Travel Tips: Getting Ready For A Semester Abroad

Hi all! Happy Tuesday! As my preparation commences and my excitement grows, I wanted to share a personal and current update on the blog this week. Sooo here’s an inside peek as to why I have decided to study abroad next semester……

While I have successfully completed 2 years of courses, student organizations and leadership positions at the University of Iowa, I still have 2 years to explore new paths and expand my passions. Which is why I can confidently say that studying abroad is the right decision for me right now – and with the acceptance email received and initial deposit submitted, I am beyond ecstatic to announce that I will officially be spending the Spring 2019 semester living and studying in Florence, Italy!

I will be studying at Lorenzo di’ Medici: The Italian International Institute, which you can find more about here, and holds campuses in Florence, Rome and Tuscania. My application process was pretty straightforward because the University of Iowa International Programs department has established a relationship with LdM so that my tuition, flights, housing and insurance costs are automatically applied on my University bill.

My 1st step of applying to the program was to write a statement of purpose as to why I wanted to go abroad, easy. My initial impression of Italy is illustrated by close-knit communities, neighborhood kindness, a relaxed pace and the overall intertwine of art, history and food into day-to-day activities; although this impression can never become a reality unless I fully immerse myself into the Italian culture for 4 months.

And while 4 months in a foreign European country vastly differs from my brief 18 days abroad, I strongly feel that I would not have the desire to go back overseas and experience new people, languages and norms all over again if it was not for my recent encounter of cultural immersion in Israel.

Yesterday I attended a UI Study Abroad Orientation where all students who would be studying in Italy next semester were invited to join – this included me for Florence and others for Rome, Torino and Milan. My study abroad advisor, Cory, led a presentation full of advice about convenient ways to pack and how to safely get around Italy.

Since then I have been reflecting on these processes and here are some of the components to travel abroad that I find most important and how I am incorporating it into my preparation…

  • Travel Tip #1 : Applying for a Visa
    • For those traveling outside of their host country for long periods of time, it is usually common to have to obtain some sort of visa or temporary citizenship to that country. Since I will be in Italy for over 90 days as a full-time student at an accredited University, I meet the requirements to be considered a resident. Cory was very helpful in filling me in on the logistics of this process. First, I establishes that I would go to the Italian Consulate Chicago, but because the consulate’s hours of operation are very irregular I had to find a date when I was home and able to get to the busy city. Second, since the spring is a busy travel period appointments get filled quickly so I looked to book mine far in advance. Third, visas cannot be issued prior to 90 days before departure and takes 1 month to return — so managing the timing of the appointment is very tedious! And lastly, the visa request requires statements from my advisor and university, passport and pictures, and proof of U.S. citizenship so make you sure have time to gather the necessary documents. And luckily in the end I was able to schedule a December appointment that will review my documentation and return it prior to my January departure!
    • My biggest words of advice as you encounter this process – if you are traveling in the Spring, schedule your appointment over Winter Break!
  • Travel Tip #2 : Registering for Courses
    • One feature that immediately drew me into the Lorenzo di’ Medici program was the vast majority of classes to choose from. A large requirement for me to be able to study abroad was to still get academic credit and be able to graduate the University of Iowa in May 2020 [aka 4 years]. I started keeping an my eye on the institute’s website, and as soon as I saw the Spring 2019 course outline posted I knew this was the program for me. As a Journalism and Mass Communications major I took note of a couple options that seemed similar to those offered by UI SJMC, and made sure to visit my academic advisor to receive her approval before registering [I ended up in Travel Writing and Media Ethics courses and am SO excited to see how Italy will portray these]. My study abroad advisor also gave me permission that an LdM course can transfer back to fulfill a UI general education credit and that eased my decision even more.
    • My biggest words of advice as you encounter this process – choose a program that advances your current academic career and double check with your host institution that they will apply back!
  • Travel Tip #3 : Managing Money
    • While preparing for my next semester abroad, I have quickly noticed that initial costs and additional expenses are racking up quickly. The overall tuition cost of the program is similar to my out-of-state tuition at the University of Iowa, so myself and my parents were prepared for that large sum – but extra travel, clothes, suitcases, medicines, food, etc. are already adding up!! I want to gain that most out of my European experience, but I don’t want to blow my budget so here are some things I’m doing ahead of time to feel more secure. First, I just started babysitting a local Iowa City family 4 days a week to make a little extra cash which I am putting aside for now and saving for Italy! Second, I looked for scholarship opportunities through the whole UI Study Abroad Program as well as the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and both applications were pretty easy to complete and the amount I was awarded will greatly benefit me down the road! Lastly, while booking external travel around Europe I have been using Google Flights which pulls information from numerous airlines all at once and organizes by price! This has been so helpful in making sure I get the best deal.
    • My biggest words of advice as you encounter this process – start saving a sum of money early!! You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have to pass up that extra glass of wine at dinner 🙂

But through all the tedious processes of making myself logistically eligible to study abroad, I am SO excited for this new travel experience and cannot wait to eat and drink and study my way through Florence. And don’t worry, I already have my spring break flight booked on March 23rd to Israel to visit one of my home best friends, Sydney, who chose to spend her semester abroad in Tel Aviv!

Stay tuned as I share more travel tips on proper etiquette, safety and overcoming cultural and lingual barriers abroad in upcoming posts… Ciao Firenze!

 

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