I cannot believe that my time abroad is almost at a close. It has been such an eventful semester; there have been good times, bad times, and everything inbetween. I definitely have some tips and tricks for those coming to study in Florence that I would love to share, in no particular order.
- It’s ok to speak English. There will be little things that bother you abroad. The biggest grievance for me was the language barrier. I allowed my lack of knowledge in Italian to keep me from exploring at times because I constantly felt like each interaction was a test, and that if I didn’t speak Italian I was failing. This is just not the case. Feel free to speak English, as Florence is an extremely tourist filled place. Better yet, practice your Italian! Most people will be happy to correct or speak with you, as it shows that you are making an attempt to learn and embed yourself in their culture.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Stuff happens. You might get on the wrong bus and go the complete opposite direction from school. You might lose your headphones. Your plane home might be cancelled and you could be stuck away from school for a day like I was. But the thing is, in the grand scheme of things, every moment is just a spot on your hand. Accidents and unpleasant things are bound to happen, but it’s up to you to keep everything in perspective. Try your best to find the silver lining and learn from each experience, whether good or bad.
- Stay home. Ok, obviously you’re not HOME home, but stay in Florence for a few weekends! Enjoy walking around and seeing more than just the Duomo. At the beginning of the semester, a lot of people will be planning to go to a different country every weekend, and I think this is one of the bigger mistakes you can make. You have a homebase in Florence, so take advantage of that! Plan smaller trips within Italy and see towns that you wouldn’t see otherwise. For day trips, I thoroughly recommend Sienna and Lucca. For longer trips I recommend Naples and Rome together, as they are on the same train line. (A lot of people will tell you that Naples is dangerous, but if you stay in the center like I did, it is totally safe. Just exercise the same amount of caution and common sense you would in New York City and you’ll have a great time.)
- Don’t forget your passport! If you are travelling anywhere overnight, it is crucial that you have both your passport and a copy with you. Even if you are traveling within Italy, you still need to have your passport to present at hostels and airbnbs. If you don’t have it, you risk the possibility of being turned away, which is a complete buzzkill. Keep it locked in a safe when you are out of the room and you’ll be fine.
- Eat away. You are in ITALY. Major dieting and whatnot can wait a semester. Eat the amazing food, gelato, sandwiches, and don’t feel guilty. If you feel the need to exercise, join a gym, run along the Arno, or go to yoga! NYU offers yoga classes on Tuesday and the yoga studio I go to, called the Yoga Garage, is amazing and has great prices for students.
- Embrace boredom. I have experienced more boredom here than I ever have in New York since it’s much smaller and less fast paced. Take advantage of the free time and do something you never used to have the time to do! Read a book, keep a journal, exercise, go exploring (go into every church you can possibly get into to look at some amazing art), maybe see an opera! Find equivalents from your life back home in Italy to help assimilate you better and find things in Italy that are special when you feel homesick.
These are just a few of my tips and tricks, but I hope that these prove to be helpful to somebody studying abroad in Italy or at all. Happy travels!