What To Pack For a Semester in Italy

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DSC_0752 As the school year begins again and students head back to campus (not me unfortunately, as I've already graduated, *sniff sniff*), those going abroad have a reason to get extra excited - they get to travel for four months! Whether it's your first time out of the country or your fifth, a semester abroad tends to be unique to any other travel experience. From studying abroad in Italy in 2011 and working/living in Italy last year, I've come across both the semester essentials and the unnecessary nuisances that take up precious room in your suitcase. Here's what I suggest you pack for a semester in Italy:

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Clothing & Shoes

-Your regular clothes: jeans, tops, night out outfits, sleepwear, etc.

-Church-appropriate clothing (covered shoulders, knees, and toes): you're more than likely to be visiting beautiful churches throughout the country and you'll want to be respectful and abide by the dress code. If not, you risk getting kicked out and scolded by a priest!

-Swimsuit: chances are you'll be headed to a beach, pool, lake, or some form of water. You can buy swimsuits in Italy, but just know that the cuts are generally different from American cuts (the swim bottoms are usually "cheekies" for women, for example).

-Good walking shoes: Sandals and flats are your best bets. If you bring heels, wedges will help you avoid getting your heel stuck (and ruined!) on the cobblestone streets. Converse tend to be popular with Europeans, as are sneakers in general. You can find quality leather boots and shoes in Italy if your cheap H&M shoes fall apart (been there).

-Exercise clothes: for if you somehow find time to make it to the gym (in which case, I'm extremely impressed), or for when you get active outside (like hiking).

Remember that you will experience multiple seasons. The climate is pretty mild in Italy but you will need a coat for mid-November and December. Also consider the weather of other cities when you travel outside of Italy and/or if you plan on doing any outdoor activities (like water sports in the summer or skiing in the winter).

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Electronics

-Your laptop: the "study" part of study abroad still includes homework. Having a laptop is nice for homework and because it's another platform to back up your photos. I knew a few people that used tablets instead of a laptop, but I personally prefer a laptop.

-Unlocked cell phone: If you have a smartphone that can be unlocked, there's really not much use in getting an ancient Italian flip phone for international calls/texts. You can bring your unlocked phone to a phone carrier in Florence and get an Italian SIM card. I used TIM for my carrier and was on a 10 euro/month plan where I got a generous amount of calls/texts (to other Italian numbers) and data. I could add on extra money if I wanted to make calls outside of Italy.

-Adapters: because you'll need to charge your stuff. Bring a couple and write your name on them with a Sharpie. Chances are your roommates will have the same or similar-looking adapters and  you don't want to accidentally have them "stolen" by others by mistake.

-Camera: I love my Nikon D3200! I've used it since my first time abroad and the quality of the DSLR is still leaps and bounds better than my smartphone. (Though I will admit my phone is 2.5 years old...) Any camera will do, even a point-and-shoot. It's nice to have a real camera on hand in case your phone gets lost/stolen.

-Hair tools: if you'll actually use your blow dryer/flat iron/curling iron, then bring it. Just make sure it's the correct voltage so it doesn't die. If you know who your roommates will be, coordinate which hair tools to share - this will save yourself room in your luggage.

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Luggage

-When you think, I'm going to be living somewhere else for four months, your first instinct is to probably pack as much as you can. My advice is to not bring more than a large checked bag, a small roller carry-on, and a backpack through the airport, if possible. Anything more than that and it just becomes a hassle to lug all your bags around. If  you really need to you can buy extra luggage in Europe before you head back home.

-If you're an over-packer or your wardrobe is a little larger than most, I highly recommend Space Bags - I don't know what I'd do without them!

-For weekend trips it's nice to bring just a backpack and/or small duffle.

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Florence Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo

Toiletries

-Toothbrush/toothpaste, shower stuff, face wash, etc.

-Makeup, hair supplies, feminine products (for the ladies)

Know that Italy has everything the US does in terms of toiletries, like toothbrushes, shampoo, etc. They may not have the same name brand you normally use, so if you prefer a certain brand, make sure to bring enough. If you need to stock up on makeup while you're there, there are stores like Sephora and Kiko.

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Oltre Arno Florence Ponte Vecchio

Accessories

-Reusable water bottle: it's very nice to have it on hand for drinking water at your apartment but also to take it with you out and about. Buying plastic water bottles adds up over time.

-Umbrella: You can find cheap umbrellas all over the place in Europe. In Italy if it's raining there will undoubtedly be men wandering around selling umbrellas (and they will constantly ask you if you want one if you're not using an umbrella). If you have a small compact one though, it will be nice to have on hand when you experience your first Italian downpour.

-Notebook: Studying abroad is a great time to record your memories (and funny things people said!) so you don't forget them down the road. It's also nice to have a physical notebook to write down things like hostel/hotel addresses and phone numbers to have on hand in case your phone dies.

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Other Essentials

-Passport: well, obviously. If you happen to lose your passport make sure to get it replaced ASAP.

-Photo copies of your passport, printed out and on your phone: helpful if you lose your passport. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

While this is specifically geared toward spending a semester in Italy, this is basically what you'll need for a semester anywhere in Europe, with maybe a few tweaks here and there. Feel free to ask me any further questions or leave your thoughts/advice in the comments!