Last summer, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and it was one of the best experiences of my life so far. While I was over there, I kept thinking of things I wish I would’ve known before going. Things I wish I would’ve packed, things I really didn’t need to pack and things I wish I would’ve known about traveling abroad in general. So, I made a list of tips that I would give to someone getting ready to study abroad. Hopefully, this will make you a little better prepared than I was before I left.
1. Take classes that are useful to your major and interesting to you
This is one of the most important suggestions I have for anyone thinking about study abroad. If your program is anything like mine, you’ll be in each class for around three hours a day, so you’ll want it to be interesting. But it’s also important that you don’t waste time and money while you’re studying overseas. If you have room for electives in your major, then, by all means, take that super easy intro to photography class they offer (guilty). But if your major doesn’t have as much wiggle room, consider taking classes that are required for you.
2. Only bring shoes you’ve already broken in
I brought a cute new pair of peep-toe sandals that I thought would be perfect to wear in Europe, but after walking in them for a few hours, my feet were absolutely destroyed. If you know you’ll be in a place where you’ll be walking pretty much everywhere, I would definitely suggest only bringing shoes that have already been broken in, especially since your feet won’t have much time to recover from one day to the next.
3. Buy a data plan before you go or a new sim card when you get there
The Wi-Fi situation in Europe, at least from my experience, is kind of the worst. We stayed in Rome for a weekend, and I went the whole time with defective Wi-Fi, so I couldn’t talk to any friends or family in America. After that weekend, I decided to buy an Italian sim card and it was one of the best purchases I made on the whole trip. Having data ensures that you’ll be able to text people anytime, use your maps to avoid getting lost and call a taxi whenever you need to.
4. Pack light enough to buy things
One thing I didn’t think about while packing for my trip was leaving room in my suitcase for the things that I bought. No matter where you go, you’ll want to buy souvenirs—new clothes, food, etc. Making sure you have enough room for all of those potential purchases is a must. It also saves you from having to pay the fee for exceeding the maximum weight in your suitcase.
5. Buy tickets for activities in advance
Certain monuments only sell a certain amount of tickets every day and often sell out days in advance. I didn’t realize this until I tried to buy a ticket to visit the Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona the day I wanted to go. We were there for a couple of days, and the tickets were sold out the whole time. So, make sure you buy tickets for places like this in advance. Plus, even if the museum or church doesn’t sell out, buying in advance will help you skip some insanely long lines.
6. Bring as many adapters as you can
If you’re anything like me, you have your phone and laptop charging, your hair dryer plugged in and your straightener heating up all at the same time. If you don’t have enough adapters, it’s nearly impossible to get ready and have all of your electronics fully charged in time. I found myself constantly wishing I had more adaptors, so bring as many as you can.
7. Take pictures of everything
Spending time enjoying the scenery around you is very important, but I think it’s also important to take pictures of the cool things you see. All of your family members will be hounding you for pictures, and you’ll be happy you took them. And don’t forget to get a lot of pictures of yourself in front of those cool things so you can keep your Instagram feed popping while you’re abroad.
8. Travel during your free time
Travel to as many places as you can, and definitely go outside of the country you’re living in if possible. In Europe specifically, travel between countries is extremely cheap, so take advantage of that as much as you can. Even if you don’t have the funds to travel outside of the country, going to other cities within the country is even cheaper and easier.
9. Try speaking the local language as much as you can
This is something I definitely regret not doing. I’ve been taking Italian for a year now. I had the perfect opportunity to practice using it with native speakers, but I took advantage of them knowing English way too much. If you’re in a country that speaks the language you’re studying, I would definitely suggest using it as much as you can. Locals will usually appreciate the effort, and you’ll become more comfortable with the new language.
10. Come with an open mind
This one sounds cheesy, but hear me out. If you show up to a new place willing to learn new things everywhere you turn, meet new people and try new things, your experience will exceed your expectations. I can’t stress this tip enough.
If you take all of these tips into account, I think it will make preparing for your trip exponentially easier. And I wish anyone getting ready to study abroad safe travels and no regrets!