By Laura Hough
I made it to Perugia without any trouble, for which I was grateful. This post focuses on some advice I have for traveling as a study abroad student.
Read the papers that your university or program gives you. They gave it to you because it’s relevant, and it has important information in it, even if it’s simply times and places for orientation or getting your schedule. You don’t want to be the one person late to the safety orientation or miss important information because you didn’t know when to be there. Also, pay attention to orientation presentations because they include important details. Yeah, you’re probably dead tired and jet lagged and hungry and maybe still confused, but it’s important to focus and try to soak it in, not glaze over when they talk about it.
Double check all the documents you need to take with you, and pack them in a folder or envelope in a carry-on. This is easier if you’ve kept all your visa and information documents in one place the entire time. When I got here, I was afraid I might not have all the documents for my Permesso di Soggiorno, which is the second half of a study visa in Italy. Luckily, I did, but I was worried for a few hours.
Don’t pack more than you can carry yourself. This probably means one big rolling bag of some variety, and then a backpack/duffle/satchel of some sort, and maybe a purse or camera bag. A lot of students had two or even three rolling bags. You can’t handle all of that yourself and you don’t want to the be the one asking all the people you don’t actually know if they’ll carry your luggage. In my case, we didn’t know what our apartments were going to look like before we arrived. There were a lot of stairs involved, and I was glad I hadn’t packed my whole closet in three bags — it was a lot less of a hassle.
Most likely, you will be able to get personal items (shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc.) in whatever country you are going to, especially in Western Europe. However, bring some travel size of everything, because it might be a couple of days before you have time to go or figure out where you can buy it, and you’ll probably want a shower before then.
Finally, the program I am with — the Umbra Institute in Perugia, through Arcadia University — is very organized and helpful in making sure you know what’s going on. They have also made it a little simpler. I flew into Rome, and staff met us at the airport, so I got on a bus to come to Perugia. I didn’t have to figure out a bus or train ticket or schedule, or travel for two more hours after already traveling on my own for the past day. It’s reassuring to know that the staff is ready with information and answers. I’m really glad that my program is like that. I would advise keeping this in mind when you’re choosing a study abroad program. I have plenty of faith that any college student could manage by themselves, but it helps ease your parents’ worries and makes things a little easier on you if there’s a little more support available.
These are some of the things I’ve observed while getting ready to travel and while en route to my destination! I hope that they can be of use to someone who wants to study abroad.