The first week of your study abroad experience may seem frightening, but IES Abroad has great activities set up for you to settle into your new lifestyle. Here’s how my first week went.
The first day I arrived at the Florence airport to find a large group of students ready to take the bus ride to Siena. After getting off the bus my host mom was there to pick me up. I got a tour of where I would be living for the next three months and had time to rest and unpack. After having time to rest, we all met up and had dinner together. There are plenty of activities like this to facilitate friendships, so you don’t need to be worried about meeting the other people on your trips.
The second day we spent a large portion of our time at the IES Abroad Siena Center. It is very close to the main piazza, which is great as I get lost even with the help of Google maps. We did have to go through the standard be safe, don’t be stupid type of lectures, but every single teacher was so caring and wonderful that I did not mind sitting through these presentations. During the second day, and the following days, there was plenty of free time to explore the city on your own or with friends and to get food. You will get to know the wonderful restaurants and bakeries (Nannini!) during the first week. On the second day you will most likely take the second part of your language placement exam. Don’t be nervous! I just had a two minute conversation with one of the teachers and had my placement right then and there.
We started our Italian classes on the third day. I really enjoy my class because it helps with meeting the other students and we don’t just sit in the classroom all day. We have gone out and done something every class so far, including trips to the supermarket, bus station, and bookstore.
On the fourth day we had to apply for our permesso di soggiorno, or permission to stay. This seemed a bit daunting at the time, but it was very simple as the IES Abroad staff made sure everything was in order, and I basically only had to bring my passport. At the end of the day we got to go on a wine tour. This was one of the highlights of orientation week. We had wonderful food and wine and got to talk to the local farmer who owned the vineyard.
On Friday, the final day of orientation, I had a long Italian class, but, again, it just seemed like I was hanging out with friends while speaking another language. We also got to see the main synagogue in Siena, which was stunning. While there was more to do on our schedule for the day, the IES Abroad staff noticed our energy levels and let us have extra free time.
Overall, orientation week was a perfect way to get acclimated to a new city and culture. Our schedule kept me busy enough to avoid being overly homesick, but I wasn’t so busy that I was exhausted and stressed. I had plenty of time to try restaurants, see the sights of Siena, and meet the other people on the trip. Classes are right around the corner, and I could not be more excited to start my semester in Siena!
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<p>I am 19 years old and am a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. I am working towards an anthropology degree because I am fascinated in all the different cultures, religions, and languages around the world. My hobbies include sewing, reading, hiking, camping, and traveling. Every summer I go backpacking with my family. Our most recent trip was to Rocky Mountain National Park. I am very excited to study abroad in Siena, Italy so I can practice my Italian and become immersed in a new culture.</p>