Hello, my name is Terese and I graduated from Roger Williams University in May. I was a Marketing major with minors in Accounting, eBusiness, and Italian Studies. While I was there, I managed to do a lot – including study abroad in Florence, Italy. I absolutely loved it and now I want to share my experience and a few tips with you guys!
1. Save up for travel. You’re going to want to travel a lot. The travel bug is a real thing. You definitely do not want to miss out on seeing some incredible sites because you forgot to budget before you left. I recommend making a list of places you most want to visit, and how much you think you might spend for each trip. That way, you will have an idea of your savings for each trip. I traveled to 14 countries while I was in Europe, and even stayed 20 extra days to travel more with my best friend. This would not have been possible if I had not budgeted and planned ahead. Now that I graduated college, I am even more grateful I saw so many places while I had the time.
2. Speak the local language. Trust me, if you can speak the local language, people will respect you more. They may even give you tips or discounts just for trying (I know this from experience). The locals tell the most incredible stories and you can really learn a lot from trying to speak another language. You may play charades at first, but once you start understanding what people are saying and how to reply, you will feel a lot more confident and happier with your overall experience abroad.
3. Explore on your own. After class each day, I would walk home and go into a few shops along the way. By doing so, I not only practiced the language, but also met more people – and managed to get them to help me with my Italian homework. Some of the shops I went into were different from shops I would normally go into. If I thought something looked interesting, then I would check it out. Some afternoons were spent just exploring the city on my own – this is when I truly felt like a resident there.
4. Try new foods. Do not ask what you are eating, you will only worry. Some of the best meals I had were the ones where you simply ask the chef to make their favorite dish (mainly because you could not figure out the translation). Before I went abroad, I did not like clams. However, one of the local dishes in Italy is Spaghetti alle Vongole. I decided to try this one night at dinner, and ended up really liking it. Do not underestimate the food abroad – it is delicious and unlike anything you will find in America. Allow yourself to try foods that you would not normally try. If it turns out that you do not like what you ordered, chances are it was not too expensive anyway (and I am sure you can find gelato close by).
5. Be adventurous. I have always considered myself to be somewhat adventurous; however, when I was abroad, I had no fear. When I went to Switzerland, I woke up one morning and decided to go Paragliding. Without hesitation, I signed up. It was definitely the craziest thing I have ever done (especially because I was afraid of heights when I went). But I knew this was a once in a lifetime chance to see a country from above. It was so cool! I would definitely recommend trying things out of your comfort zone. I can’t explain the feelings you have abroad, but you will definitely feel more adventurous so do not hesitate to do anything.
Studying abroad is one of the most rewarding things you can do while in college. The people you meet, the places you see, and the money you spend will all be worth the experience. Just remember that because it is only temporary, you will want to see and do as much as you can. You will certainly be tired but exploring a foreign city IS better than watching Netflix (save that for America). If you bring an open mind and near-empty suitcases, then you will have the time of your life.