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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Tips for Taking the Train in Italy

Taking_trains_italy

I


t happened again. For the hundredth time.
On a train ride to Livorno a gaggle of Americans jumped on and I overheard some of them say they hadn’t had time to stamp their tickets before boarding. They didn’t seem too worried, I hoped against hope they would get off safe and sound. Sadly, the conductor arrived within 5 minutes and 40-euro-a-head-later, these kids had learned a hard lesson. I felt so bad and was once again surprised at how few people know the ins and outs of train travel in Italy. I have written about it before in our Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad Part I blog (some of which I will repost below where pertinent), but today I wanted to really get down to the nitty-gritty. Every detail. For those of you who get nervous about traveling, don’t be. Just read below and then enjoy the luxury of train travel in Italy! It doesn’t have to be painful or stressful! It can actually be fun!
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Tips for shoe shopping in Florence

Note: post updated April, 2013
 
As a very wise sage once said,
 
“Let’s get some shoes.”

 
Indeed.
 
When it comes to getting shoes in Florence, or in Italy in general, you’re in pretty good hands. People ask me where to go and I can’t seem to narrow it down to just one place. There are so many stores and so much variety of shoes that it helps to first know what you’re looking for (impossible task, I know). Sandals? Heels? Shoes? Boots? Color? Material? The last ones is easy…leather! However, regardless of what you have in mind, here are a couple tips that can help you go home with the best pair of shoes at the best price.
custom_shoes_sandals Continue reading…

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

top_ten_tipsWelcome back to our Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence or Italy! Hopefully you enjoyed and were endlessly impressed by the breadth of information in Part I and are dying for more juicy details in Part II. You probably were since, as I recall, we did a totally kick-ass job.
Continue reading…

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The Other Side of Rome

Been to Rome before? Seen this, done that? Well…maybe you have and maybe you haven’t. Here are some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path things to see/do that are not always an easy walk down one of Rome’s breathtaking cobble-stone streets. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth every ounce of effort to see. Maybe you need to go back. Hopefully, it will be with Select Study Abroad. Continue reading…

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