A semester abroad is a true fantasy for many college students and especially at Elon University, with the immense amount of students who take advantage of the programs the school provides. The first few weeks of abroad life are exciting and adventurous, yet overwhelming and challenging. People who have traveled to these cities years before us always offer great advice on what to pack, where to find the best food, and how to make the most of the time while out of the country. However there are some things we college students forget about when traveling to an unknown country such as Italy. In the U.S., there are a lot of amenities we don’t consider luxuries because they have been a part of our everyday life since we were young. Here are the items that I definitely missed the most while I was in Italy.
Italy is a warm, dry place especially at the end of the summer. I knew that it would be 90-degree weather for a few weeks, however we underestimated how few places (especially our apartments) provided air conditioning. Taxes are extremely high over there, so locals don’t consider air ventilation a necessity when there is fresh air outside. Also, lots of cafés and restaurants don’t have doors to let the air circulate in throughout the day. Needless to say, I need a fan to sleep comfortably at night.
Living in an apartment with eight girls is already a big deal, but an apartment with eight girls with laptops, iPhones and iPads is a tough situation. Since we are so used to being able to use data at home, we are constantly connected with technology and are rarely without it. Yet here, Wi Fi service is weaker and available in fewer places around the city. Luckily, restaurants and cafes are generous enough to help us get through our homework by providing passwords for a few hours. However, sometimes it is nice to put my phone on airplane mode and embrace a city I am not familiar with rather than stay connected online 24/7.
At restaurants in the United States, waiters automatically bring over ice water to a table for each person because they assume you will request some anyway. Boy, is this different abroad. Water is not provided and is an extra charge every time you order it while eating out. They give us sparkling or still water in bottles because you never know with the tap water, but it is strange seeing a few extra euros tacked on your bill at the end of the meal because you had to balance out your free wine with some water.
The English Language
Communication is key to get around and adapt in an unknown city. Knowing common words and phrases is the polite way to let the locals know you aren’t from here, but are trying your best to assimilate into a new culture. In Florence, I was extremely fortunate that many Italians speak English and could help us navigate and translate for us. However, that doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t try their best to learn a new language.