Notes From a Global Classroom: First Week in Firenze

You can take the girl out of the Quest but you can’t take the Quest out of the girl:

As a former Queditor and current Reedie studying abroad this semester, I have decided to make it my goal to educate those who might be interested in studying abroad, those currently abroad, and anyone else who wants to read about my adventures. Hopefully you’ll learn from my mistakes along the way.

I will be spending the next four months in the beautiful city of Florence, studying with NYU Florence, a partner school of Reed. And while, of course, I miss Reed — as cheesy as it sounds — Florence already has my heart. 

Before going abroad, I have traveled to many different countries, even staying places for 1-2 months on end. But the week I have spent here has felt different from any of that. I am here to impart some important things I have learned in the few days that I have been here:

  1. Save save save lots of money before studying abroad! 

While this one may seem obvious – of course studying abroad is going to be expensive – I didn’t really think about all the extra costs until I got here. Buying food/going out to eat, getting essentials for your new accommodations, weekend trips, bus tickets, bars… the list is never-ending, and hard to sustain on the budget of a college student, especially when it is even harder to get a job abroad. So definitely come with a plan of how you are paying for things, and accept the fact that you might have to break the bank a little bit.

  1. At least try some Duolingo lessons before going abroad

I might be alone in this, but I had never studied Italian before coming to Italy, and felt like a stupid American when I got here.I barely even knew the basics, like how to order food. While I’m sure a lot of people study abroad in countries where they are familiar with the language, this was not the case for me, and I wish I had come better prepared.

  1. Less is more

The one thing I was told when preparing to go abroad was to not overpack, and try to bring only the basics. And I did try to do this, but of course you are kind of packing your whole life into one suitcase, so it can get a little heavy. Because of this, I ended up with a bunch of clothes I didn’t need, and a 100 euro overweight fee (curse Vueling for only allowing 15 kilos for a checked bag), so do not make this mistake if you can help it.

  1. Take advantage of discounts

In most European cities, there are a lot of hacks that you might not know about for activites around the city. For example, here in Florence, the first Sunday of every month is a free museum day. There’s also bus and train passes/discounts, student discounts for cultural experiences like the opera, etc — you just might have to dig a little deeper to find out they exist, and how to access them.

  1. Book weekend trips way in advance, and use the cheap airlines

Again, this might be common sense, and of course I knew that booking flights in advance is the best way to go, but time slips by, and flights do get expensive. So, put dates you plan to go away on your calendar, and use cheap booking sites like SkyScanner, Momondo, and RyanAir. They will charge you like crazy if you have a carry-on or any extra things, but it’s a risk worth taking for cheap flights.

While I’ve only been away for a week, and I am sure to learn more each day, I highly encourage Reedies to study abroad if they have the chance! It has already been more amazing than I ever expected, and I can’t wait for more adventures to come.

By Madeleine Voth

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