Before studying abroad, I spent all summer researching and reading blogs about other students’ experiences. While it may not have made an impact on any decisions that I made once I got here, it definitely did help me get comfortable with the idea of living abroad before I moved.
Any study-abroad site is going to be helpful. Maybe not in terms of looking for food, or booking trips, but even just in making you less nervous about moving is a success to me. So yes, I recommend this site because it not only has tips, but also stories of true events. It’s kind of like reading a novel rather than just a list of things to do and not do.
I read a lot of tips before I came, on everything from food, to nightlife, to safety. You name it I probably read it. But the one thing that people rarely touched on about Italy was how truly different it is from any other place. Each trip I took felt more like home than Florence did, not in a bad way, but just different. Italy is very preserved and old, so industrialization and modernization has not really done much for the city. There are no brand names, no Starbucks, no big sidewalks or streets. While this is nice, after a while I definitely did want to escape to a more modern city. If you are an upper-classmen, you have living options. I stayed in an off-campus apartment, and I really liked it. While we did have problems with air conditioning and laundry, overall it was nice to have a space central to the city, and getting the bus was easy to campus. It was also a great way to make friends, because typically your entire floor (or building) was other kids from different schools, so it was pretty fun.
In terms of traveling, budgeting is key. I ran out of money halfway through November, which made the last stretch kind of boring. Cook a lot, only eat out on weekends, and stay in airbnbs. Don’t go shopping, that’s a waste and you’ll have difficulty getting whatever you buy home. My personal favorite trips I took were to Ireland and Switzerland. I also highly recommend going to either Oktoberfest or Springfest, because it was a ton of fun and it actually is not as expensive as some may think (Book in advance though!!) Always print out every ticket and confirmation, because if places find out that you are a student, they can sometimes try to raise the price on certain things, so you want some sort of evidence of payment (I learned this the hard way.)
There’s no amount of blogs, videos, or articles that can prepare you for study abroad. Everyone has a completely different experience, and ultimately your memories are what you make them. There are certain things that can be advised, such as budgeting and don’t leave your things unattended, but in terms of places to go or things to see, it all depends on each person’s individual interests. If you have a will to see something, getting there is easy. Everyone here is in the same boat, so making new friends is easy. You all gave up a semester of familiar life to travel and experience something different, so you already have that in common. The worst thing you can do is sit around for the semester and treat it like normal, because it simply isn’t. Take advantage of everything, but be smart. But most importantly, sit back and enjoy every good, bad, and crazy adventure, because it flies by faster than you think. I planned my trip for years, and in the blink of an eye it’s basically over. Enjoy every moment.