Before I left to study abroad in Florence, Italy, I wrote a blog post that included several tips for packing. However, now that I have arrived and spent some days here, I realize there are so many mistakes that I made during my preparation. Although they have not caused any real problems, these mistakes have definitely made things a bit more difficult here in this new country. Please keep in mind that these may not apply to every study abroad experience. Without further ado, here are the top 10 things I wish I knew before I left to study abroad:
1. DO pack the minimum amount of things you possibly can.
Although I tried to be limited in what I brought, I still feel like I packed too much. I brought one big suit case and a duffel bag, white my roommate only brought one bag, and he is completely fine with it. The next several tips will help you cut down on unnecessary baggage.
2. DON’T bring hangers.
There were several hangers in my apartment closets when I arrived. There are also several drawers that clothes can be put in.
3. DON’T bring a towel.
They can be very bulky and heavy in your luggage. Towels were provided to me in my apartment, and towels can be bought pretty cheaply wherever you go.
4. DON’T bring any kitchen or cooking ware.
I didn’t know what to expect from my apartment so I brought a mug, some steel chopsticks, and a collapsable bowl. When I arrived, I found that my apartment was fully equipped with pots, pans, plates, silverware, cups, and other cooking tools. These things can also be cheaply bought at local stores if they are not provided.
5. DON’T bring a blanket.
Not only did my airline (AirFrance) give small complimentary blankets for the overnight flight, but I found several extra comforters in my apartment for the winter season.
6. DON’T bring many pairs of shoes.
I brought several pairs including dress shoes and boots, and now I don’t even have any desire to use them. I could have used the space and weight in my luggage much more efficiently. I would recommend two to three pairs of shoes: one everyday pair, one pair of tennis/walking shoes, and maybe one pair that is slightly nicer, but still versatile and practical.
7. DO acquire and bring any medications you will need.
If your parents send medications to you, at least in Italy, it will be held in customs for approval and likely won’t be released until after you are already home.
8. DO bring some of the local money in cash.
This is often necessary if you need to catch a taxi from the airport. In addition for those living in Italy (I’m not sure about other countries), foreigners must apply for a residence permit, which in total cost around 115 euro. This permit is in addition to the Visa that you have to obtain before you come to Italy.
9. DO acquire a plug adapter before you go.
You will need to use this so your chargers can be plugged into the outlets in your new country. This doesn’t convert the voltage coming out of the outlet but should work for most phone and computer chargers, as they are dual voltage. For example, iPhone chargers can be used at both 100 and 240 Volts. You can read more about adapters vs converters here. These can likely be found in your study abroad country (I haggled an adaptor down to 2.50 euro from a street vendor), but if you just order it from somewhere like Amazon or your local hardware store before you leave, it should be cheap and will make your life much easier.
10. DO try to learn the local language as much as possible.
Whether it be through classes or on Duolingo (I used both), knowing the language where you are will help immensely. My roommates and friends definitely appreciate that I am able to converse with the locals in Italian whenever we go to stores and restaurants.
While none of these mistakes will ruin your study abroad experience in any way, following these tips will definitely make your transition and travel much smoother and worry free. I also recommend contacting the student services representatives at your study abroad school and/or your landlord to ask them specifics about what amenities or resources are being provided. Buonviaggio!