I've pretty familiar with computers, I've built one 5 years ago, but it's way too big to bring with me and I'll probably sell it for building this computer.
If I went the SFF route, I would use the Silverstone SG07B. It's one of the smallest cases I could find that could still fit a decent sized gfx card, and going onto a plane, size is important. Going with this case would mean I'd use a mini-ITX mobo, and as far as I know, there arent any out there that let you overclock, so I probably wont need an i5-2500K. Some things I wouldn't need would be an OS, keyboard, mouse, sound system, etc, just building the computer. I'm having a hard time deciding on whether to take a monitor with me, or buy one over there, and either sell it before I get back, or ship it back to my house (depending on which I do, I would have to factor this into the cost). My plan for a SFF would be:
-Case: Silverstone SG07B
-CPU: I5-2500k (or whatever the non OC version is to save a few bucks)
-RAM: 8 gigs
-Mobo: havent really decided, but there isn't a lot of choice here anyway
-GFX: ATI HD 6950 (not set in stone, could be something else)
If I went the laptop route, well I'm not too familiar with gaming laptops. For the same performance, I would probably have to pay more, which would be over budget which means to stay in budget, I would be getting something underpowered. However, with a laptop I would have more portability, such as being able to bring this on possible field trips or taking it to class or what have you.
Another problem is what happens when I get back. I was planning to upgrade my regular tower, but with this trip, I have to alter what I was going to build. If I bought a laptop, I would be justified in building another system (Fullsize computer with Ivybridge), but if I went with a formfactor computer, it would seem rather wasteful to build another computer that would probably be only marginally better. Even if I did build a fullsize system, I would still be stuck with 2 desktop computers for all intents and purposes. If I went the formfactor route I wouldn't have a laptop to bring to class once I got back since I recently sold my netbook. Another option, if I chose to go the SFF route would be to leave room for upgradability, such as getting an i5-2500k, considering SLI, etc., but I'd have to get a new mobo and case of course.
Which way would you recommend I go?