5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Abroad

Written by John Burley April 25, 2018

1. Learn un Po ‘di Italiano (a little Italian)

Coming to Italy the only thing I knew about the Italian language was it was somewhat similar to Spanish. For me, I planned on taking the Italy Live class offered at CIMBA and I relied on that to survive with my communication in Italy. However, I really wished I knew more Italian before even coming and taking the class. Granted most people know English, but it would have been very usual for asking the basic questions especially during traveling. 

DuoLingo.com offers a great way to get a head start on the language.  It’s free and you can practice colors, directions, simple phrases and more.  

2. Research the Culture

Another huge aspect of living abroad is getting accustomed to the culture in which you will be living.

Some things I thought would just be the same as in America, like tipping at restaurants. In Italy, you don’t tip . You may not directly tip the service but a small charge may just be added to your bill when dining out. Also, most of Europe is a cash based society. This was a huge change for me; at home, I charge everything to my card and rarely carry cash. That changed quickly upon arrival in Paderno. Another thing I didn’t consider was ride sharing services, like Uber or Lyft. I thought we would be able to use it almost everywhere; however, many cities in Europe rely on taxis or trains for transportation. Ride-sharing services hardly exist in Europe, they’re only in some of the larger cities like Rome, Paris or London.

3. Low Budget Airline Carry-On Requirements

Again, do your research before leaving. If you do plan on trying to save money and fly cheap airlines, which most of us did, you’ll have to be careful about the little charges they will attempt to tack on the bill. I was lucky enough to have a carry on bag that fit all airlines. So be smart with your backpacks or packing in general. The last thing you want to worry about is paying extra money just to get your bag on the plane.

If you’re curious, I had an Osprey Farpoint Travel Pack (55 liters).  

4. Outlets in Europe

The standard outlet in America does not exist in Europe. In fact, there is no standard, European outlet.  Outlets vary from country to country. Make you sure you have options when traveling. For example, the outlets on campus are different than the outlets that I had during my stay in the UK.  It’s pretty easy to purchase an International kit from Apple or on Amazon which will accommodate the different outlets, but planning ahead is key.

5. Time Management Skills

If you don’t already have strong time management skills, you’ll quickly develop them on campus.

Balancing travel, academics and time with new friends on campus can be a challenging, at first. To have a successful study abroad experience, you’ll need to learn to prioritize your time and decide what’s best for you. For example, the weekend before finals week on campus – some people opted for one more travel experience in, and others enjoyed their final weekend in Paderno by recapping all the academic aspects learned throughout the semester.  Everyone is different when it comes to time management abroad, just find what fits best for your style. 

The past 3 months at CIMBA were an incredible experience and I just wish it was still January instead of April! I will forever be grateful for the staff and people that I met during this semester. Remember, trust the process!

For the last time, ciao!