By Zahara Pruitt, Peer Advisor in the Office of Global Opportunities
TRAVELING ABROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME CAN BE SCARY FOR ANYONE
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A year ago today, I boarded a plane that would take me to Italy; the one country I have always dreamed of visiting. While I had certain expectations of what I would see once I got there, nothing I could’ve imagined even compared to what I would experience during the most incredible four and half months of my life. However, during the 11 hour flight from Raleigh, North Carolina to Rome, Italy I was not aware of any of this. All I knew was that my stomach was a weird mix of anxious nerves, which made it difficult for me to get any sleep on the plane. That, coupled with the fact that the lady sitting next to me drank a few too many glasses of red wine, causing her to have to go to the bathroom at the exact moments when I was about to finally doze off. However, arriving in Rome sleep-deprived and jet-lagged I was ready for what the semester had in store.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” -Unknown
TIP #1: OVERPACKING IS REAL, DON’T DO IT
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I know it’s a common thought to not want to arrive in a foreign country not having your essentials. However, the truth of the matter is that many places have the essentials that you’ll need to get by. Pack light on the way over because you will buy things while abroad and trying to get it all to fit in your suitcase after can be quite the hassle. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to be the girl at the Florence, Italy airport at 5am throwing things away from your suitcase, sitting on it while trying to get it to close to avoid paying additional luggage fees. I’ve been there and it’s not fun.
TIP #2: EAT AS THE LOCALS DO
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If you love food as much as I do, this is going to be one of the major ways for you to save money while abroad. It’s natural to want to go out to different restaurants and try all of the local cuisine while abroad. I’m not discouraging you from doing this. I’m just recommending local mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall type restaurants. They often have some of the freshest, best food for very reasonable prices. In Italy, these are called trattorias. Also, open markets tend to have cheaper food than the supermarkets. And finding your favorite sandwich shop for a quick and easy lunch on the go will come in handy more times than once. My favorite sandwich shop to visit during my semester in Florence was The Oil Shoppe. I got the best sandwich of my life there. It featured turkey, provolone, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, arugula and pesto. A full meal on fresh bread for only four euros! Even thinking about it to this day makes my mouth water!
TIP #3: SENSIBLE SHOES ARE A MUST
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In many other countries around the world, locals walk much more than we do to get around. Many people don’t have cars and either rely on public transportation, scooters, bikes, or their feet to get from Point A to Point B. Because of this, you’re going to want to have a lot of comfortable shoes that you bring with you. While it may be a little annoying to walk 30 minutes to class, after a while it simply becomes part of your routine. Also, don’t be afraid to try a different route here and there to mix things up and discover new things about the city you’re in. I discovered of my favorite bakeries or trattorias by simply stumbling across it and trying it out.