The Dos and Don'ts
Welcome! My name is Rahni and I’m studying abroad in Florence Italy this year. I have been here for about 50 days! Almost 2 months now, WOW time has flown. I want to start off with something light and fun, but VERY helpful! Below, I have shared a couple of tips but also stories (some funny, some sad, some surprising, but all LIT) that should be of assistance. You can also reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wanna speak further about anything! Enjoy!
First things first, your toiletries and bodily essentials need to be first in your bag! I made the mistake of bringing only a COUPLE of things like my favorite leave-in conditioner and detangler and ended up having a identity (I don’t want to use crisis - but something like it). This is also applicable to your skin, makeup, and body products, including lotion and bug spray. One thing I would encourage you to do is to watch your habits 1-2 weeks before you leave, analyze your daily habits and what makes you feel good---DO NOT FORGET THEM. I thought I would not need them because I would be “recreating myself within Italy…” NO! Reinvention isn’t necessary, only adding on to an already beautiful being.
Bring doubles, triples, etc.
I thought I wouldn’t need so much because I could make it stretch, but it is better to be safe and have too much, than not enough and be without. I’ve been here going on almost 2 months and I still have not found any Shea Moisture, Tea Tree Oil, Black Soap, etc. Due to African migration skyrocketing in the last year, I found some Cantu at an African Market, but that was deep into the city!
Your music speaker!
If you own a travel size speaker, BRING IT.
Multiple Adapters and Chargers
This will come in the clutch, I PROMISE. Especially when traveling within different countries/continents. Being without a charger or an adapter sucks. You never want to be anywhere without a phone (to get into contact with anyone, directions, etc). Also, if you have an iPhone, you know how apple chargers start to wear and tear so that you can buy another one. Just do it in advance and bring extra with you! They are way more expensive if you by them here (TRUST ME I KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE).
Bring your FAVORITE SNACKS!
There’s nothing better than being in your dorm and feeling like your home because you are chomping on your favorite bedtime snack only found in your hometown/home state / America! An extra carry on might be good for this hahaha.
- KNOW the weather of where you are going
- Do not look at the pictures on google, do not believe the hype. Check some websites of the average weather in the country, or try to find someone who has previously studied abroad. Any advice you can get may help.
- Money is a REAL thing
- Step One: SAVE or WORK!
Step Two: Consider your living conditions. Are you staying in an apartment? A homestay?
I am in a homestay and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I get the best homemade dinner every night, I have had experiences and conversations with locals on so many occasions. My homestay family is extremely helpful in giving advice, and they even help me with my Italian homework.
- Step Three: Consider your living habits? Who are YOU? Are you a shopaholic? Would you need to take public transportation? What does your budget look like
You are likely to spend more money than anticipated. I have spent more money than anticipated. This is why emergency money is so important. Sometimes there are cover fees that you have to pay that are unexpected, or you might want to go out to dinner for a friends birthday unexpectedly. Life happens, just make sure you’re prepared for it!
- Step 5: Stay in contact with your parent/caregiver/guardian about funds.
Now your airline
Story time: I rode with AirBerlin when I came to Florence, and I had to check in a second bag (the first one was free like most airlines). I expected Air Berlin to charge by the weight like most other airlines, but they did not. They charged me 170 euros ($210) for a second bag, regardless of the weight. If I had done my research beforehand, I would have known this and packed accordingly; instead, however, I could not turn back… I had to give in and pay.
For me, being in Italy, it is common for study abroad students/tourist to go to a lot of museums, see every famous art piece, and eat all the gelato and pasta possible. If that is not what you are interest in, do not feel like your experience is “not right.” Again, live your life and make your own experience. You do what you want when you are poppin'.
On Race Relations
In some countries you might be seen as a person of color, in other countries you might be seen as American. Nevertheless, it is very easy to feel isolated because you are both culturally and physically different. Some examples of how you may feel isolated are that you do not hear your type of music in the clubs, you do not see your face on billboards, or you might even get dirty looks.
Words of Encouragement
Do not have the fear that people are going to dehumanize you or treat you differently because of your skin color. Although this might be true, living with this feeling for an entire semester/year with that mentality will keep you from doing normal things and you will miss out on experiences. Wherever you study abroad, I am sure you will recognize something along these lines of difference. There will be plenty of times that you encounter people with different opinions. Do not feel like you have to prove yourself as something you are not because you are a person of color. When confronted with a cultural collisions, be okay with and ready to make people who are not accustomed your blackness uncomfortable. If you do not, who will? Educating people of their ignorance is important. A lot of countries (like Italy) are homogenous. Does their homogeneity excuse them of the prejudices or the racism? Never. Addressing these issues makes you vital for black communities all around the world.
Let things happen to you and not through you. Do not let others' prejudices consume you, change who you are, or alter your experiences. You are amazing as you are, melanin in your skin. There is no need to prove anything. Your blackness in specific times and places is important. Everything happens for a reason. You did not make it this far for no reason. Keep searching for why you belong. Although this does not come instantly, you have purpose.