Lessons Learned My First Week Abroad
Alli, Florence, Spring 2018
February 7, 2018

My first week in Florence was one of the greatest weeks of my life but, it did not come without it’s challenges. Here are a few things that I learned.

A few of my wonderful new friends

Every Day is Leg Day

It was around one in the afternoon when I was dropped off at the front of my apartment with my two suitcases and large carry-on in hand.  All I could think about was finally being able to sit down and relax after a long day of travels. However, that dream quickly vanished as I unlocked the front door to the building and saw the large stairwell in front of me. It took a second before it finally set in that no, there was no elevator here, and yes, I would have to carry every ounce of my luggage up those stairs to my apartment on the third floor (really the fourth floor). I had no idea how I was going to be able to make it up the stairs every time I came home, and I dreaded the thought of it. However, as time has moved on, I have come to love my walks up the stairs to my apartment. With all the pasta I’ve been eating, it’s good to know that I always have a workout built into my daily routine.

My cute apartment kitchen

Appliances – A Love/Hate Relationship

Another thing I quickly learned is that the appliances in your new apartment will not be like those at home. The second day in our apartment, our washing machine gave us quite the surprise. About an hour into the cycle, we began seeing water seeping out of the bathroom door – the washing machine was leaking all over the bathroom floor. We filled out a maintenance request and the Comforts of Home staff member graciously helped us drain the remaining water in the washing machine and clean up our bathroom. We had taken for granted the amount of clothes that we are able to wash and overfilled the machine, even with the few items that were put in there. Washing machines in Italy are much smaller and apartments are not furnished with dryers, meaning you can only wash a few items at a time and they must be put out on a line to dry. Dishes must also be hand washed and you are not guaranteed an oven for all your baking. At first, these things can be difficult to adjust to, especially when you are dealing with a flooding bathroom, but I have come to realize that because of these things, I am becoming more conscientious of the amount of electricity I use daily, and am discovering ways to reduce that consumption.

Laundry day

Friendship is Key

The most important lesson I learned in my first week, however, is that quickly making friends will be your greatest asset to enjoying your time abroad. It may not be easy, and you may not like everyone but, there will be great people within your study abroad “class” that will become your confidants and travel companions. If you keep your mind open and try to interact with as many students as you can, you will be able to quickly find your “crew.” These people will be essential in supporting you through your triumphs and fails and will surely make any ordinary night extraordinary.

Views from my apartment balcony

Learning to live in a new country is not easy but each new challenge comes with the opportunity to learn. If you can find the good in each situation, learning to love your new home will become the greatest experience.

My beautiful new home

Alli is a spring 2018 SAI Florence student from the University of South Carolina.

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About SAI

SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.