Thursday, June 20, 2019


Greetings all!

     First and foremost, I want to take the time to say congrats on being able to be apart of an EXTRODINARY EXPERIENCE! Many people are not able to have an experience going abroad, so to be able to be apart of the Study Abroad Program here at Columbia is not only a once in a lifetime experience, but an honorable one.

     Now allow me to introduce myself. My name is Veronica. I am a student at one of Columbia College's Satellite locations here in Savannah GA at Hunter Army Airfield. I am prior service military (Army National Guard), military spouse of almost 9 years and together we are a blended family of 4 kiddos and 2 pups. Over the past 9 years we've been able to live in a few places such as Virginia, Hawaii (so much fun!), North Carolina, and now Georgia. Georgia is only another stop on our traveling quest, only time will tell where we will be off to next.

     Now the good stuff...THE TRIP!!!!!  Honestly I thought I'd be able to write while I was there but the way we were moving so much and so quickly, by the time I was able to write I was so exhausted! But exhausted in a good way! London is a large diverse metropolitan city, so there is so much to do, so much history in the city, and so many people. I was amazed by it all. But I will start off with some general tips when in London. I will go into more detail on some topics in future posts. (NOTE: if its capitalized and in bold, its very important)

  1. Get familiar with the tube system- The London Tube system and bus line is in my opinion by far the BEST transit system I've ever used. Its clean, fast and literally takes you everywhere. The oyster card will be your best friend.
  2. Move quickly- people in London move quickly. They have places to be do not want to slowed down by tourists who doesn't know their way around. 
    They will bump into you if you are in their way with no remorse. So be sure to follow the flow of traffic. Walk on the sides where the majority walks and if you are in way, simply step to the side until you have yourself together.
  3. Wear comfy shoes and be sure to HYDRATE- You will be walking A LOT here in London as many of our coursework is covered around the city. Ladies; DO NOT BRING HEELS. Its not worth it. some of the roads are made of cobblestone and will be going up and down stairs. Please, just don't do it. I brought mine and never wore them. It is good you carry a bottle of water with you as you may never know when you will be able to get something to drink. Many places do offer tap water but with all the walking around you'll be doing, you may need some sooner than expected.
    ALWAYS LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING- Londoners drive on the opposite sides of how we drive here in the states. It is IMPARITIVE that you be sure to loo before you cross and cross at the crosswalks when there is one. If you are to get hit by someone and you are not in the crosswalk. You will be liable for the accident. So please, be safe and look right (well both ways really lol)
  5. Wear LAYERS: During the time I was there, we were spoiled with the beautiful weather. But it was important to wear layers as you will be taking things on and off throughout the day. Some time its warm and then it gets chilly, going in and out of the tube station, you are bound to warm up and cool down throughout the day.
  6. Understand that customer service is different here than in the States- Please understand this now as many of the students had a hard time adjusting to the difference. It is very different. Servers do not wait on you hand and foot like you are experienced. They only come around when you need them to. Other restaurants like Pubs for example, require you to go up to the counter and order instead of a server coming to you. They will only bring your food to you. Anything else you go to them. Once you are comfortable with this you will be good to go.
  7. Most Importantly....EXPLORE!!!!! You will be there for 4 weeks, and you will have down time to explore in the evenings and on weekends. Please take advantage. I went to so many places both in and outside of London that I could write a book about it. There is so much history in the city and so many different cultures to explore that honestly, 4 weeks isn't even enough time to cover it all.
      I will go more into detail in the upcoming posts about some of the places I've visited, what I've learned, and provide you guys with more specific tips to make it here in London if you decide to take this program in the future. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Travel to Italy Knowing What to Expect!

Ciao a tutti!

I am about two weeks into my study abroad experience to Italy, and it has been a blast! I have experienced more places the past two weeks than I have the past five years of my life! Instead of telling you all about how much fun I am having, I think I am going to make my blogs mostly advice for future study abroad students! Being across an ocean in a new country, Italians do things a little differently than Americans do and here are some things I was either told OR I found out myself from experience! So learn a little from my mistakes: 

  • Prior Trip Tips: this is the most stressful part so hang in there
    • Make a To-Do List: I had so much to do prior to my flight left and I kept losing track of everything I needed to putting it all down on paper or in my phone notes section relieved me majorly
    • What do you need to wear? Well obviously look up the weather before you go, but I will put down some mistakes I made
      • I should have brought more warm clothes, it was chilly the first week and it wasn't as fun being cold
      • I brought mostly cute clothes, because I am forcing myself to not wear leggings everyday! I am trying to fit in with the Italians, because they tend to dress a little nicer than casual Americans
      • Bring a rain jacket if you have one! I did not and I regret it. Also an umbrella is handy!
    • START👏PACKING👏EARLY👏: I mean it, start thinking about what you are bringing a long time before you leave. I personally tried on everything I was bringing to see if I wanted to bring it in my suitcase. It's hard bringing one suitcase for a month!
      • Little things to not forget: European adapter, pillowcase (if they tell you to bring sheets, I brought sheets but forgot a pillow case), a bath towel (don't be like me and drop 15 euro on a bath towel), that one thing you use everyday (mine is my speaker, it may take up space but I am so happy I brought it)
    • Keep up to date: you are going to be shoved a lot of info about your trip, try to be sure to read over things at least once maybe 2-3 times to be sure you have everything in order
    • Contact people in your group: I didn't know anyone going on the trip prior to going abroad, but I did get in contact with a girl a month prior to the trip. She was so helpful! Often the person has the same questions you have and you at least have one familiar face that you are going to see in the beginning! Don't feel weird, they probably feel the same way!
  • Restaurant Tips: the food here is DELICIOUS but can be difficult to maneuver 
    • Don't tip: It is not a thing to tip in Italy, because the waiters don't get paid minimum wage
    • "coperto" = table charge (you may see this on your receipt and wonder what I did not order that, but what I came to find out this is basically your tip. This is how they cover waiting on you)
    • They do not like to split checks, so often you have one person pay for the table and you pay them back. If you don't have Venmo highly recommend! Also make sure you pay them in euros and not US dollars!
    • Water costs!! I know I am still getting used to this one! Oftentimes it is just as cheap to get a glass of wine than a bottle of water so look out for that.
      • Also be sure you order "acqua naturale" or flat water, otherwise you may be disappointed with carbonated water. I do encourage you to try it though!
    • Often times you have to ask for the check if you are ready to leave, Italian dinners take longer than Americans. They do not bring you the check, because they do not want you to feel rushed! 
  • Coffee Tips: I don't personally drink coffee, but this was very helpful for others :)
    •  “latte” =  a warm glass of milk, so trust me you don't want warm milk so try the others
    •  “caffe” or an espresso = a shot of coffee
    •  “cappuccino” = a shot of espresso with a lot of frothy milk
    •  “macchiatto” = a shot of espresso with a dollop of frothy milk
    • In Italy it is a thing to only drink coffee in the morning, it is considered odd if you drink it in the evening
  • Shopping Tips: 
    • Do bargain: I was not a very outspoken person when it comes to shopping, but Italy has changed me a bit! Bargain with those men on the street trying to get you to buy things! You often can get it a lot lower than the price they tell you!
    • Try the Central Market: if you need some fresh ingredients try the Central Market! It is an experience you have to see how fresh all the produce and meat are! Also they have basically a food court upstairs with amazing food!
      • Don't touch fruit at Central Market: they have signs a lot of places, but the people do not like it when you touch their products.
    • Bring your own bag: when buying food or anything really they do not like giving you plastic bags but they do offer reusable bags for 1 euro in many grocery stores so when you go buy groceries try and bring your own bag
  • "Fit in" to Italian Culture: if you're trying to get really vibe with the Italian culture these are just some observations I have made. But as always it's okay to be a tourist and be your own self!!
    • Jeans: so jeans are odd here, everyone wears dark jeans a lot, but jean shorts are not a thing. I still wore jean shorts but I don't think I saw one Italian in jean shorts. Normal jeans here are popular here
    • Don't pet the dogs: obsessing over dogs here is not a thing, they do not like it when you pet their dogs. Even the cutest dogs no one stops to pet! But trust me from experience my friend pet this one guys dog because he came up to her, the man yelled at her so just be careful. I have heard that you can ask if you can and some people don't care but for now I will have to put my dog loving self in restraints
    • Use the crosswalks: cars are more likely to stop if you actually use the crosswalks. Italians are ummm let's say intense drivers so finding a crosswalk will increase your chances of crossing streets safely
    • Learn some Italian: learn some simple Italian phrases! It will help you immensely! A lot of people here (especially in the city) know at least some English but knowing the basics is very helpful!!

Well this is all I have so far but it has only been a little over two weeks! Hopefully I will have more that I think of and will continue to learn more as I am here! But for all you future study abroaders, this is a blast and don't stress too much about it!

                    Ciao, Abby M.
Me cheering now that you know a little more about Italy!

Subscribe to our feed