The Ins and Outs Preparing for a Semester Abroad in Florence

Hi everyone! My name is Jared Dowling and I’m a junior, dual majoring in marketing at Whitman and public relations at Newhouse. This semester, I decided to study abroad at one of our Syracuse Abroad Centers in Florence, Italy! Until now, I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to Europe and experience some of its deep history and culture but being able to travel through Syracuse and continue my journey of becoming a better global citizen is something I was so excited for. 

I can imagine that a lot of people are curious about going abroad and have a ton of questions, like “What do I even pack?” or “How do I get a Visa?”, so I’ll do my best to answer some of those questions in today’s blog as I get ready to leave! 

Typically, the Italian Visa application process is handled by the University, you provide the abroad office with all the necessary documents, and they handle communicating with the consulate and mail you your Visa a couple of weeks later. Because I participated in the Kenya Cultural Immersion trip in May and had a family vacation to Mexico in June, I needed my passport and couldn’t join in the group order with the school and had to apply independently.

Now I know something like that sounds daunting, but it was an incredibly smooth process. The Syracuse Abroad office has so many resources that walk you through every step, and if you have questions, they have staff on hand to quickly answer anything. In my experience, Courtney Eppel was one of the kindest and most helpful people that I have ever encountered in my life, and even when I was stressed about anything, she was very quick to provide guidance and even checked in on me proactively to see how my process was going. After my visa appointment, I only waited a week before I had my passport mailed back to me with my visa inside, so it was super quick as well. 

In terms of packing, I’m a huge shopper, so putting my entire life into a handful of bags was definitely a tall ask! After talking with some friends about the kinds of items they planned to bring, it made my decisions a lot easier. The bulk of my luggage was clothes: lots of t-shirts, a handful of shorts, some jeans, lots of casual button-down shirts, a suit, and workout clothes, but I also made sure to pack a variety of shoes as well. I made sure I had good walking shoes because there’s a LOT of walking to be done around Europe as well as some sandals, loafers, and dress shoes for different occasions. 

After getting my clothes settled, I sat down and figured out the personal items I’d want to bring. I made sure I packed away my jewelry, toiletries, headphones, laptop, water bottle, Bluetooth speaker, and my Nintendo Switch, but aside from that there wasn’t much else I needed. I knew that if I forgot something minor, I would be able to pick it up at a local convenience store or supermarket in Italy. 

As I’m writing this, I’m on the flight from Newark, NJ to Vienna where we’ll then connect to our final stop in Florence! I already found some friends on the same flight and can’t wait to make some memories with them as our abroad journey begins. 

I’m super excited to keep everyone updated on my experiences when I arrive and I hope you’ll look forward to my next blog! Until then, ciao!

Jared Dowling
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