What They Don’t Tell You Before Going Abroad
Elizabeth, SAI Ambassador, 2019
September 18, 2019

Chocolate Festival outside of the Santa Croce in Florence

What was your favorite memory from studying abroad?
I find this question so easy, yet so difficult to answer whenever I’m asked it. In short, every bit of my experience was my favorite memory, but it’s the little things about my study abroad that still stand out to me in my memory. To name a few: I loved waking up Wednesday mornings, when all my roommates and I didn’t have class, and sitting in our main room all together chatting and laughing about our adventures abroad. I’ll always remember that first time I went to the grocery store and was finally able to understand the cashier’s Italian. I loved sitting outside around the corner from my apartment and people watching while having my café con latte, and then casually stroll to my next class. And finally, I will never forget the moments with kind strangers we met that made my friends and me feel like Florence was really our home.

One of my favorite little piazzas. It was the perfect combination of lively yet quiet.

What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
Traveling while studying abroad is as iconic as a duo as wine and cheese, in my opinion. There are so many amazing locations so close by, of course you should travel as much as possible! That being said, don’t travel to the point where you feel stressed or worn down. While it might not seem like it in the moment, traveling, even in short distances, can really take a toll on your body and mental health. It is the most fun yet exhausting thing you can do! Don’t get me wrong, I was having the most amazing time going all over Europe with my new friends, but after a couple of consecutive weekends away from my host city, I felt like I was at a breaking point. It is totally okay to spend a weekend or two (or three or four) in your host city and just explore your neighborhood.

I loved all the narrow streets in Europe, and especially this one with a peek at the Santa Croce

Don’t feel pressure to plan big trips every weekend just so you can hit every big tourist destination you can. While visiting all your bucket list places sounds amazing, take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of living in your host city and give yourself time to just explore where you’re living!

View from a rooftop restaurant in Florence!

Do you have any tips for learning the language while students are abroad?
In my experience, a lot of places (especially in larger cities like Paris or Rome) will have locals that know a good amount of English. This being said, when they realize that you are an English-speaker they will probably just do you a courtesy and speak to you in English without you asking. Don’t let this discourage you, though, if you’re trying to speak the local language! The first couple of times this happened to me I felt really awkward and embarrassed for even trying to speak to them in the local language, but there’s no need for that! Even if you aren’t great at speaking their language and even if they just reply to you in English, it still makes a difference to try your best. If you talk to them long enough, they will get the hint that you want to test your skills and they’ll speak to you in their language. People in your host city and other cities you visit will appreciate the effort, and it will help with your practice! I even had locals correct my pronunciation and other errors to help me improve, which made for a fun experience.

At the Piazzale Michelangelo, the best view of Florence!

Elizabeth was a spring 2019 Florence student from the University of Mississippi.

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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.