My name is Anette, I am a junior studying with the Psychology Program in Florence. While I must say the city is beautiful, traveling post-pandemic has been a hassle. From delayed flights to missing luggage to dehydration, I feel that I have seen it all—but it’s all made me wiser. Regardless of the program you plan to travel with, these valuable planning tips will help you have a smoother transition from home to abroad.
First thing’s first, wait for approval from your program director to purchase your flights. Once they have approved the trip, when you start to plan your flights, you might find that you will need to book a connecting flight to your final destination. When choosing flights, be sure to include a long enough window of time between your expected arrival and next scheduled departure. For reference, my original layover was intended to give me 2 hours and 15 minutes of time, but, because our first departure was delayed, I ended up having about 45 minutes to make it to my second flight. The good thing is that I had booked both flights with the same airline, which allowed better communication between our pilots and we were able to board without any problems. For future flyers, I recommend (1) booking layovers with 2-4 hours in between flights and (2) booking layovers with the same airline.
Because I almost missed my second flight, my checked-bag did not make it on the second plane with me. Plan ahead in case of emergencies: pack essentials in your carry-on and personal bag. This could mean prescribed medications, travel-size toiletries, a couple days’ worth of clothing, electronic devices—with their chargers—European plug adapters, and cash. Keep in mind any restrictions your airline might have on weight and/or specific items, but for the most part you should be able to fit these items without any issues.
International Phone Plans
To update loved ones and be able to use your phone while abroad, activate an international phone plan during your travel day(s). Depending on your carrier, you may have different options—some more expensive than others. I recommend activating this service at least until you can get a local SIM card. Personally, I was stuck without service for a couple of days because my carrier does not offer international phone plans. Thankfully, I was able to contact others using WhatsApp while connected to WiFi, but this option was not very reliable. Save yourself the stress and look into your carrier’s options.
Copies of Important Documents
During your pre-departure orientations, your program directors will provide you all of the documents you need. In the meantime, be sure to print and/or digitize copies of your passport, ID card, credit card information, and, if applicable, COVID card. Along with the other documents from your program, having accessible copies will be useful in a hurry. You can either (1) scan these documents with your phone or (2) take pictures of them and save the pictures to a new folder on your phone.
The heat in the summer is no joke, so I highly recommend to pack a reusable water bottle. For those of you who are sensitive to foreign tap water, you can get a water bottle with a filter (e.g., Brita) to avoid getting sick. At least in Florence, there are many accessible water faucets throughout the city where you can refill your bottles for free. Otherwise, regular tap water from your sink will suffice. You can also find bottled water in most caffès for about 1-3 euros, depending on the size—but watch out for the labels: “frizzante” means sparkling, “naturale” refers to still water.
Being in a foreign country can be overwhelming, let alone by yourself. It is safest to go out with other people, especially at night. When traveling, I’ve found it’s better to be with a group of people. My flight from home to Florence included a group of about 10 of us, which helped us during the more stressful parts of the trip. While in Florence so far, I typically go out with a group of about 4 or 5 and still feel safe. Walking around by myself during the day is not an issue, either, but you might find it helpful to update a friend about where you’re going.
Aside from the struggles learned the hard way, study abroad is a great experience and I recommend it to everyone. I hope you’ve found this information helpful—feel free to explore other posts in anticipation of your trip and reach out to the study abroad office with any questions you might have!