I am going to give you some insight into the 10 things I learned my first week studying abroad. Before I came abroad I thought people were over exaggerating experiences and information, but boy was I wrong. So if you are thinking about going abroad here are some things I picked up really quickly.
1. You walk… A LOT. I realized the first day I was here that to get everywhere and anywhere you must walk. No, not 2 or 3 miles a day but more like 12 miles. Honestly it is not bad and this is coming from someone who HATES exercise. It is a way to see the city and get acquainted with your new home.
2. Second, well since you are walking everyday you can also eat gelato (yumm) EVERY SINGLE DAY! You are burning off so many calories because of the walking so who not make it up with a delicious snack.
3. That leads me to the third thing I learned my first week here. There is good gelato and bad gelato. You will see a place that sells gelato about every tenth of a mile. Though some try to entice you with large piles of gelato stretching high with pieces of chocolate or strawberries on them. This is BAD gelato… STAY AWAY! It means they have frozen their gelato and added preservatives. But do not fear… good, no AMAZING gelato is right around the corner.
4. I am not saying I was shy before I came here, but I would not go up to someone on the side of the street and introduce myself. Do it though! No one studying abroad knows anyone, so unless you want to sit in your apartment alone while everyone is out on an adventure I would introduce myself. Honestly this is how I met my closest friends here.
5. Also, frequent the same places in your neighborhood. The local market, butcher, café, and shops. They start to recognize you and actually look happy to see you. It really helps with missing home ‘where everybody knows your name’.
6. That leads me to the sixth thing I learned. You are in a new place that is amazing and already one of the best experiences of my life, but you will be homesick. Figuring out how to do laundry or working the water heater. You will find yourself trying to take a shower and the water will get freezing cold and all you want to do is cry because you miss your hot showers, warm bed and being able to dry your clothes instead of hanging them up for three days to dry. Or, you see all your friends on snapchat having a great time and get FOMO (aka, fear of missing out), and even though you are in the best place ever you will have moments where you just want to pack up and go home. Don’t worry though that feeling passes and you remember you are the one having a grand adventure and they are the real ones experiencing FOMO.
7. You will learn this one fast when you get a call from your parents of check your wallet and realize you have blown through all of your money in a week when usually you would spend that much in a month. WATCH YOUR SPENDING! Yes there are new clothes (Italians have way better style), amazing food, and many trips to plan but if you spend a lot the first week you are here you are going to blow through your budget for the month and end up eating a piece of toast at home while everyone else is out enjoying themselves. Keep a journal or get one of those Apps where you can write down everything you spend. This way you understand your crazy shopping sprees are not normal and that you would rather travel than a new pair of boots.
8. Since you want to save money, take advantage of aperitivos and free meals. Aperitivos are like an opportunity for people to get together and enjoy a buffet of pastas, appetizers and drinks for a low price of 5-12 euros. Though if you do it right you can make it your dinner and it’s the best. Also lots of travel groups (like bus2alps or smart trip) have free coffee days or free dinners so they can try to entice you to book trips with them. Even though it’s a sales pitch you are getting a meal so its worth it. And the best part is you get unlimited water!
9. This is important; really you must pay attention to this. Pick-pocketers are real! By big tourist places especially. They will cause a distraction like throwing colorful lights in the air so you look up and someone else can come along and steal your wallet. No it is not a rumor; kids also do this. I saw one the other day kicking around a soccer ball in the middle of the plaza and bumped into a man on ‘accident’ and stole his wallet. They are so fast and you will never get it back. They even cut open the bottom of people’s bags and get ready to catch what is inside. So always keep your purse or bag in eye view and in front of you the whole time. Also don’t let strangers stop you!
10. Last but not least, GIRLS… guys are very persistent. You will get cat called on the streets and try to talk to you. DO NOT even acknowledge their existence because they won’t stop. You have to shove (not hard) their arm off of you and keep walking, don’t even say no (unless they won’t leave then loudly address them by saying No and if it keeps carrying on someone will come assist you). Don’t except a drink at a bar either. For some reason they take this as an invitation to go home with you and while they may be cute, you also do not know them. Buy your own drinks, they aren’t too expensive so you can fit them into your budget and keep you from having a stalker for the night.
Even though I have not been here for very long I have already learned a lot and can’t wait to share more of my adventure with you!
Ashley is a current student at University of South Carolina studying at Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in Italy during the Spring 2016 term.