6 Lesser Known Pre-Departure Tips

Headshot of Olivia Remissong.
Olivia Remissong
January 17, 2023
Pre-departure from the Chicago airport

It’s happening!! After months of preparation, my VISA application is en route to Chicago and the wheels are starting to turn. So now… I wait. 

In preparing for my January departure, I know I want to hit the ground running in Milan and become a part of the local mosaic ASAP. While packing and pre-departure resources are plentiful in the study abroad universe, here are the not so obvious tips that will help you squeeze out the most of your experience.

  1. Reach out to past-abroad students on campus. 

    One of the best places to source your research from is first-hand accounts from kids who have lived experiences! When I began prepping for my trip, I reached out to a trusted professor who put me in contact with a few girls who had done my exact program. I got insanely awesome advice, thorough lists of recommendations and tons of support while I was going through the application process. Past study abroad students are more than willing to share their stories and in my experience, they loved answering all my questions! I will be doing an internship while I am in Milan and thankfully I was able to chat with a few people about their intern experiences and get a few tips on Italian work culture.

  2. Research the local, cool spots to visit using a variety of mediums.

    Although Google Reviews are helpful, I try to stay away from them as the majority of reviewers are tourists. I am looking for niche, hole-in-the-wall places that are frequented by locals so I turn to a variety of sources including social media, personal blogs and online forums. After weeks of scouring Reddit posts and scrolling through Tik Toks using Italian keywords like “Milano” and “locale,” I have compiled a to-do list complete with Maps pins of recommended spots for everything. A co-working coffee place that is a frequent stop for Milanese locals, boutiques with forward thinking Italian fashion that don’t break the bank and the must visit clubs/restaurants frequented by industry professionals during Milan Fashion Week are just a few of my finds. Researching has been fun and it’s a great way to help you get excited for your departure and to feel prepared once you land.

  3. Brush up on your language skills.

    If you are moving somewhere where English is not the native language, do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with common phrases! Right now I am using Duolingo to learn Italian for that added confidence when I arrive. Being able to ask for help and how to order food are both easy phrases to learn, help boost your confidence and can save you in a pinch. Once you arrive, try to find local Italian students for a language exchange (there are a lot of Facebooks groups completely dedicated to these types of things).  Not only will your knowledge come in handy, but the locals will appreciate your efforts!

  4. Join local Facebook groups.

    As of right now, I am in a few Milan Facebook groups! One is for a language exchange, so I can learn Italian with a local when I arrive. Another is a women’s group, so I can find local women living in Milan who share the same interests with me or are willing to show me arond the city. There are countless student and expat Facebook groups, all of which have members who have an intimate knowledge of the city! These groups are goldmines for niche recommendations as well! As a runner, I'm always on the hunt for cool trails and safe places to run and lucky enough, I’ve found some great suggestions from locals. These groups will also help expand your friend network, and introduce you to some really cool people.

  5. Make a goal list.

    Before I go, I’m writing a list of goals that cover a wide range of topics including travel, personal and professional. Setting goals for yourself will not only get you excited for all the possibilities your study abroad journey has to offer but it will also help you establish checkpoints for your journey and keep a bit of organization in your life as well! Your goal list can also serve as a loose budgeting system. One of my big goals for my study abroad trip is to hike the Dolomites, so time to start planning for how much it will cost and what supplies I will need!

  6. Start to get into the writing and photo taking habits.

    This will be one of the most formative and incredible experiences of your life, so you’ll want to document it. In preparation, I have started to write in a brand new journal and I made the decision to build an online blog! By digitally recording my trips, memories, photos and thoughts, my experience abroad  will live forever and it will be a great way to keep my friends and family in the loop about where I am and what I’m doing. F.Y.I. I will be using these blog posts as samples for my portfolio!

While preparing to study abroad can seem overwhelming, take a step back, take a deep breath and stay positive! I’ve found that through all my research, the most important piece of advice I read is to relax and let things fall into place. This experience will be incredible and life-changing no matter how much research I do and I can’t wait to touch down in Milan. I hope these tips can provide you with some stepping stones for your pre-departure and I wish you all the best!

Best of Luck :)


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Headshot of Olivia Remissong.

Olivia Remissong

Hello! I'm Olivia and I'm currently a senior at the University of Missouri studying Marketing, Economics and Fashion. I have a love for all things fashion, beauty and travel related and a knack for diving head first into new experiences. This semester you can find me exploring and interning in Milan and trying to find the best Aperol Spritz in Italy!

2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Missouri - Columbia
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