I have been living in Florence for a little over a week now. The whole time I have been here I have felt a rollercoaster of emotions; excitement, confusion, curiosity, and homesickness. All of these feelings are natural when moving to a new country and there is no advice I can tell you to avoid them. Thankfully there are few minor mistakes I made my first week, that I can share with you to help you plan better.
Learn Basic Italian
It’s important to develop a basic understanding of the language spoken in your host country. This knowledge is going to help you navigate the city, buy local products, and most importantly interact with the natives. Unfortunately I came to Italy without learning basic Italian and so did many other American students I know. Although most Italians in Florence can communicate with you in English, the language barrier will make you feel out of place. In order to make a closer connection with the locals in Florence, learn basic greetings. In the beginning the most interaction you’ll be getting with Italians will be at stores so learn how to ask where things are. Just learning the simplest phrases before your studies will help a lot and be sure to continue to practice when you arrive.
Pack Comfy clothes
The idea of sophisticated high fashion comes into mind when thinking of Italy. I am here to tell you that this image is completely accurate. Italians are classy people, and at times class is something America can lack so its natural for us to want to step up our fashion game to keep up with our host country. Because of this I found myself packing my nicest clothes, mostly blouses and dresses. Now after being in Florence for a week I realized I have severely under packed comfy warm clothes. You will have many occasions to dress up while in Italy, but there are going to be any days when your going to want to dress down. Especially early mornings before class in the winter. Make sure to pack some warm clothes you’ll normally wear to class so you feel comfortable and yourself.
Check class materials list before departure
When packing in the States make sure to check all your courses syllabi and see what materials your going to need for your semester. Depending on the materials it might be more beneficial to bring items from home rather than buying them in Italy. For example my art class required me to buy various graphite pencils, a sharpener, and some erasers. I had all these items at home but didn’t think to check my class material list so I had to repurchase them in Italy. Small items like these that don’t take too much room when packing are worth bringing from home and will save you money.
Give yourself time for laundry
In the States I was able to do a load of laundry and wear those same freshly washed clothes within two hours. But that isn’t the case in Italy. My Italian washing machine takes three hours for a cycle, but three hours is short compared to the full day it takes for clothes to air dry. Jeans especially take a while usually exceeding a day to dry. It’s important to start loads in the morning so you have plenty of daylight to dry clothes. Overall doing laundry isn’t a big hassle just make sure to give yourself time, and do smaller loads.
I hope you enjoyed my few words of wisdom. I wish I could tell you that taking my advice will free you from making any mistakes while abroad, but that would be a lie. You are going to make many mistakes, but mistakes they are memories made. Take what you want from this blog but the most important advice I can give you is don’t dwell on your mistakes. Mistakes are unavoidable, especially when doing something as extraordinary as studying abroad.
Samantha is a spring 2019 SAI Florence student from Colorado State University.