The Journey Begins (Soon!): Useful Study Abroad Prep Tips

Ula Camastro

Student Ambassador

Yes, I’m the one scratching out the days in anticipation of take off. Hi, I’m Ula, and in just a few LONG weeks I’m flying to Florence, Italy to spend my spring semester abroad.

I am filled with pure excitement for this experience, having never touched foot on the continent of Europe before. I’m from a small town in rural Northern California, so my world is about to change from farmlands and rolling hills to the busy cobblestone streets of Florence. I’m about to be traveling abroad and living out of suitcases for the next couple months. Naturally, this requires some preparation.

Over the summer, when I decided to embark on this journey, there were two big projects on my “prep list”: making enough money to sustain myself in Europe, and applying for a visa.

Today, I’m going to break down a few tips I’ve learned as I prepare for my semester. Here we go!

The European Student Visa Odyssey

Applying for a student visa seemed like a big task which required accomplishment months in advance of departure. Every American student wishing to visit Europe must receive a student visa in order to spend an extended amount of time there. The visa process can be quite a daunting task because it requires multiple legal documents.

Working through any governmental system is never straightforward and I found that there were few answers that didn’t require extensive internet digging and research. The resources online pointed me towards government websites with pages of information and multiple links that somehow linked together until I ended up back on the site I started at!

It was frustrating but I quickly learned that checklists were my new best friend. Checking off documents as I collected them was not only satisfying, but kept everything in order. The Abroad Connection team was very helpful in answering questions and navigating the visa world as well.

I quickly discovered the most reliable answers I received came from local sources such as the postal service and police department. Having to deal with visas on a regular basis, they were helpful in providing answers that pointed me in the right direction. Asking “stupid questions” was the quickest way to check off the “visa requirements list”.

Once all my fingerprinting and passport photos were taken and the necessary documents compiled, I sent everything off to the Consulate for investigation. Now, all I could do was wait for an appointment.

Sending in my info was only the first part of the process. The second is attending an in-person meeting where they collected paper copies of my documents and my passport in order to receive a stamp of approval. I received a year long student visa which was exciting because it marked the start of my European adventure.

The Prepping Begins!

It was hard to make plans when the state of my visa was up in the air, but getting my plane ticket a couple months in advance made all the difference in the world when trying to save money.

Quick little tip, I learned that putting my search engine on incognito mode when searching for tickets changes the price tag of the results. I was greatly surprised with what I found.

I’m not gonna lie, I probably started thinking about packing way too early, but ya girls got to prepare. The excitement was not making it any easier to just sit back and chill.

I try to travel really lightly, so my packing plan took a long time to develop. I love clothes so deciding what to bring for more than three months was a challenge. I’m going to be in Europe during the cold winter months through to the summer, but bringing my whole closet was unrealistic. So instead, I planned to bring enough clothes for the first month I’m in Italy, which will be the coldest and then, being in the motherland of fashion, buy what I need as the months progress.

I plan to pack basic clothes that work well for multiple outfits such as a black long sleeve shirt, some jeans, a pair of nice boots that I could dress up or down, and of course, a good old pair of vans for one reason only: I love skateboarding. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. That’s another reason why I’m packing light: I need room to carry a board with me. It’s a must!

It’s weird to think about living out of one backpack and carrying all my belongings with me from country to country but it made me stop and think about what I really need. I’m embracing the less is more mindset. I know that what I lack in shoe choices, I’ll be gaining in experience and adventure.

Ula Camastro studies graphic design at Santa Rosa junior college, and is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy. She loves the smell of the outdoors and is always on an adventure for good food, beautiful views, and even better company. Enter Ula’s code “ulajosephina” when booking a trip with us to receive special perks on your trip!

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