It’s January and your entire abroad experience is laying right there in front of you. You have an open schedule, and you feel like anything is possible. Trust me, I was in this exact same spot exactly one year ago. I was packing and planning and trying to figure everything out for the most incredible experience of my life. If I could go back I would, but alas, I cannot. All I can do is share some of the things I learned when I arrived to prepare you for what will be the most exciting four months of your life.
As an SAI student, you do not have to worry about the arrival at your apartment, which is beyond incredible since you will be jetlagged and exhausted. SAI takes you right to your door, and you are even greeted by someone to ensure you have safely arrived at your proper apartment. This was an amazing benefit of studying abroad with SAI because I immediately felt like there were people looking out for me. It took time to really feel comfortable and safe in this new environment and knowing SAI was there right from the beginning was a nice feeling.
As orientation and classes begin, take the time to begin exploring your new home. My roommates and I made it a point to find all of the academic buildings during our first week there so that it would be easier for the first day of classes when we would be alone. Florence is the kind of city where everything becomes familiar very quickly. Taking the time with my friends was really beneficial though because we really did venture, and get lost, but it was fun to do it together.
Now, as we start to look into the weeks ahead, you are going to want to start planning trips. Travelling is cheaper and easier once you are in Europe, but really target specific things you want to see. I spent my spring break in Barcelona, London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, and travelled to Amsterdam for a weekend. My list of places I wanted to see was really filled with many Italian cities though, so I really tried my best to get to all of those places while still successfully getting to five other countries! In Italy, I travelled to Milan, Lake Como, Siena, San Gimignano, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Capri, Positano, Pompeii, and Mount Vesuvius), Venice, Parma, Modena, Verona, and Lake Garda. Although I may not have travelled to as many other countries, I really was able to see what I wanted to. I advise that you make a list and try and stick to it. I will say though, be a little flexible because I had no intention of travelling to Edinburgh during my time abroad, and I only went because a friend wanted to. It became one of my favorite cities though, so have a list so you have something to work with, but also try and have some spontaneity. You will never get everywhere on your list, and someone might have an interest in somewhere you never thought of before. Try all of them; it’s going to be a great experience no matter where you go!
So, the weekends will begin to fly by, plan, be spontaneous, try everything, just travel! My suggestion is to really explore your city throughout the weeks though so that you don’t miss out on something incredible that may just be in your backyard!
Caitlin Fell, Muhlenberg College
A love of travel was instilled in me from a very early age when I traveled to Italy, France, and England with my family. Knowing I wanted to return to Italy in my lifetime, Florence became the perfect place to call home for the best four months of my life. Living in another culture, a city filled with rich history and tradition, taught me so much, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity I was given to explore Florence, my second home, and all of the other unique places I was able to visit throughout my semester abroad.