Studying abroad in Italy (or anywhere) for that matter can be a huge change from your typical, American lifestyle. Here are a few tips and lessons that I’ve learned in the past month while here in Florence…
1. Wine is acceptable at any time of the day. You need a little stress-relief after your 2 hour morning lecture? Hit up the closest restaurant or even a coffee bar for their finest wines (at a decent price, too!).
2. A cappuccino is not acceptable at all hours of the day. If you order one of those delicious, good-looking drinks past about 11am, you won’t want to come back after the look the owner gives you.
3. Incessant work is for the depressed. In the States, we are taught to get an education and work constantly until you earn enough money to then live your life. In Italy, if you work all the time and do not have any free time for friends and family, you’re considered depressed and should probably get help immediately.
4. Traveling is easy (and cheap). You are able to book a last minute train ride to Munich for less than 40 euro whereas, in the States, booking a last minute trip from Ohio to New York will cost you over 100 dollars.
5. Your professors care about you. I guess this depends on which university you attend, but the Italian professors I have experienced interact with American students as mentors as well as teachers. They do not associate themselves on a higher level than the students. They encourage you to experience life outside of the classroom as long as you to come back the next day telling them stories about your awkward encounter with the cashier at the market!
6. Bar means coffee not beer. A store with the word “bar” above the entrance is not the typical bar we have in the States. A bar in Italy is a coffee bar and is not opened at 9pm on a Friday night when you’re looking for a place to grab a few beers with your friends. I learned this the hard way. My friends and I spent hours our first Friday night in Florence walking around looking for the “bars” we saw in the afternoon, but they were all closed.
7. Snap away! It’s acceptable to stop and take a picture every time you pass the Duomo. It’s seriously so beautiful and every time you look at it, you’ll most likely catch a different window or décor that you missed the last time. Don’t feel guilty about posting another architectural picture on Instagram!
8. Everyone (including the gypsies) will know you’re an American. At least for the first month or two. There’s really nothing you can do about it so embrace it, but still be open-minded to learning the Italian lifestyle and culture.
9. Splitting checks is not a thing. Always carry some cash and change with you so you have the perfect amount for your meal. You’ll thank yourself when your friends are doing mental math to decide who gets the change from the waiter after you and all your friends have paid. Also, Italians don’t tip! Use the extra money to buy that dessert you’ve been eyeing!