Are you planning on studying abroad in Italy in the near future? If so, you’re destined to have a wonderful time! In this article, Italian teacher Liz T. gives you four very important tips for your educational stay in Italy…
Education in Italy
If you have the chance to study abroad while you’re in high school or in college, you should definitely study in Italy! Studying abroad can be one of the most rewarding opportunities of your life; academically, culturally, and socially.
Italy has so many wonderful cities that are friendly to international students, such as Florence, Bologna, and Sienna. Moreover, the education in Italy is top quality, with accredited schools such as the University of Florence and the University of Rome.
Before you solidify your choice to study abroad in Italy, look over these tips to help you make the most of your experience studying abroad!
1. Learn the Language Before You Go
Try and learn Italian as much as you can at home before you go. If you learn the pronunciation and the sound of the language, you’ll feel more comfortable as a foreigner.
It’d be best to practice speaking, writing, reading, and hearing the language in all platforms. If you need to learn Italian fast, I’d recommend consuming newspapers, television shows, movies, and radio broadcasts to get a feel for the language.
It’s also recommended to find some useful Italian phrases you can use for when you first arrive. It’ll come in handy to express yourself in certain situations, such as when you visit banks, laundromats, restaurants, and grocery stores.
One great way to practice this vocabulary is through flash cards! On the plane ride over to Italy you could make yourself some flashcards and test yourself. The vocab should consist of basic topics, such as numbers, months, food, colors, parts of the body, and so on. Flashcards are a proven memorization tactic for vocabulary, so make it a habit to practice them as much as possible.
2. Experience the Culture
Although I’m sure you’ll be studying very hard in your classes, don’t forget to experience the arts and culture of the new Italian community you’re living in! You should soak up everything you can; museums, restaurants, theaters – anything and everything! Maybe you’ll discover some common Italian stereotypes that you only ever hear about in movies.
Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and go out, meet new people, and see new places. If you stay in your dorm room the majority of your stay, you’ll miss the chances to hang out with people your own age. Italy has its fair share of night clubs and bars where young people gather at all hours of the day.
It would also be a great idea for you to start conversations in Italian. As an incentive, you can offer to teach your Italian friend(s) your native language. There are a lot of organizations abroad, as well as meetup groups, that specialize in bringing young people together in exchange for learning their language and culture. It’s easier to coordinate than you may think!
Italy is known for it’s food, art, and music – you’ll want to get a taste of all three! In order to get a well-rounded experience, try to travel around Italy as much as possible. Traveling throughout Italy is very easy; the trains run very fast and are quite affordable, flights are pretty cheap, and renting a car is a fairly easy task.
Depending where you are, there are many great cities in the North to visit, such as Turin, Milan, Trieste, Venezia to the South Rome, Napoli, Florence, and the islands of Sicily and Sardegna. Each region has its own specialties that you’re going to want to experience!
3. Adapting to the Culture
Living abroad can bring you many challenges if you’re not used to the language, culture, and customs of a new city. The customs that you practice in your homeland are not going to be the same as they are in Italy.
Here are some examples of Italian customs:
- Businesses, stores, and restaurants are generally open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then closed until about 7 p.m. for Siesta time. That means restaurants do not usually serve dinner until 9 p.m. at night! I recommend planning your shopping in Italy around these Siesta closing times.
Telling the Time
- 24 hours clocks are used in Italy, so 1 p.m. U.S. time would be 13:00, 2 p.m. would be 14:00, and midnight would be 24:00, and so on. Also, in lieu of the time difference, you should get your body used to being either six or nine hours ahead of your home country.
For Here or To-Go
- In restaurants, you won’t really see “Takeaway” or “To-Go” orders. Even the chain coffee shops expect you to sit down and have coffee in the morning. It’s very hard to find a “To-Go” cup on the run. Also, going out to eat can be a long process; to even get a menu, food, and the bill can take at least two hours, so make sure you plan for this!
- While food is much cheaper in Italy than in the States, know that portions may not be as big (they have several meals or courses a day, such as antipasti, insalta, primo corso, secondo corso). With that being said, the portions in Italy are generally bigger than the rest of the countries in Europe.
- Your favorite brands, like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Hershey’s Chocolate, or Tylenol may not be available. It’s definitely possible to find similar brands, but you’ll have to search for them in Italian.
Plug It In
- The electric wall plugs are different in Italy. Shocking, isn’t it? You’ll need adapters to switch the voltage for all of your appliances, like your computer, hairdryer, alarm clock, and more. Adapters can be very expensive once you’re abroad, so I recommend picking up a few in your homeland before you travel.
4. Stay Organized in Italy
Make sure you have your finances and documents organized before you go to Italy. Moreover, plan to have your finances covered during each semester you’re studying there. The most important things to get are: a current passport and a visa.
Official processes for visas and documents can take anywhere from six to nine months, so it’s very important to start this process immediately. You’ll need original copies, as well as signed documents of specific items. Make sure you fulfill all of the requirements before you begin travelling. Be warned that the police in Italy can stop you at anytime to look at your legal documents. You wouldn’t want to arrive to your program late or be unable to complete it because you didn’t have the proper legal documents sorted out.
Italy is currently using the euro, which is more expensive than the U.S. dollar. However, the exchange rates are changing everyday. You may be able to make or lose money depending on the rates. Check to see if your tuition payments are in dollars or euros and spend accordingly. You may need to convert currency before you start setting up logistics like your apartment, bills, medical needs, and anything of the utmost importance.
Here’s a huge recommendation in regard to your finances: keep your bank accounts from your home country and start a new bank account in Italy. This will allow you to have money in both currencies, as well as an Italian debit or credit card for emergencies.
Your current cellphone provider will most likely not work in Italy – but if it does, you’ll probably be charged enormous fees. If you have an iPhone, you can try and get it unlocked so that you can use a different provider or an Italian simcard. If you want to tweak your iPhone for this reason, keep in mind that there are risks involved (damaging your software, losing information, losing warranty coverage, etc.).
Another option for your phone is to suspend the service and only use it for wifi. Or if you don’t even need wifi, you can keep your phone in airplane mode (which cuts it off from all wireless activities). Many chatting apps, such as Skype, Viber, or Whatsapp will allow you to text and call others for free or for low prices. If you decide to buy a new phone in Italy, you can get simcards from popular providers such as Orange, Vodaphone, and Movistar.
These are some tips I wish I would have known before studying abroad in Italy myself! I hope that you’ll take these tips into consideration while you’re planning your semester studying abroad. If you would like to learn more about studying abroad, the education in Italy, or for private Italian language lessons, schedule a lesson with a teacher on TakeLessons today!
Did you find these tips useful for studying abroad in Italy? If so, please leave a comment below!
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