One of the things that I was the most worried about before beginning this semester was – and this might sound kind of silly – just the logistics of actually getting there! The airport, the terminals, the shuttles, the language barrier, flight delays, complications with connecting flights, transportation to the IES Abroad Center, locating & purchasing a SIM card and navigating the process of making my phone functional (especially this one). There are a lot of things to think about before setting off. While none of it was as scary as I imagined it would be, I cannot stress enough to anyone thinking about studying abroad that these are still things that you should think about and try to be prepared for in advance. I looked up as much as I could in advance, kept the IES Abroad emergency card in my bag, and saved the link for what to do in the case of a flight delay (which came in handy since my flight was delayed three times!).
I have to confess that I made a very goofy American mistake: while waiting for my connecting flight in London, I tried to buy a bottle of water with euros. I tried so hard to be prepared for anything, but it completely slipped my mind that England’s currency isn’t euros! I think that part of the deal with traveling is that you’re going to make a few silly mistakes, but rather than dwelling on the humiliation it’s better to laugh it off, learn from it, and maybe even blog about it so that prospective students (and current students, if they’re reading this too) can see that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes.
Aside from that, I felt like everything went pretty smoothly. Navigating Heathrow airport was not that hard, but there were a few things that I didn’t know about like having to shuttle to the terminal and having to get my boarding pass checked in again before I could go through security to my connecting flight (I'm used to domestic flights where you only have to go through security once.) Getting a SIM card and a data plan for my phone was surprisingly easy! There were many kiosks at the airport when I arrived in Italy (with English-speaking employees), but I would definitely suggest researching to make sure you get the best deal (I probably didn’t get the BEST deal since I was a bit overwhelmed, but I don’t think it was the worst.) I was so exhausted from the long journey that when I got to my apartment, I fell asleep right after the welcome dinner.
Now that I’m here in Rome, I’m excited for Orientation Week, getting settled into my housing, and getting to know the city! I've already experienced having the best pizza I've ever tasted (described by my apartment's Italian student companion as "good, but not even close to the best"), so this semester is starting out great so far.
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<p>My name is Charlotte and I'm a senior at Penn State studying Human Development and Sociology. I like traveling, baking, k-pop, rabbits, and collecting scrunchies!</p>