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Debunking Study Abroad Myths: Florence, Italy

I’m sure you’ve heard many “do’s and don’ts” when it comes to studying abroad. I’m here to clear up some common misconceptions people have about studying abroad in Florence.

Myth #1: You can’t wear heels

Aside from applying for a student visa, the most stressful part of study abroad preparation is packing. Over three months of days to dress yourself and somehow it needs to fit into one suitcase? Every time I turned to a friend for help, I received the same advice: “Do not pack heels, you’ll break your ankles on the cobblestone.” Being a woman of shorter stature, heels are a fundamental part of how I dress. The thought of not wearing heels when I go out is enough to make me stay in. I brought one pair of heels abroad, and I believe I made the right choice. I wouldn’t suggest stilettos in fear of the heels going into tiny cracks, but wedges and thicker heels are fine. I recommend bringing at least one wedge and one bootie. Trust me, you’ll want them when it hits midnight and you’re on your way to Club 21.

Myth #2: You can’t bring a blow dryer or straightener from home

Every study abroad guide I read discouraged students from bringing hot tools because of the voltage difference overseas. Plugging in an American appliance can fry your hot tools and damage your hair, or worse, break your expensive appliance. This is not always the case! As long as your hair straightener has dual voltage (most of them do) it will work. If you choose to leave your straighteners and dryers home, you can buy one from an expensive salon or rent one from an electronic store. Italians have most definitely caught on to our incessant need to have straight hair, so they have started renting them to students abroad. For 40 euro, you can rent a hair straightener for the duration of your stay in Florence.

Myth #3: Everyone hates Americans

Many people have a pre-conceived notion that Italians are loud, harsh people who strongly dislike Americans. In my experience, this is not the case. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was overwhelmed with happy faces and welcoming gestures. Everyone always seems to have a smile on his or her face no matter where you are. As long as you make an effort to speak Italian or slow down your instinctual fast paced lifestyle, they will respect you.

Myth #4: You’ll spend a lot of money

Budgeting while abroad is tricky. Some students spend upwards of $8000 on trips, food, and shopping. Spending a lot of money overseas is not inevitable.  Find a program that includes a meal plan. This allows you a taste of local flavor without breaking your budget. I went to Florence through the American Institute of Foreign Study. Every student is given a meal card valued at 14.50 for dinner and 4.50 for breakfast to use Monday-Friday. There are over 40 nice restaurants in which you can choose to use this card at. Another way to save money is to say no to shopping. Splurge on investment pieces like a leather jacket or a designer bag but stay away from anything you can find in the states. According to GoOverSeas.com and Investopedia.com, the average expenditure of a student studying in Italy is $7,000. If you budget yourself to 41 a day, you can stay within a $5,000 budget.

Myth #5: You’ll come back fat

Gaining weight abroad is a choice. It’s okay to say no to your second gelato of the day, and just because they put bread out on the table doesn’t mean you have to eat it. If cutting calories where you can isn’t your style, fear not. With the amount of walking you will be doing each day, you’ll naturally start to tone your body. Also keep in mind that Florence has many scenic roads that are perfect for running. Take advantage of the natural distractions when working out!

Myth #6: There are no “7/11” type of stores

One huge myth about studying abroad in Florence is that there are no “7/11” type stores. Everyone will tell you to stock up on your favorite makeup remover or snacks but don’t bother. Florence is riddled with convenience stores such as “Coin” or “Esselunga” that carry just about anything you need. There are also Sephoras all over for anyone nervous about running out of an American brand of makeup. As long as you aren’t in need of something late at night or on a Sunday, you will have access to it without a problem.

Myth #7: You always need to dress fashionably

Be sure to pack fewer blouses and pumps and more comfortable pants and sneakers. Many folks think that because you’re in Europe you are expected to dress fashionably everywhere you go. Don’t get me wrong, Italians dress very nicely, but it is by no means necessary to put yourself together every day. Black will become your best friend by the end of your study abroad venture because it is neutral yet chic. It is easy to dress up or dress down a black pant and/or shirt. Don’t be afraid to throw on some yoga’s and a t-shirt if you’re not feeling up to a “real” outfit!

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