Recommended Apps to Use Abroad

Phones have become increasingly important in today’s society, and not just in America. While you’re abroad, it could be very helpful to know which apps to use for various reasons. To help sort through them, we’ve compiled a useful list, divided into categories!

To connect with friends, both back home and in your new city:

  • WhatsApp
  • Viber
  • Facebook Messenger – Almost everyone has Facebook! As long as you have Wi-Fi wherever you are (or a data plan), you can keep in touch with people back home, AND connect with your new friends abroad.
  • Snapchat – Snapchat is also a great way to keep up with what your friends at home are doing. Just be careful not to use it too much–it may increase the chances of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

To help with planning your trip and keeping track of your itinerary:

  • HostelWorld
  • Airbnb
  • The app to whatever airline you’re using – I flew British Airways when I went to England, and having their app was so convenient! Instead of worrying about having a paper boarding pass to keep track of, I just needed my phone. You can also keep up with flight delays and cancellations this way.
  • TripIt – This app syncs with your email, so every ticket you purchase and event you sign up for saves to the app to create a personalized itinerary.

To get around once you’re in your host city:

  • AroundMe – This app generates a list of companies/events/buildings that are in the area.
  • Maps.me – Navigate through the area without the use of WiFi. You just have to download the area you are in before you go offline.
  • Citymapper – This will give you information about public transportation in the city you are in. It will give you directions to stops, your destination, and how long the wait time will be.
  • Any public transportation apps near you – Some taxi companies have apps that allow you to request a taxi right on the app, and then notifies you when it arrives! Airports and bus/train stations may also have apps you can download.
  • Uber – Most major cities abroad have Uber, but check to make sure yours does before relying on this.

To keep up-to-date with safety and wellness information:

  • OSAC – This is the official app for the U.S. Department of State.
  • TravWell – Here you can keep track of any vaccinations you need, any risks around you, etc.
  • Can I Eat This? – The title is self-explanatory: this app lets you know if certain foods in your host country may make you sick.

To make traveling around outside of your host country easier:

  • Currency Converter
  • My TSA – You can see how long lines are, whether flights are delayed, and more with this helpful travel app!
  • Border Wait Time
  • Mobile Passport App – This one only works when you’re entering the U.S. again, but it’s still worth it to skip the lines!

Other helpful things to download:

  • Offline games to play when you’re waiting in places without wifi
  • WiFi Finder

Simple Steps to Learn a Language Before You Leave

One of the most frequent questions we get asked is, “Do I need to speak a foreign language to study abroad?” Students are typically very relieved to find that the answer is no!

While knowing the native language of the country you’re studying in is helpful, it is not required. Many of our program options in non-English speaking countries have a variety of courses offered in English. Having said that, the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it!

If you are studying in a country where you don’t speak the language, you may want to brush up on local phrases before leaving the United States, so you don’t feel completely out of place when you arrive in your host country.  Some suggestions to get you started learning are:

  • Duolingo. I have so many friends who swear by this fun, interactive app when learning new languages!
  • Focus on the most important phrases. Chances are, you will have to ask where the bathroom is, and you will have to say thank you. Starting with the basics is less intimidating than trying to grasp full conversation pieces. Plus, it’s the polite thing to do!
  • Take a class. If you have time in your schedule and plan in advance, you can try to take a class in the language at Towson before you leave!
    • Find a tutor. Similarly, if the language you’re learning is taught at Towson, there may even be a tutor just for that language on campus.
  • Talk with a native speaker. Ask if any of your friends know someone who speaks the language, and connect with them.
  • Immerse yourself in popular culture and media in the language you want to learn. Listen to music, watch movies, and (if you can) read short articles in the language to get acquainted with it! Even if you don’t know what you’re hearing or seeing at first, you will eventually pick up on words and themes, and become familiarized with the culture.
  • Make flashcards. I know—as students, we dread making more flashcards than necessary, but they’re a great way to memorize different words and phrases!
  • Practice every day! The most important part of language-learning is memory. If you practice the phrases you want to learn and expand on it often, the phrases will become drilled in your memory before you go!

It is also important to note that studying abroad in an English-speaking country is still studying abroad. You will get a valuable cultural experience no matter where you go, because foreign English-speakers still have many different views and cultures that we don’t in our little corner of the world.

Other English-speaking countries also have different slang words and phrases for things, so it’ll feel like you’re learning a new language either way. In England, it took me weeks to figure out what the common words “ta,” “quid,” or “hob” were, or that when someone said they were “pissed,” they did not mean they were mad about something (in fact, they meant something very different!).

No matter where you go abroad, you will experience a different culture, and that’s what’s important! Don’t worry too much about the language barrier, but prepare before you go so you don’t feel totally lost.

As always, if you have any questions, you can visit our office in the Psychology Building, rm. 408. We are also available by phone at (410) 704-2451, and email at studyabroad@towson.edu.

What to Know about Florence, Italy

Trivial things I learned in Florence

Name: Kim Le
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Hochimin, Vietnam
Destination: Florence, Italy
Institution: TU in Italy: Lorenzo de’Medici, Florence campus

1. Street signs are on the buildings, not on a pole in the corner, or hanging in the middle of the streets. And since most of them are so old and made of stone, chance are good that they are hard to read, missing letters, or better yet, covered by construction.

Florence, Italy study abroad

Signs in Florence, Italy

2. There are water fountains. Drinkable water fountains, though I am somewhat wary since a professor told me back in the day they recycled the old marble coffins as bowls for these water fountains. However, since the Florence tourist website says it is safe to drink this water, I would assume that I am just being paranoid. Still, the water fountains are everywhere in the city, and they have very cool decorations.

3. It will rain or it will shine–actually, it will  probably do both. Weather forecasts are not accurate in Florence, for whenever it wants to rain or shine, the weather completely disregards the forecast. I have had weekends when the forecast said there would be thunderstorm, and it turned out perfectly sunny, and vice versa. Tip? Bring an umbrella all time, and maybe, maybe, if I really want to take that perfect trip, just ignore the rainy forecast and hope for the best.

4. Move away, there is a horse! Yes, there are horses walking on Florence’s streets, mostly in the historic center, but it is a very real possibility that someone might get in the way of a horse or two. They are only for touristic purposes, but still, it is amusing trying to avoid a horse carriage while walking to class.

Florence, Italy Study Abroad

Horses galore in Florence, Italy!

5. Churches, churches everywhere! I lost count of how many churches I walk pass on my way to the market, the river or basically anywhere. While most churches are in Italian (as they should be!), there are some churches that offer mass in English, including the great Duomo. Most churches themselves deserve to be a tourist attraction for their architectural style and ages, plus some even have creepy ghost stories of their own!

 

Studying in Florence: Myth Busters

Study Abroad Myths Busted

Study Abroad Myths Busted

Name: Kim Le
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Hochimin, Vietnam
Destination: Florence, Italy
Institution: TU in Italy: Lorenzo de’Medici, Florence campus

First, I must say that I absolutely love all my classes in Florence, including the elective class that made me write 12 pages research with 1.5 space (yes, I am looking at you, History of Costume!). Nearing the end of the semester, though, like every other sane college students, I am starting to look back in horror at the huge distance between reality and my expectation of classes in Florence. What happened to a ‘relaxing and carefree semester filled with adventures and making new friends and… what do you mean classes? What are classes?’ Sitting here in the middle of the night drowning in homework was certainly not what I expected before leaving, but it makes me wonder how much of myths were there in all these opinions about studying abroad. I have heard so many but right now, I can count the most popular ones here:

1. Classes are EASY.

Being an Art major taking three studio classes this semester, I have to say, 5 hours classes are not easy. I am allowed 2 absences for each class, but when skipping a studio class means 5 hours extra work, no idea how to use new techniques, and what is that new disaster on my table that no professor is around telling me how to fix?! The materials for all classes are not easy either. A sentence I cannot forget from my professor is “This is a very good class; everyone is doing very well, so I will give all a B”. The difference?  There are only B+ or B-, no normal B. I am still not sure if this is funny or not, since the way he said it so sincerely like he was giving the whole class an A and compliments. It does not help at all that homework is poking at me every chance it has, making sure my love affair with open lab studio outweighed the joy of beaches and mountains and ancient cities that I could have visited more if only I have more time.

Students Study Abroad

Students actually study during study abroad!
Photo Courtesy of Tulane Public Relations

2. Attendance is not important.

Third absence – one grade down, fourth absence – congrats, you just failed a class! It actually scared me in the beginning, because, come on, who would make us choose between an extra day in Greece or France and two hours of class (if you are lucky, since studio classes last 5 hours a week, or probably unlucky enough having to stay just because of 2 hours)? Nearly no excuse would EVER be accepted, even if you were sick with doctor’s note.

3. Classes? Which classes?

Okay, when I read the advising articles online, it seemed that classes do not even exist to us studying abroad students, or at least not related much to our experiences. What a lie. I learned and enjoyed my classes so much that I do not even mind (much) the long hours and extra hours spent on studio (which is such a scary idea I must burry it down to the deepest pit of self-denial). The classes’ facilities are not the best, but all of my professors are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable that now I am regretting having to leave.

 

Q&A Spotlight: Chris Neutzling

Name: Chris Neutzling
Major: Criminal Justice
Hometown: Crofton, MD
Destination: Rome, Italy
Institution: American University of Rome

Study abroad, Rome, Italy

Study abroad in Rome, Italy

Q1: Your favorite subject & ours: Food! Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?

The best pasta I ever had in my life was in Florence.  Also, I was on a personal mission to try pizza everywhere I went.  Simply put, you can’t really go wrong at most places around Italy.  As for worst dish, I can’t name anything specific that stood out.  My best advice would be to get food at the none touristy places because that it where you will find the most authentic and delicious food.

Q2: Talk about your favorite spot in your home away from home. Where? Why?

The Trevi Fountain….at night.  Yes, everyone knows this place but not everyone goes at three in the morning, where it is just you and several others.  Take a stroll after a night out to the fountain and you will be at peace away from all the tourist distractions.  I spent my last night here in Rome.  My friends and I stayed out close to five in the morning just enjoying the scenery.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Q3: Did a local point you to a market, pub, or park you didn’t know about? Pass it on.

For my school, the hot spots were a sandwich deli right up the street and an Irish bar located near the center of Rome.  At the deli, the man behind the counter spoke English (as you will find many Italians do) and was extremely friendly.  By the end of my stay, he would recognize me and have my sandwich prepared and ready.

Q4: Are there things you don’t miss from your destination? What? Why?

Public Transportation.  The public transportation in Rome is best described as unreliable.  I know what you are thinking, isn’t Europe supposed to have fantastic transportation?  Well Rome buses basically choose when they feel like coming.  There was several times when I waited for a bus close to an hour when they are supposed to come every fifteen minutes.  The tram, on the other hand, did run on its scheduled time.  However, during my stay workers when on strike several times, so no tram then.

Q5: You’re actually homesick for something from abroad. What? Why?

Honestly, I would probably say my classmates.  I did not know a single person in my program going into it.  By my last night in Rome, nearly all of the study abroad summer students were going out together.  It is pretty rare to have nearly an entire school that does this.  I was surprised at how much of a tight knit group we were and I would love to have a reunion with everyone someday, in Rome of course!

Q6: What new vocabulary have you added to your repertoire after study abroad?

“Vorrei” which means, “I would like,” was my go to when ordering food places.  Sometimes I would cheat and point and say, “questo,” which means “this.”  Other times ordering I would probably butcher trying to pronounce the word right.

Q7: You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw … What? Why?

The David, a masterpiece by Michelangelo.  I am not too big on art.  One of my friends was really excited to see this sculpture and I kept thinking to myself, “what’s the big deal?”  Boy was I misunderstood.  When I first saw The David, I stood for a good ten minutes just staring at it.  If you ever have a chance to visit Florence I recommend going to see this sculpture.  The intricate details on it are astounding for something carved out of marble.  You can even see individual tendons on his hands!

Q8: Where did you travel? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?

I had the pleasure of taking a trip down the Amalfi Coast to Capri and various other cities along the way.  This was through the school so traveling was a piece of cake.  If you have to plan your own trip I recommend using, Bus2aps.  My friends used them several times and had a blast.  Also, I would recommend traveling to Capri if you get the chance.  It is one of the most beautiful places you will find in the world.

Q9: What challenged you while you were abroad? Why?

Believe it or not, my worst day happened to be the first day arriving.  I almost lost my wallet on the plane, which is probably the worst way to start any trip.  I was rushed back to my apartment alone, did not know a single person nor had any way of contacting them.  I was tired and grumpy from such a long flight.  Not knowing what to do, I decided to take a nap.  I woke up several hours later to my new roommates entering the apartment.  Things got much better from there.

Q10: PARTING WORDS. What would you say to students worried about studying abroad? 

The best journeys answer questions you would never think to ask.  Think outside the box, try news things, and be adventurous.  You are going to mess up sometimes and things are going to happen, it’s how you respond that’s important.  Always stay calm and positive.  You will be rewarded when looking back on your experiences.

Keep calm and study abroad

Keep calm!

Q&A Spotlight: Nate Moran

This post is the first in our new Q&A Spotlight Series on returning students.You can find this story and all future spotlights by searching in the category “Q&A Spotlight.” Enjoy!

Name: Nate Moran
Major: Business Administration, ‘13
Hometown: Middletown, DE
Destination: New Zealand, Spring 2013
Institution: Auckland University of Technology

Be sure to check out Nate’s YouTube video from his experience here.

Q1: Let’s talk about food – the good & the bad.

Actually, the best dish I had while in New Zealand was from a Brazilian place.  The restaurant was Brazilian but the steak was New Zealand beef…which was fantastic.  The chicken, beef, and lamb are all great in New Zealand.  The Kiwis are well-known for these meats, especially because everything is free-range.  We took part in traditional Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous culture) feast, called a “Hāngi”; this is a Polynesian-style cooking in a pit under the ground.  All sorts of meats, vegetables, potatoes, and kumara (the Maori sweet potato) are slow-cooked throughout the entire day under the ground.

Q2: Your favorite spot in your home away from home?

Talk about a hard question.  New Zealand is well known for so much beautiful terrain wherever you go, North or South Island.  Although I have many favorite spots, I’d say that the Bay of Islands (in the Northland Region) was the coolest place I’ve ever been to.  We took a rental boat and hopped around uninhabited islands all day long.  We were able to experience great hikes and beautiful waters.

Q3: A local favorite?

My ‘claim to fame’ is the Happy Hour spot I was told about early on in Auckland City—Spitting Feathers.  It was definitely a hard-to-find local place with a lot of young professionals.  The deals were great and we filled our stomachs with a lot of pizza and beer.  However, I have to say that Ponsonby Central was the best place that we were recommended.  This place was full of locals and such a great atmosphere.  The marketplace is filled with great restaurants, bakeries, shops, art galleries, and more.  Ponsonby was my favorite place in the city.

Q4: Anything you DON’T miss from NZ?

Not one thing.  Life was good and everyone in New Zealand was so laid back.  If I was ever presented the opportunity, I could definitely see myself living there.  For a backpacker, this place is the most ideal spot you can be in the world—snowy mountains, pristine beaches, and a bit of urban culture.

Q5: Homesick for anything from NZ?

The entire experience in itself.  As I sit down to write this after a full week of work, I realize that we had no limits being abroad.  I took my classes serious there, but also had so much time to explore other parts of the world and different cultures.  Being able to pick up and go to the mountains or the beach on the weekends is dearly missed.  Regardless of taking classes, we had so much free time to explore every street in Auckland, attend any big event, and go tramping (New Zealand’s word for hiking/exploring) on the weekends.

Q6: Pick up any new vocabulary while abroad?

“Kia-ora, bro.  Are you keen to go tramping with me this weekend?—That would be sweet bro, but I have a rugby game.”  The dialect of a New Zealander is kind of like that of an Australian, but with a relaxed vibe.  I learned quit e a few slang words while attempting to blend in as a kiwi.  I also learned various Maori words in my Maori Leadership course.  Kia ora is an informal “hi”, but literally means “be well/healthy.”

Q7: You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw …

I was real shocked when I went to a New Zealand rugby match against France.  Considering this was a World Cup rematch, the game at Eden Park stadium (Auckland, NZ) was a huge deal.  Although this is by far the number one sport in New Zealand, the fans act very different than what I expected.   The stadium was quiet and fans paid attention to every detail of the game.  Cheering typically happens right after a team scores, and that’s it—nothing in between.  It is not like American football where people are constantly cheering.

Q8: How did you manage your weekends?

We tried to take advantage of every weekend.  Packing our backpacks and heading to the dairy (supermarket) to stock up on food was something I looked forward to.  We traveled all over New Zealand on our weekends.  Hiking/Camping in the Coromandel Peninsula, touring vineyards in Hawkes Bay, taking the ferry to Waiheke Island, tramping around the volcano from the Lord of the Rings, and many more activities were completed during our weekends.  We chose ones that looked exciting and just went for it.  We didn’t get to do everything, but I still feel very accomplished.

Q9: What challenged you while you were abroad?

I’d say the toughest day I had in New Zealand was the day of my finals, because it was very stressful for me.  The three classes I took in Auckland were actually the last three courses for the completion of my degree.  I needed to perform well in my classes abroad in order to graduate.  I ended up doing well in my classes, so all is well.  I think the toughest part of studying abroad is coming home and realizing that your semester abroad is completed.

Q10: Parting words?

I highly recommend visiting New Zealand because it was an amazing place.  You also might be able to experience other places such as Australia and Fiji.  Overall, go to a place that will let you break free from the norm.  Meeting new people and trying to adapt to new cultures is a fun obstacle to take on, and can be very beneficial in the long run.  This was no doubt the best experience I’ve ever had.  Any step you take, it will always be a step forward in a particular direction.  Get out and explore!

Thanks, Nate!

And the packing …

Oh yes, it’s that time. The one you dreaded, the one you’ve heard horror stories about .. it’s time to pack your suitcase!

Don’t freak out! We’ve got some great tips from our pals at EIU Study Abroad, so breathe deep & check them out.

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.

Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

~Susan Heller

1. Do I need to check a bag? 

If you’re going away for a semester, the answer is probably yes. Even the best of packers will check a bag for anything more than one month. Get familiar with your airline regulations – most airlines offer a 50 lbs or 23 kg limit for one bag. SOME airlines will let the first bag fly for free, OTHER airlines will charge. So, double check!

2. Can I carry the bag on my own without assistance?

You don’t want to be that person in the middle of the airport struggling with your bag. Are you more comfortable with a backpack? A rolling suitcase? It may sound silly, but pack it up and walk around with the bag of your choice. Think of the worse case scenario: if the wheel breaks or the zipper bursts .. can you get it together? This is a key consideration when you think of how much your bag will weigh. 50 lbs is no joke.

3. Do I have access to laundry facilities at my destination?

And do they cost money to operate? This will differ depending on your program, so this is a question worth answering. Packing quick dry items made of breathable fabrics will be your best bet. Cold water wash is easy to come by, and can save you a few layers of packing, if you can wash a few shirts in the sink.

4. Can I find this product at my destination?

The answer is 99% probably. First time travelers are amazed when they pack value sized bottles of Pantene, only to find the same shampoo in a supermarket at their destination. Don’t weigh down your suitcase with brand name products in gigantic sizes. Bring small travel-sized items to tide you over, and then shop at your destination: an adventure in itself!

5. Is there anything I shouldn’t bring? 

One thing we caution students about is electronics. Remember that not all outlets and voltages are created equal. An American hair dryer will blow a fuse in a U.K. outlet, so don’t even try it! As with many hygiene products, you can find most electronic abroad. Consider purchasing an adapter to plug in items like your camera or laptop, and search for that straightener abroad.

6. What’s the weather like where I’m going?

Good question. Google it! Remember that even as we’re celebrating winter in the Northern Hemisphere, our friends below the equator are turning toward summer. This will inform your packing choices, so please take a look at the local weather before you leave.

7. Do I have room for souvenirs?

We hope so! You can stash a bag and plan on carrying it on when you return, or even checking an additional bag. Don’t pack your suitcase within an inch of it’s life (we know it’s tempting). Be sure to leave some room for goodies on the way back. Bring us something nice!

8. What happens if I go over the weight limit?

Airlines vary in their regulations on extra bags, but fees can be as little as $25USD to $100USD. It depends on your destination, your other luggage, your airline, the alignment of the stars, and your ability to pack well. If you’re prepared to return home from a semester abroad and pay up at the airport, then at least educate yourself on the exact cost. If you’re cruising back to the States on fumes, pack light.

9. Will the items in my carry-on bag make it through security?

As long as you abide by the security regulations to carry ONE quart-sized Ziploc bag filled with 3 ounce liquids and gels, then you should be ok. Any liquid larger than 3 ounces will be removed from your bag. Be advised that this now includes peanut butter (which is not common in Europe)! Kelly had a brand new container thrown out at O’Hare. Not cool.

10. Will I ever get this !@#$%^& bag packed?

Yes, yes you will. And if you ace it? Send us a photo. And if it bursts open in the airport? Send us that photo, too.

Just kidding 🙂

See the original post and more tips at: http://eiustudyabroad.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/packing-3/

Italy: A Guide to Life in Florence

If you’re reading this, it means you have made one of the best decisions of your life in considering to study abroad in Florence, Italy, and now it’s time to start thinking about what to expect. I studied abroad in Florence fall of 2012 during my senior year at Towson and I can say without a doubt that will be the most unforgettable semester of my college career. Hopefully this guide will help you to prepare for life in Florence.

Florence at Night

Packing:

Starting with the beginning I’m going to talk about what to pack. I went to Italy with my 49.5 lbs suitcase, a stuffed carry on, and a “personal item” that should have counted as another bag. My first piece of advice to you is to not bring more than what the airline allows. This is in terms of weight and number of bags. One of my roommates had two extra bags and ended up paying 80 euro to check the first and a whopping 200 euro to check the second. Another roommate was over the weight limit by one pound and the airline required her to buy another bag at the airport and move her stuff around, and then check both. These people deal with travelers all the time, so please do not count on them being sympathetic. Which leads me to my next point: only bring what you are 100% positive you will wear. Look through all your stuff at least three times before you go and hopefully you will take out a decent amount each time. If you have a friend or family coming to visit you, I suggest asking them to leave some extra room in their bag for you to give them stuff to take home. This will be a huge help when you’re packing to come home and it seems like the amount of stuff you have doubled. The last point I’m going to make may be the most important: shoes! I cannot stress enough how important it is to bring shoes that you have already broken in. The last thing you want is to not be able to go explore your new home because you have blisters.

Getting Around:

The first thing you will need to know when arriving in Florence is how to get around. With many programs, you will land in Florence and be on your own in getting to the meeting point. There will be plenty of cabs lined up outside of the airport near the cab sign where you will have to wait in line for one. Most of the drivers speak some English but not much, so it could be a good idea to have your meeting point written down to hand to the driver. I went through the Lorenzo de’ Medici Program and from the airport to our meeting point, which was the school library, it cost about 25 euro. This cab ride to your meeting spot then to your apartment/homestay, and the one back to the airport will probably be the only time you ride in a car in Florence. In your new home you will walk everywhere, several times a day. And honestly I never thought of it as a negative. It gives you the time to look around at everything and go exploring. On average most people spend about 20 minutes walking to their destinations, whether it is to class, a restaurant, or a store.

Florence bridge

The City:

The first thing you should do is buy a map and take the time to get lost in Florence; it will not only help you to learn the city but it will help you to discover all of the charm that makes it one of the most traveled to destinations in Europe. You could also use that map to help you find all of your buildings before the first day of classes! In the beginning of the semester there will be an opportunity to buy a museum pass for 25 euro, do it! There is so much history in Florence and even if you are uninterested in art or history, going to these places are once in a lifetime opportunities. So try to visit all of the places on this card, especially the Giardino di Boboli in Palazzo Pitti, it is beautiful! Take a walk down the Ponte Vecchio or up to Piazzale Michelangelo to get the picture perfect view of Florence. At night you can walk down by Santa Croce to find all of the popular bars and hang out spots for the other American study abroad students. As for safety, watch out here for pickpockets. This is definitely more likely here but I can say with confidence no matter what time of the day or night, I always felt safe walking around Florence, even by myself. I do not recommend a female college student walking around a foreign country by herself late at night, but the important part here is that it is safe if you have to. My biggest piece advice to you going to Florence is to use your Italian! There is only one thing I regret about my study abroad experience and that is that I had the opportunity to study a language in it’s spoken country, and I came home knowing only a little more than “ciao!”

Florence Wine

Food:

I’m not by any means going to tell you where you should and should not eat, but these are a few places that I am really missing now that I am back in America. First is Gusta Pizza off Via Maggio, about 20 minutes from the Duomo. This became a Sunday tradition with my roommates and it was the best pizza that I found in Florence. But just so you know in advance, you don’t share these pizzas, or any pizza in Italy for that matter. They are so different from American pizzas that it becomes no problem to eat a whole one and then stop for gelato on your way home! For a panino, my favorites were I Fratellini on Via de Cimatori, Antico Vinaio on Via de’ Neri, The Oil Shoppe on Via Sant’Egidio and Salumeria Verdi on Via Verdi. I Fratellini is a small hole in the wall near Piazza della Signoria where you stand literally outside on the street and eat your sandwich with a glass of wine. These sandwiches are smaller, only cost 2,50 euro, and are delicious! Antico Vinaio has a reputation of excellence being the #1 restaurant in Florence, as ranked by trip advisor. Make sure you get one of these huge sandwiches on focaccia and it will be perfect! The Oil Shoppe is always packed with American study abroad students but has one of the widest selections of ingredients so you can custom build your own sandwich. Salumeria Verdi is known to everyone, or at least all of the study abroad students, as Pino’s. Pino is the owner who makes essentially every sandwich by hand and loves to talk to whoever comes in! These sandwiches are so good that while my parents were visiting they ate about half of their meals here. I am biased when it comes to gelato because my favorite was always Venchi across from Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, but other good one’s are Grom, Gelateria la Carraia, Rivareno Gelato and Gelateria Santa Trinita. I have learned to never get gelato when it’s all built up in swirls to look attractive, the reason it looks so attractive is because no one is eating it. If you spend more than 2,50 euro on a small cone/cup you are spending too much. If you’re out later at night be on the lookout for a Secret Bakery. I only ever found one down by Santa Croce but they are scattered throughout Florence. These are little shops open between 11:30pm to about 3am that definitely don’t look like bakery’s, but as soon as you get close enough you can smell the pastries, which only cost a euro! Conad is probably the most popular grocery store if you live in the center. They have the biggest selection at the best prices, and you can sign up for a Conad card for discounts and store specials. Personally, I thought it was pointless to order pasta when eating out, just because that’s what I always made for myself at home. But a few places such as Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori on Via dei Magazzini was totally worth it! I had the best food of the semester here, but make sure you make a reservation because they don’t take walk ins. Everything is homemade and delicious and they add such a personal feel to your time there, I wish I went more often!

Gelato

Where to Go:

            The most important thing to do while studying abroad is to travel! The train station is a short walk away from the Duomo and can take you anywhere in Italy for relatively cheap. Traveling anywhere in Tuscany will be beautiful and you can get most places for around 20 euro round trip. Rome is a must see and Venice was amazing as well and a train ticket to both was about 45 euro one way. Organizations such as Florence for Fun or Bus2Alps often have organized trips for study abroad students if you don’t like planning yourself. Look up flights on Ryanair, Vueling, or Easy Jet to get cheap flights to multiple different countries in Europe. Many times flying out of Pisa is much cheaper and you can catch a bus at the train station to the Pisa airport for 5 or 6 euro. Stay in hostels when you go, hostelworld.com has a lot of great listings that are trustworthy. When I studied abroad the best trip I went on was to Cinque Terre. The train round trip was 30 euro and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The hike was long and actually quite difficult but the views and crystal clear water made it so worth it. For spring/fall break you could also look into doing a cruise, there are a lot that leave out of Rome and help you to see more of Europe than you could on your own.

Budget:

            Budgeting is an important part of the study abroad experience. You need to make sure that you can do everything that you want to and not drain your savings in the meantime. What I found useful was to keep track of all of my expenses, that way I knew where my money was going. It is also important to look up any sister banks that your bank may have so you don’t get hit with different fees. I know BNL is a sister bank of Bank of America and it is everywhere in Florence. PNC will reimburse you for a certain number of fees associated with other ATM uses. When you use an ATM, take out however much money you feel comfortable doing. I found it easier to take out 300 euro and use it until at ran out and I wouldn’t get more out until that point. I also used my debit card a lot though. There are numerous sources debating if you should use cash or a card abroad but I found it to be totally up to your personal preference. I liked using my card better and didn’t notice any significant fees whereas some of my roommates preferred to use cash. It is up to you. But the important thing to remember is that studying abroad is not the time to be stingy. You may never have these opportunities again so I suggest going on every trip you can afford and eating out as much as your budget will allow.

            Whether you choose to take my advice or not, I hope that through reading this you have gained a little more knowledge on what life in Florence will be like. Now it is time to go experience it for yourself!

Christa DiMeglio

Florence, Italy

Fall 2012