Every semester, tons of our Intern Queen Campus Ambassadors take advantage of the amazing opportunity to study abroad. This Spring, we wanted to share their stories with you! The third blog in our #InternQueenAbroad series is from Nina Gabriel, University of South Carolina.
What city and school are you studying in?
I am studying in Florence, Italy at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Italian International Institute!
Why did you choose to study abroad there?
I chose to study abroad in Italy because I have always been interested in it’s beauty and culture since I have Italian heritage. Also, since I am a Fashion Merchandising major, I felt Italy possessed a lot for me to learn and explore in regards to fashion. Plus, Florence is just the perfect sized city! It is big enough to be a bustling, busy city but also small enough to be incredibly charming and easy to familiarize with quickly.
Have you had to deal with language barriers? What have you done to make it easier?
I have definitely dealt with my share of misunderstanding because of language since I’ve been abroad! Fortunately, my program requires me to take an italian class; therefore, I have been studying the language and learned a lot of basic phrases that have already helped to ease cultural adjustment a great deal. Trying to speak the language to locals, even when they know you are obviously American and struggling (the struggle is so real!), has also helped me improve. You have to practice with people as much as possible.
Is the classroom environment different from the United States? How so?
I go to a very large school, the University of South Carolina, so I am used to very big class sizes and classrooms. Here this is not the case at all! My classes are very small in comparison to those at my home institution, and also much more conversational; even in a class size of thirty or so. I would say dialog and conversation is much more encouraged abroad, as well as professors desiring students to voice their opinions. Also, things are much more cut and dry abroad in terms of academics. You have less quizzes or homework keeping you on track and the majority, or entirety, of your grade is determined by only a few assignments or only tests. Yikes!
How did you budget for your semester and manage your money abroad?
The main thing I tried to do what make an estimate of around how much I expected to spend each week. I broke the estimate up into categories such as groceries for eating at home, dining and drinking out, travel expenses for the weekends, and miscellaneous for shopping because I just can’t resist the urge sometimes! After that I would try and withdraw euros in large sums and only use the cash during the week so I could physically see what I spent. So far this process has worked fairly well, but it is definitely hard to stay on budget! My advice to anyone planning to study abroad is pay close attention to the exchange rate and fees, if using a credit card, because you can end up spending more than intended easily.
How are you balancing school and exploring your country?
Balancing school and fun while abroad is a huge challenge! I have tried to treat the days I have class, Monday through Thursday, as if I have a job. Of course I go out to dinner and enjoy the city still at night with friends, but I try to use those days as my power days and be super productive so I have no worries when the weekend rolls around. Also, use a planner! Planners are seriously a life saver and you won’t regret the purchase!
What are the 5 things you HAD to pack to bring with you?
• My computer (hello third appendage)
• Pictures of friends and family
• Plenty of my favorite make-up
• My Mophie Juicepack phone case
• My favorite black leather booties!
What has been your favorite place/activity so far?
I have traveled to Milan, Rome and Amsterdam since I’ve been abroad and I can definitely say Amsterdam has been my favorite place, with Rome coming in at a very close second. You would think I would say Milan because of the fashion, but there was so much character and charm in Amsterdam that I fell in love!
What advice would you give other students considering study abroad?
For my fellow undergrads planning to study abroad the best piece of advice I can give you is to save your money and keep and open mind. Proper planning in a monetary sense will ease a lot of anxiety and make your time here much easier and stress free! Along with that, keeping an open mind will benefit you because there are so many cool, weird, interesting, scary things to try abroad and you never know which ones might end up becoming experiences you remember for the rest of your life!
Any last words/tips/secrets to share?
Contact as many people as you can that you know have been to the area you are going abroad! Recommendations for local places to try and sights to see are invaluable! Have fun and, of course, take way too many pictures!