Thoughts, Packing Lists, & Memories of Going Abroad

veniceThere are only a handful of days (or weeks) before your trip abroad. It is an amazing feeling, but if you’re like me then there are also a million thoughts running through your head at this moment!
It is such an exciting time! I was nervous and I felt like I had so much to do, I felt like I was not ready to leave my house for over a month by just packing one suitcase and I had never been away for so long.
On that note, we will start with some packing tips!

packingAbout a week before my trip aboard, I started to organize and pack. A MAJOR tip from me, DO NOT pack the night before you want to go. Give yourself 24 hours to stare at your suitcase and think what do I need, or what can I take out.

It is not worth it to over pack! Bring outfits that you can mix and match and I promise that the shopping in Florence is amazing, so you leave space to fill your suitcase with all of the amazing things that you will buy! I wish I left room in my suitcase, I would have been able to bring back more food, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and gifts for other people.

Here are a few things that I wish that I DIDN’T pack:

• Wedges: cute in theory but not worth it at all! In Italy walking on the cobblestones for miles in heels? Not happening! Bring a cute pair of sandals instead or buy a pair when you get there! (Trust me you will want to buy more than one pair!)

• Jeans: You only need one or two pairs of jeans! It gets hot in the cities and you’ll wish you packed more dresses and skirts than jeans!

• Hair dryer: I didn’t bring a hair dryer, but I knew a few sisters that did!
The plugs in Italy are different and even with the plug adapters they not safe to use! Most hotels have them for you, and you will have access to them, so don’t worry!

• Too much makeup and products: I brought my whole makeup bag and that weight and space add up! Pick your daily favorites, and throw in a few things you put on as well. I also brought big bottles of hair products. Really you just need a small bottle (not value size) of shampoo, and miniature bottles of product, like texturizer, mouse, and gel.

And of course there are so many things I am SO GLAD I packed!

• Sneakers: I would walk up to 10 miles a day! Sneakers aren’t the cutest things to wear I know, but your feet will thank you later!

• Scarves: When you go into churches, you need to make sure that you can cover up. A scarf fits easily into your bag and also looks cuter than buying the cloaks the churches give you!

• Plug adapters: These are amazing! I brought two with me to plug in my laptop and my phone. They are a necessity when traveling abroad!

• Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Hats: Long days out and about will fry you if you don’t have sun protection! I brought a tiny sunscreen and it was perfect! And I bought the cutest hat in Florence that I still wear all the time!

• A good weekender bag for the weekend trips: I had a great over the shoulder bag that I would fill up for the weekend. It is not worth bringing a huge suitcase and walking blocks with it and lugging it up the stairs. I had plenty of room in my little bag!

unspecified-4• A big cross body bag!: A small purse will not be helpful when you are out all day! My purse carried my water, wallet, camera, scarf, and sometimes a snack! It wasn’t too big, and it is safer to have a cross body with a zipper!

• A nice camera: I invested in a camera and it was so great to have high quality pictures of everything. I think that our phones have great cameras until we try to print off all of the pictures! That is when you’ll wish you brought a real camera!

So after packing, there are still a million thoughts running through your mind about your flight over and getting settled in. My advice is to stay calm and prepare yourself.

• Check into your flight the day before and throw your ticket in your carry on the second you print it.

• Wallet, License, and Passport. You will think this a million times before getting on your flight and when you land, so put them in a spot that is safe but that you can check often!

• Take your time getting to the airport and get to the gate early! We got to our flights gate an hour before we boarded. It is good peace of mind.

unspecified-5There are so many memories that you will make on this trip. Don’t let yourself forget them! Bring a journal or write a blog like I did to keep track of the day-to-day things that happened. Always remember to take a picture of where you are and what you are up to! I forgot to in a few great spots and I regret it!

You are about to leave to go on an amazing adventure! Think of it that way and enjoy each day that you are on this trip. Time flies when you are having fun and this might be the best month of your life. I hope that everyone has so much fun!

So be safe, adventure, and eat a lot of gelato and pizza for me!

-Alexa Orban

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5 reasons you NEED to study abroad with your sisters!

Duomo_florence
We are thrilled to share this blog from our newest team member, Alexa. Alexa is an Alpha Delta Pi sister at Quinnipiac University as well as a stellar Select Select Study Abroad alum. She is spreading her Study Abroad cheer everywhere she goes and in this blog, she details just 5 of the reasons why she feels everyone should study abroad with their sisters. Enjoy!

Going abroad is something that every college student should do. When else in your life are you going to have the chance to live in another country for a long period of time, explore, eat great food, and learn all the unique features of another culture? Probably not anytime soon, and lets be honest we don’t want to do it when we retire…
The same thing can be said about being in a sorority! After you join your chapter it becomes comfortable and you never really feel the need to branch out and meet new people. But you have sisters all over the country! You never know who you could meet.
So why not make the best of both situations and go abroad…with your sisters?

Need more convincing?
We have 5 reasons why you need to!

1. The sisters that you will meet abroad are more like you than you think.
Your chapter doesn’t define what your organization stands for, and while your sisters all share the same values as you do, the women who join you abroad have even more in common with you. Spending so much time with your sisters abroad makes you close in a short amount of time. You really start to feel like some of these women are becoming your best friends. And even when the trip ends, it’s amazing to think that you now have friends all over the country.IMG_9224BW
2. Being able to call another country home is easier with your sisters.
Going abroad can seem scary so it’s nice to be with people who make you feel comfortable. No matter what organization you call home, you will always feel at home when you are traveling with your sisters.IMG_9481
3. You always get to throw what you know.
What is the point of amazing Instagrams without a bunch of sisters around you? Your #TBT’s will look great, and all of your sisters back in the US will wish they decided to come with you!IMG_9616
4. You always have a group to go out with.
If you want to explore and don’t want to go alone, you have a group of women who probably all want to go with you! From seeing amazing museums, to grabbing a glass of wine, there will always be someone to go with you.DSC01389
5. Your memories will last a lifetime.
Being abroad is an experience that stays with you forever. When you’re back in the US wishing you were eating a gelato in Florence, you can always text your sisters to reminisce and we bet that they will feel the same way.IMG_8394C

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Tips & Tricks for a day in Cinque Terre

Italy_coastlineSummer is around the corner and some of you are beginning to plan your trips to Italy. Many of my friends and family that come to visit during the summer months usually have one thing in mind: the beach. Excellent plan. While there is lots of “coastline” to choose from in Italy, Cinque Terre (chink-way ter-re), or the five earths (aka towns), has risen to the top of the popular spots for tourists. This is an especially great escape from Florence (which can be very hot during the summer) and can easily be done in a day!

Recently, while writing to a friend who is planning just such a day trip, I was trying to remember all the ins and outs and I realized that there were maybe a few more than the average person can just “pick up,” especially if the Italian is limited. So I thought, why not make it easy (for me and for others) and put it all in one place. Below you will find all the need-to-know info from how to get there for less to what you can skip to save time and from where to hike to where not to. Of course we’ll tackle the food, I mean, the cuisine is worth the trip in itself, but we’ll also be sure you know how to make it home without getting stranded there (unless that is part of the plan). Enjoy and see you there this summer!
Continue reading…

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Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence or Italy – Part III

top_ten_tips_study_abroadOK. It’s time.
It’s time for the final installment of Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence and Italy. Seeing as a whole bunch of students have just arrived and are making their way through the streets of Florence and getting the hang of their new Italian life (covered extensively in Part I and Part II of this blog series), I would say it’s time to give them the next, and final installment, of Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence or Italy. Wouldn’t you agree?
 
Besides, I was starting to feel bad that there were only really 7 amazing tips floating out there… Well, as promised, here are the final three tips in our study abroad tips series – a literal A to Z on studying abroad (and traveling and living) in Florence and Italy. From what to pack to arriving in style and from calling home to getting to a local doctor, we cover all the fundamental life needs in three easy-to-read blog posts.
 
As always, for those of you who are new to our Top Ten Tips blogs (welcome!), see below for a handy guide to the massive quantity of information into which you are about to dive. Use it to help manage the material. Want to know everything there is to know about international calling? Want to get to the heart of the grocery store issue? Jump to that section now by clicking on the links below! Or, should you so desire, start with Part I and make your way through everything, in order. We love to hear from you, so if we left anything out, just let us know in the comments at the bottom! Continue reading…

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Tips on Food & Eating in Italy

Italian_salamiOk guys. Time for me to vent. Pet peeve numero uno comin’ at ya.
It really rubs me the wrong way when tourists arrive in Italy and expect to find the same dishes (cooked the EXACT same way) they enjoy in Italian restaurants at home. Most ethnic cuisine that has made its way to America ends up changing a fair amount on our shores. In Japan, for example, I highly doubt they serve the Philadelphia roll. And a chimichanga is something that has never graced a real Mexican table. So while Italian food in America is, without a doubt, inspired by the food in Italy, there are things on an American-Italian menu that just don’t exist in Italy (at least not EXACTLY as they do at home).
 
I was reminded of this over an English lesson with a friend who works at a local Florentine restaurant. She and her fellow waitresses laughed at the idea of spaghetti and meatballs. You heard me right. Possibly the most Americanized Italian food ever, the quintessential spaghetti and meatballs really doesn’t exist in Italy (well at least not in a version that any American would recognize). Another famous dish that stumped the waitresses is the well-known (in the good old USA) fettuccine alfredo. There is a restaurant in Rome where this dish was invented and while it has really taken off the States, it is rarely on menus in Italy.
 
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these items being ordered and enjoyed (I mean pasta covered in melted cheese is hard not to like), but you should be aware that if you go to a restaurant in Italy that makes them (with the exception of Alfredo’s restaurant in Rome), chances are they’re just doing it because they get asked so often or because they are appeasing American tourists. Let’s keep in mind that it’s a big country with a wide range of gastronomic traditions that vary dramatically in cities barely 50 miles apart. In fact, most Italian-American cuisine is based on food from only one city, Naples. Perhaps in Naples you’ll fit right in, but don’t expect any Florentine to tell you that there is not “that big of a difference” between these two culinary traditions. For Italians, the difference is huge!
 
So this week, I want to try and get some better food knowledge out there. Now this is really to follow up on my intro information on how to pick the place to eat, how to order and in what order to eat all these delicious things in our Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad blog. If you’re lost, perhaps start there.
 
Below is a list of food items that are:
#1. Unknown in the Italian gastronomic world (so take note if they appear on an Italian menu and maybe consider not ordering them).
#2. Fake friends: words that sound like an English word we would expect to find in food and yet are not at all what we think.
Or #3. Food items we rarely see on American menus but are often the most delicious ingredients on an Italian menu and sadly get skipped for lack of familiarity!
I hope in the course of this list to also impart some important Italian cuisine knowledge so while you’re here you are sure to eat some REAL Italian food.
Continue reading…

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