CISABROAD BLOG · September 5, 2019 · 7 Min Read
6 Things My Mom Didn’t Tell Me About Living Abroad | Intern blog from Florence

Wouldn’t it be nice if, with a blink of an eye, you could transport yourself anywhere in the world? No hassle, no stress, just straight up teleportation.

living abroad

Unfortunately until technology skyrockets in advancements, or we all suddenly inherit super-human powers, we’re stuck planning our own trips to explore the world. This means lost luggage, delayed flights, missed trains, huge craters in bank accounts, currency exchange confusion, and never really knowing what time it is.

For two months this summer, I had the amazing opportunity to complete an internship abroad in Florence, Italy. This once in a lifetime experience was full of excitement, frustration, and growth on so many different levels. Traveling outside of the country can be one of the most nerve-wracking, challenging, freeing, and most rewarding experiences of your life. 

Whether it be for a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a year, there is so much you can gain from living outside of your home country.

Here are some useful tips and tricks that I wish I knew (or paid more attention to) before living abroad:

1. Make sure you have enough money!

This should go without saying, but living abroad and traveling is expensive. Before you leave, make sure you really have enough money to support yourself in your travels, including living expenses and emergency funds.

Budget Yourself.

living abroad

Before you leave, assess the amount of time you will be abroad. Calculate how much money you are willing to spend for traveling once you get there. Are you traveling every weekend? Are you going to travel outside of the country? Are you alone, with friends, or family? Do you know the average prices for flights, trains, hostels and Airbnb?

How much do you want to spend on shopping for yourself or for others? 

What is the average price for a week’s worth of groceries in the city you are living in? How many times a week do you see yourself going out to eat? What activities do you want to do and see? Museums? Gardens? Cathedrals? Historical Monuments? These are all things you should get some background knowledge on so that you can budget yourself accordingly.

living abroad

Call your bank before you leave

And let them know you are going to be living abroad for however long, and inform them of any other countries you plan on traveling to. Letting them know to expect your international transactions ahead of time can prevent you from having to wait for your account to be reinstated if it’s flagged for “suspicious activity” that’s just you going about your daily life abroad.

Do not be so tight on money

That you are constantly transferring small funds from your savings into your checking account. This just isn’t smart for a number of reasons. You could need emergency money for unforeseen and  uncontrollable events such as for a taxi, overnight stay at a hotel, food, re-booking train tickets, etc. 

Always carry cash with you.

living abroad

Not a crazy amount, but just enough to get you through a normal day and for emergencies. Many businesses do not accept cards, so it’s always good to have back up money. Also, your bank could put your account on hold for whatever reason, and it may take time to get in contact with them, so make sure you have back up money. I would suggest making sure you have at least 50 euros on you at all times.

Whether you are traveling with friends, or alone, you can’t rely on other people to have money on them to cover you, whether it be for food, coffee, unplanned overnight hotel stays, re-booked train tickets, etc. Obviously, it’s fine if you cover each other occasionally, but in the event that your friends’ accounts get put on hold, or they get pick-pocketed, or they simply don’t have enough money, it’s always a good idea to be sure you are on top of things for YOURSELF first.

You are living abroad. 

This is your time to have fun, explore, and experience new and exciting things. You don’t want your wallet to stand in the way of that – and it doesn’t have to! Just be realistic and smart with yourself and what you are willing to spend and what you want to invest in, while giving yourself enough wiggle room for emergencies, because trust me – they happen!

2. Eat in more

living abroad

When you first get to your new home, it’ll be easy to want to jump into trying all of the new cafes, restaurants, and bars right away. But wait! You don’t have to indulge in all of this all at once. Try to spread out eating out throughout your trip, or save eating out for just the weekends when you travel to new places. Limit yourself to once or twice a week, and then cook for yourself the rest of the time. 

You will likely be buying groceries once every week or every two weeks. If you live with roommates, this can be very affordable because you would be splitting the cost; even if you live alone, there are many cheap options in terms of grocery shopping. 

3. Double check everything

This goes along with just being responsible for yourself when traveling. Double-check your train ticket times, your flight itinerary, bus stops, etc. Make sure you know where you’re going and what time you have to be there!

4. Say yes to new experience

living abroad

If this is your first time outside of the country, or even your first time living in a new place, you are bound to be nervous. THIS IS NORMAL! Be proud of yourself for being willing to jump into this new adventure. Push yourself further and try your best to say yes to the new experiences you are about to explore.

Do your best to travel on the weekends.

Whether it be within the country or to a new country, try to invest your time to explore this new side of the world!

Indulge yourself in the new cultures you are immersed in. 

Talk to locals and see where they enjoy spending their time. Make friends with people that really live where you are staying. This will give you an even more cultured experience and allow you to make international connections with people you never otherwise would have met! 

5. Go with the flow

Try your best to have an open mind when unprecedented circumstances come up. Plans may change, whether it be big or small, and you need to try to make the best of your situation. 

Surround yourself with people that can go with the flow along with you! There’s nothing worse than when you are traveling with people that can’t be positive about a negative situation, or move along with wherever your plans take you. Don’t hang around Debbie-Downers and don’t be one yourself! 

6. Be present

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With all of the traveling from place to place, airport to airport, train station to train station, it is hard to stop and take in your surroundings. Even when it does get stressful, just remind yourself,

“I’M IN _______ AND I’M GOING TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT BECAUSE I’M LITERALLY IN _____!!!”

Take as many photos and videos as you can! You want to document your experience to the best of your ability. This means making sure you have enough iCloud storage for your trip 😉

Soak. It. In.

When you’re climbing the Eiffel Tower, laying on the perfect tropical Greek beach, riding the gondola through Venice, trying new foods you’ve never tried before, taking the perfect perspective picture at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, remind yourself that THIS IS YOUR LIFE AND YOU MADE IT HAPPEN! Be proud of yourself for being in that moment, because it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for your desire to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

living abroad

Living and traveling abroad, you’ll gain not only experiences, but also personal growth. You’ll gain independence, responsibility, and a new appreciation of the world around you. If you did it this time, who is to say you couldn’t do it again? Not only will this experience give you amazing memories, but it will also help you be even more excited and ready for your next trip! 

La Dolce Vita! 


Learn more about Gabriela’s program in Florence!

The CISabroad blog is run by Zoë Crabtree, Jenn Weisgerber, Siobhan Tripp, Emily Negard, and more folks on our marketing team. Head over to the “Meet the Team” page to learn more about us as individuals. On the blog, we share student-written content and information for students, advisors, other study abroad professionals, and families of students studying abroad. Check out our Facebook and Instagram for more from us and our students!