Fortunately, I have been able to do a lot of traveling while living abroad in Florence. In Palermo, I saw ancient artifacts, dating back to before Christ, and the famous Palatine Chapel. Later, my friend and I travelled to Munich, Vienna, and Budapest, for spring break. In Munich, we visited Hofbrauhaus, the BMW museum, the Alta Pinakothek art museum, the English Gardens, and other famous landmarks. After Munich, we took a bus to Vienna, where we visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Belvedere Palace, and other additional sights (try the Wiener Schnitzel!); it was exciting to see different locations where they shot The Third Man, a famous movie set in post-WWII Vienna. Our last stop was Budapest, where we met up with fellow Pitt “study-abroaders” and got to do spectacular sight-seeing. Since spring break, I travelled to Paris – where I saw the Louvre (on 2 separate days – it was free with an E.U. student visa), Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Arch di Triumph – ascended the Eiffel Tower in an elevator – and ran a half marathon with a member of Delta Sigma Pi, Lambda Chapter. Finally, I saw Amsterdam and its extensive canal system, along with the Rijksmuseum (a must see).
Preparing for trips is rather simple, if you give yourself enough time to pack and research. It is best to travel with only a duffle bag or just a backpack (especially if you want to avoid low-cost airlines’ baggage fees). Also, have a fanny-pack or safety belt to carry important items, such as your phone, wallet, keys, and passport.; traveling light is best too. I recommend staying in Hostels to save money – booking is simple and satisfying, as long as you read the reviews. Also, it is best to plan activities ahead of time. Certain days away from Florence, my travel companions and I found ourselves wasting time trying to figure out what we wanted to do; make sure you plan you day, whether that includes visits to parks, museums, waterways, or anything of that nature. Enjoy yourself but know that traveling is costly – it can be hard to budget responsibly, especially when there is so much to see and do. When taking money out of an ATM, make sure that the ATM is operated by a legitimate bank [and watch the FX rates]; this sometimes involves inserting your debit card into a foreign bank’s security system, in order to enter the ATM room.
Some cautionary words of advice:
- similar to in large American cities, in Europe, people will approach you looking for money (most of the time, it is safest to ignore and not panic)
- be respectful of locals, especially in countries where English is not the native tongue – try to learn a little bit of the language on the train/bus/flight there
- try the street food (if it looks popular) because it is usually cheaper than sit down restaurants (TripAdvisor is amazing)
- bring a water bottle, towel, and other necessary amenities
- lastly, and most important, have fun!