle. It is cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

If your budget allows

You can add a personal touch to your dorm room if you have the budget for it.

Students tend to put up LED lights on the walls (if permitted by the university). You can go out looking for paintings to hang, as the walls in dorm rooms are usually bland. You can also add bright curtains and rugs to make your dorm room livelier.

Purchasing a locker can also go a long way in keeping your essentials safe. A wall clock or an alarm clock is also a typical choice for dorm rooms.

All these purchases should only be made after your arrival on campus. These items are not essential, so you should not waste luggage space by bringing them from home.

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