Little did we know that our Florence Orientation class last spring semester would bring in students who, in no way, could have possibly been in the same city as we are now, based on the bullshit they were telling us about Florence. Listen up, Golden Flashes, because this the real deal:
LIE: “You get all Kent holidays, Italian holidays and Catholic holidays off!”
Truth: Then I want to know why I was in school on Labor Day. If the calendar lines up in your favor, you will get Italian holidays off. Unfortunately, for us they were all on Fridays, which is when we don’t have class anyways.
LIE: “You only need to work the summer beforehand, you’ll have PLENTY of money.”
Truth: I want to know where these girls were working all summer, because they must have been making bank. Although Florence is one of the cheaper places in Europe, it is still expensive, especially when you take into account the conversion between euros and dollars. Start saving as much as possible, as soon as possible. It’s better to skip out on that Sheetz run now and have extra money for gelato later.
LIE: “My budget was 30 euros a day for food, 200 euros a week, and 250 euros for weekends.”
Truth: WHERE DID THEY GET THIS MONEY?! Newsflash, pasta from Conad’s cost 40 cents, and that’ll get you through 4 dinners. I spend 30 euro a WEEK, and that includes groceries, a dinner out, Monday sandwiches at Il Due Fratenilli and a cocktail on the weekend. Weekend trips are where I spend the most, including whatever transportation/accommodation fees I have, plus usually 100-150 euros for food, tours, shopping and nightlife.
LIE: “You can’t get coffee to go there.”
Truth: Plastic cups and lids do exist.
LIE: “You’ll get back to the States the Friday of finals week.”
Truth: Then why am I getting back Sunday at 11:30 PM?
LIE: “There is an H&M around the corner – don’t worry about packing!”
Truth: Yes, there is an H&M right down the street from Kent State’s building, but keep in mind that you are paying in EUROS for stuff that you probably have back home. If you can afford to buy a new Italian wardrobe, good for you. For the rest of you, strategically pack your suitcases with stuff you have, and keep in mind that I’m throwing out half of what I brought with me because it’s now so disgusting and worn.
LIE: “Have 600 euros on you when you get there.”
Truth: You can get euros through AAA or your bank beforehand. HOWEVER, if this means you’re exchanging all those dollars for euros at a sleazy airport exchange point, you’ll be kissing most of that goodbye with their hefty fees. Bring cash with you (I brought $400) and go to a bank in Florence to exchange it, where they’ll do it for free.
LIE: “It’s rude to take food to go.”
Truth: Yeah, this is just a straight lie.
LIE: “I just got the Capital One Journey card before I went. It was so easy.”
Truth: Remember that you need to have established credit before you can open a credit card with most companies, unless your parents cosign you. I do recommend this card, but since my parents wanted me to establish my own line of credit, I got stuck getting a Discover It card. WHICH IS NOT ACCEPTED ANYWHERE. Except Zara. Do not get this card for this trip.
LIE: “Huntington has a 3.5% transaction fee. It’s no big deal.”
Truth: If you have a Huntington account you will get eaten alive. Like $300 in transaction fees kind of eaten alive (due to my credit card situation I’m forced to use my Mastercard debit card for everything – damn you, Discover). Do yourself a favor, open an account with a bank with international partners such as like Bank of America, HSBC or Charles Schwab (which I’ve heard is the best).
LIE: “You can go on trips for so cheap. Go to the French Riviera for just 15 euros!”
Truth: This does not exist. Cheap trips are very possible, thanks to airlines such as Ryanair, but keep this formula in mind:
Flying to Barcelona on Ryanair = a train to Pisa + flight to Girona + bus to Barcelona + bus back to Girona + flight back to Pisa + train back to Florence + cab fare home
See how that adds up quickly? Now add in the cost of a hostel, food, tours, going out and souvenirs.
LIE: “Have your parents visit during Thanksgiving.”
Truth: Thanksgiving is prime time for traveling, and I guarantee you do not want to be stuck in Florence while all your friends go off to see the rest of Europe. My family visited in early November, which was perfect because that was right about the time I was getting really homesick.
LIE: “You need to bring your Orientation textbooks with you.”
Truth: I haven’t opened those books once.
LIE: “You can’t find peanut butter in Florence.”
Truth: Skippy can be found at both Conad’s and Meta. And my roommates and I found Jif at the American bakery Sugar & Spice on Via di Servi last week for 4 euros.
From the Kent State Florence class of Fall ’13 to you, we wish you the best of luck on your future study abroad experience!