I am officially halfway through my semester abroad. Where in the heck has time gone?!?! (insert crying emoji). This weeks post will be short since I’m busy with midterms and preparing for my spring break.
I’ll start off with my adventures in Florence. I stayed home this weekend, which was much needed since our midterms are this week. It’s starting to become tourist season so the city is absolutely packed from Wednesday to Sunday. It makes me miss my first two months when the city was quiet and you didn’t have to push your way through mass groups of guided tours. One of the benefits of so many tourists being here is that I hear American voices more often. I’ve hit a little bit of a slump where I am getting sick of never understanding the conversations around me. It’s finally stopped raining here so the sun is out and it feels like spring. It’s not the same as spring in Iowa. I never thought I’d miss mud puddles formed by melting snow. I wouldn’t say that I am necessarily homesick but I’m beginning to realize a lot of little things that I miss. I spent the weekend soaking up some sun and “studying”, I use studying as a very loose term, by the river. My roommates and I tried a few places to eat and get drinks at that we’ve never been to. If you’re willing to spend roughly 9 euro for a drink then you have to go to Lounge Bar La Terrazzo. It’s a rooftop bar with a great view of the city. Pretty much anywhere you go to get just drinks will be about 9+ for one.
My volunteer sessions with my Italian students are so much fun. The kids are absolutely crazy and have the most random questions to ask me. One day I spent the entire hour answering any questions they had. I would call on the student who was behaving the best, which at times was no one, and have them ask their question then correct them if they didn’t use correct grammar. I got asked if I liked David Bowie, bacon, and Justin Bieber. I got booed when I said that futbol wasn’t my favorite sport and that I had never actually met Justin Bieber in person. They had a strange fascination with Justin Bieber. They thought I was married and had kids, which made me life because I can’t even successfully make grilled cheese let alone take care of small humans. But maybe it’s a compliment because they think I have my life together? HA…not yet. Another day I went around the room and helped them with their spelling and writing grammatically correct sentences. It’s fun and easy work that has allowed me to learn more of the Italian culture since I am gone majority of the week traveling.
Here is an updated list of pieces of advice on traveling that I have for you.
- Don’t cut it close: I thought it would be a good idea to book a flight from Bologna to Barcelona for spring break that had an 8 hour lay over in Rome. I knew I wouldn’t make it in time for the flight to Bologna since it was during a midterm but could easily make it to Rome. I called the airline to let them know I wouldn’t make the first half of my flight and they told me then my entire flight is canceled and I get no refund since I chose the cheapest ticket. Basically I lost $90 and had to rebook a new flight the day before I am supposed to leave. In total I spent $245 when I could have paid $110 for a flight I knew I would make.
- Pack light: reuse and recycle. Try coordinating with your friends on clothes they are bringing so you can share to cut down on packing so much. Many of the low budget airlines charge you to bring a carry on suitcase. I have brought a backpack and avoided the fee but I definitely had to borrow other peoples clothes.
- Always pack an umbrella: better safe than sorry. The weather changes frequently and there’s nothing worse than having to stand in the rain. If you don’t want to bring the umbrella then wear a coat with a hood.
- Carry only the essentials: empty out your purse and bring only the things you need. Carrying your purse all day gets heavy and slightly annoying so I suggest being a minimalist.
- Print out all your information prior to your flight: many low budget flights will charge you extra if you do not print off your boarding pass before you get to the airport.
- Read the rules: if you haven’t caught on yet, low budget flights charge you for everything. Read the website and make sure that you know exactly what is allowed. My roommate had to throw away a bunch of travel sized items because apparently you can only have one plastic bag of liquids and she had two.
- Make an itinerary: if you’re traveling on your own and not through a tour company then you NEED to do your research. Plan out what you want to see, write down addresses, Google directions. I’ve found that if you don’t plan ahead then you will waste time figuring out what you want to see. Make the most of your time by being organized.
Advice on Florence:
- Take out the headphones: I see a lot of study abroad students walking to class with their headphones in. Take them out and enjoy the sounds around you. Italians shouting maybe not be the prettiest sounds but it’s what makes Florence, Florence. You’ll miss out on all the live music that’s on every street corner and the feel of the city.
- Get the panino: never say no to food. It’s always fresh and always tasty. Also, it’s panino for one and panini for multiple.
- Go to the public library: the public library is a good study spot, has free Wi-Fi, and an incredible view of the Duomo. They even have an outdoor patio area to study or read.
- Walk: go for walks as much as possible! Take new paths to school. Explore on your own. Explore with friends. Don’t get lazy and waste away your days by laying in bed and watching Netflix. There’s an entire world out there waiting for you to explore.
- Taste test gelato: try multiple different places and different flavors. Don’t pay more than 2.50 euro for a small and don’t buy from places where the gelato is overflowing from the buckets. It’s not as good or fresh since it isn’t being kept cold.
- Volunteer: volunteering is one of my favorite things I’ve done in Italy. It’s fun to hang out with the kids and find out their perceptions of America. It looks great on a resume too.