From Zero to Hero: 3 Tips to Finding Success in Your First Weeks Studying Abroad in Florence
Joe, Spring 2023, Florence
March 15, 2023

So you’re getting ready to study abroad. Question is, How can I take full advantage of my time in my new home away from home? Studying abroad can seem like a daunting experience at first, but with the right mindset and expectations you can set yourself up to thrive in your new environment. So you want to start off on the right foot and have a memorable first week abroad? There is so much advice I received from others before leaving for Florence that has been extremely helpful, but no better advice than someone who had experienced it first hand! Here are my three favorite words of wisdom to start off your positive study abroad experience.

1. Be patient

As you arrive in a new country, one must remember that you are truly in a new country. Many things will be different than you are used to and it will take time to get comfortable with your surroundings (but don’t worry, it happens sooner than you’d expect!). I will tell you first hand that your patience will be tested throughout the first week of traveling abroad. From flights to luggage or just trying to order a coffee, you will find yourself in a new scenario that may be both frustrating and uncomfortable. Not to worry though, from my personal experience I have noticed that everyone I have come in contact with has been helpful and understanding. The processes you’re used to at home may take a little longer due to differences in a language or cultural normalities, but I promise the end goal will be reached. As time goes on, you will begin to have a better understanding of daily procedures and basic language, but as you start out make sure to remember to be patient, especially when others are patient with you.

Exploring San Gimignano with friends!

2. Stay in touch with friends and family

Heading across the world to live in a new city with a bunch of new people can be scary, especially in the absence of our best family and friends. Take this as an opportunity to deepen how you communicate with your favorite people, and try new ways of keeping in touch from such a long distance. Of course there are the usual ways to communicate such as Text, Email, and social media apps, but use this time to explore other forms of communicating. For example, I personally have never been an avid talker on the phone, but now I have set aside time during the week to make sure and call my close friends and family from home. Another way I have broadened my horizons is through the use of postcards! With the abundance of great artists in the Renaissance city of Florence, it is easy to find beautiful handmade and painted postcards around the city. Postcards are a new way in which I have been able to show to my favorite people that I am thinking about them.

The beautiful paintings on the inside of the Duomo.

3. Say Yes!

When you arrive at your study abroad location, you are thrown into the deep end of a sea of opportunity. Take advantage of this in full effect to gain a better understanding of what you like, dislike, and have to have in your life (for me it’s a morning cappuccino). Through SAI there is an abundance of activities to participate in, of which I highly recommend. Events such as pizza making, wine tasting, and a trip to San Gimignano with my roommate have allowed me to create close friendships with those I live with while also meeting many other exceptional people. Use your classes as a way to introduce yourself to others and make new friends throughout the city. Trust me, everyone who has decided to study abroad is in a similar boat and wants to broaden their horizons, which means meeting new people. Again, do be sure you pencil in time to take care of yourself and relax, but do not fill up your calendar because there are so many people to meet and infinite memories to be made.

Forza Viola! Cheering on Florence’s soccer team.

I hope these tips will help you reach your full potential on your study abroad journey. Make sure to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you and be ready to step out of your comfort zone. Yes, studying abroad will be a new experience, but one thing I will promise is it is worth it!

Joe is a Spring 2023 student in Florence from the University of Missouri.

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