Preparing to go abroad is one of the most exciting times in the process, but can also be stressful and overwhelming. No matter how many blogs you read, or people you talk to, it is difficult to know just how prepared you are, and how you will adjust to your new home. I will admit, I had my fair share of meltdowns in the weeks before departing for Florence. My long list of “to-do” and “to get” was a huge contributor to my stress, but since being here in Florence for almost 2 weeks now, I can reflect back and honestly say I would not have changed a thing in my preparation. Trying my hardest to be almost “overly” prepared, without a doubt, made my adjustment nearly as smooth as possible. Of course, there are always a few uncontrollable things that can arise, but I feel that although those occurred, my preparation allowed those moments to pass with more ease too.
I have put together a list of tips, tricks, and words of wisdom, that I have either received from others or I read myself, that stood out to me. I hope this is helpful for any students going abroad (especially to Florence) and allows their adjustment to go as well as mine.
Packing: Like everyone says, pack light. It is very true when people mention that you will be hauling your luggage up multiple flights of stairs. I packed extremely minimally, and simple; the basics like leggings, two pairs of jeans, plain t-shirts, sweaters, scarves, beanies, and one large coat are a few key clothing pieces. I packed my bigger, puffy items in those airtight compression bags that you roll the air out of. They save some room in your bag, and I highly recommend them.
I’m glad I brought: Some stand out items I suggest include plug adapters (don’t wait to get them here, it is nice to just have them once you arrive), a few hundred euros in cash (your bank should be able to order them for you at home), a mini “5 wash” bottle of tide for laundry (you can do small pieces in the sink too), portable charger, snacks from home, a portable luggage scale, school supplies, (just easier to bring it with versus searching for it), luggage locks (lock important things in your luggage in your apartment, and also put one on your backpack when walking around), rubber rain boots and an umbrella, your own blanket for your bed at your apartment, and a blanket scarf for flying (fashion and warmth; kill two birds with one stone). Also, I brought my own full sized shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo, face wash, etc. Everyone said not to, because it takes weight from your check bag, but in my opinion I highly suggest it; you will have extra weight on your way back, save a lot of money (2 us dollar shampoo in the US was 6-8 euro here), and you know exactly what brand you want and like.
I’m glad I bought: On the other hand, I purchased a few items within the first days such as a SIM card through Vodafone for my iPhone (I highly recommend this, as I was struggling to decide what to do before I left), and leather purses (one small, one large) that was easier to get here than bring.
Out of all my words, please at least listen to this: Bring. your. own. copies. of. everything. I spent hours making sure I had several copies of emails with confirmation of all my payments, scholarships, travel documents and flights, my passport, medications, and everything else in between. The first day you’re here, you will need many copies of your passport, and let me tell you how thankful I was to already have them, when about 80% of our jet-lagged orientation group had to wander to get copies made. Better safe than sorry!
A few more hints: A couple more miscellaneous thoughts that come to mind is to look for a credit card with no international fees (I have Bank of America Travel Rewards and they convert the euro to dollar for me with no fees), if you book trips through Bus2Alps or SmartTrip and be sure to use the discount codes (saving a few is always great), don’t bring a hair dryer or straighter (you stand no chance with the electricity conversion, it’s going to get fried), and most importantly, have a good attitude. The first week, my roomies and I had minimal heat, and almost no hot water. After many cold showers and trouble translating to the apartment company’s handyman, it got fixed. While we could have had meltdowns, we all took it as an experience. The first week is difficult for everyone, including your program provider and apartment company, so be kind and understanding; they’re doing their best too!
Coming prepared was a challenge, and there were many days before my flight I felt so defeated by trying to keep up with what felt like my never ending list, but it paid off. This transition period has been calm and simple, and it is safe to say I am so in love with Florence. The quicker you get settled, the sooner you get to fully experience and enjoy the amazing gelato, Gustapizza, and the amazing city of Florence itself.
Kara is a current student at Kansas State University studying at Florence University of the Arts during the Spring 2017 term.