Travel,  Travel Advice

Living Abroad: Your First Steps

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First arriving in a new country you are staying in for an extended period of time is exciting and exhausting.  In the moment of arrival it seems like there are so many things to do in so little time, but remember you do have time.  Here are a few things that should be prioritized first on your to-do list to help your initial arrival run smoothly.

Let your family know you have safely arrived.

This is one of the most exciting moments of your life, and a thousand things are happening a minute.  Just don't forget your family, and as soon as you get a chance to connect to that ever-craved wifi, remember to text/Facetime your parents. Hopefully before you post that selfie. 

Find the closest grocery store to you.

In Italy the main grocery store is called Conad City.  There are about 10 in the historic center of Florence.  Some are better than others, the smaller ones might not have things like broccoli, or no-fat milk.  Bigger Conad, better options.  Bigger Conad, more people.

Along with Conad, there are alimentari (late night mini markets), and stores that will say mercato or supermercato on the side.  These are usually more expensive than a trip to Conad, but in a pinch have the necessary essentials.  

Check out "the 'Nad" closest to you and save some money while living abroad by not eating out for every meal.

Get acquainted with the landmarks closest to you.

Santa Croce in Florence, Italy

In any new city, finding the major landmarks, or plazas is essential in being able to navigate the city and be able to thoroughly enjoy your time.  In Florence figuring out the major piazzas is the best way to be able to meet up with friends and keep your bearings.

The 8 major piazzas in Florence are:

Piazza della Repubblica
Piazza della Signoria
Piazza del Duomo
Piazzale di Michelangelo
Piazza Santa Croce
Piazza Trinita
Piazza Santa Maria Nuova
Piazza San Marco


Have dinner with your new roommates.

For better or worse, these are the people you will be living with, sleeping next to, traveling alongside, and partying with for the next few months of your life.  Figure out everyone's schedules and routines over a nice welcoming dinner and learn to like each other.  Otherwise this could go from one of the best experiences of your life, to the worst in just a few hours.

Find the closest bank/ATM to your new apartment.

Before you leave the states I recommend figuring out if your bank has a foreign partner.  This way banking fees, conversion fees, etc., are lessened and saves you money.  For example, in Italy, Bank of America partners with BNL d'Italia, and there are no ATM charges when a Bank of America card is swiped there.

Using ATMs over exchange booths saves money, because the ATM will just charge you the flat fee for the services, where as an exchange booth can rip you off, and make the coversion fee whatever they want.  

IMG_9678Unpack and get organized.

Your roommates, your wardrobe, and yourself will thank you.
Don't fight it.  The longer you procrastinate, the worse it gets.  

Fight the urge to nap or fall asleep early.

Overnight flights suck, and jet lag is the absolute worst, but going to bed at a weird hour local time is going to make the adjustment to the new time even harder.  

Staying up to a normal hour local time eases the process of adjusting to a new time zone.  Drinking lots of water during your flight, and when you first land is a great way to help combat the jet lag as well.  (Drinking lots of water is just in general a good life plan.)


Don't be afraid to get out of your box.

IMG_8910Living abroad is an amazing experience, but you have to make it that way.  You're going to meet tons of people from every walk of life, with different world views, that are going to want to do different things than you might originally planned.  Don't be afraid to take these chances.

The worst mistake you could make shying away from trying new things, and not wanting to make new friends.  If you are really against the plan someone else created, don't be afraid to walk to the beat of your theme song and do something on your own.  Be open to those around you, and you never know what you will take away from the experience.