A “Newbie’s” Pre-Departure Guide?

Hello! My name is Rachel from New Mexico State University, and this is my first post as Athena’s Florence Fall 2015 blogger.

I wanted to share how I found this program, because it’s kind of a funny story.  I am an art history major, and I actually transferred from a community college to a 4-year university mainly to study abroad.  So, you can imagine, I went as soon as I could to NMSU’s Study Abroad Fair.  I asked just about every kiosk about their art programs, if they even had one.  Nothing really caught my attention like Athena’s table did.  A very enthusiastic man named Bill (Hartley?) asked me about studying abroad, and as soon as I said I am an art history major looking for a program suited for me, I swear he jumped out of his seat and eagerly came around the table to show me the Lorenzo de’ Medici school.  Over and over again he said, “This one is perfect for you; you have to do this one.”  And he was absolutely right, and here I am. 

Like Bill said, it’s perfect.  I have four art history classes that will count toward my upper division requirements (300/400 level classes) to graduate, meaning that none of my classes will go to waste this semester, and all the art history classes will go toward my degree.  That is truly amazing for me: Not only am I on schedule for graduating, but on my resume I can say I studied the Masters in the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, just as a true art historian would. 

All right, enough about my personal life.  I did want to share my preparation for when I leave the U.S., which I have never done before, and it is extremely nerve-wracking.  Since this is coming from someone who has never traveled before, you may take this with a grain of salt, but I think I’ve discovered a few useful things that could really help, or have at least made me feel more confident.


Here are some things I’m excited about on my carry-on, haha: Passport with Italian Student Visa inside, some already converted money into Euros, my leather passport case my mom bought me, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty DVD (I’ve had this craving to watch it for a while, and I’ve made myself wait until I get on the long plane flight to watch it), my toiletries bag with a hair clip, Chapstick, portable charger, Eos lotion, and Bandaids (I tend to pick at the corners of my nails and make them sore when I’m nervous, and I need a lot of Bandaids), then a small purse with a cute keychain to hold all my small items, and in the very corner is my new iPad mini.  

I think what I’ve been most scared about hasn’t been packing.  I’m at 19 kg out of 26 kg, and some of that, such as the personal hygiene items, I’ll toss before I travel home to create more room, and one thing that has made it heavy is my winter coat.  Since I’ll be coming home in the winter, I figure I’ll wear it on the plane, rather than check it to save weight in my checked luggage.  I have a lot of black tops and jeans, which I know is super boring, but it’s my go to outfit that I know I’ll wear.  Honestly, it’s Italy; there are going to be some amazing shopping areas there. For example, looking on CityMaps2Go app, if it’s correct, there’s a Zara super close to my apartment.  Dilemma solved for finding clothes!

What I’m truly nervous about is flying.  My adviser knows this because I’ve called her a few times just to ask about flying, haha.  The only time I’ve flown was from Albuquerque’s airport to LAX, which was two and a half hours and someone picked me up.  Now I have two layovers and I’m also arriving in a new country.  But what has really helped me is how awesome Air France’s website is.  I booked with Air France all the way through.  On Student Universe, to purchase a ticket, I went ahead and clicked the “Recommended” option and paid about $50 dollars more to have all my flights with the same airline.  It was worth it to me.  I feel like it was easier to do that, and possibly minimize the possibility of my luggage ending up lost.  Of course, I packed an extra outfit in my carry-on backpack just in case.

Anyway, on the Air France website when you reserve your flight, it will give you a lot of useful information, such as which Terminals to go to at whichever airport you’re going to.  I land in Terminal 2E, and then I go through “Border Control” (they check your passport and visa and stuff), then I think I keep walking straight until I get to Terminal 2F and find my gate on my boarding pass in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.  See, I wouldn’t have known any of that without registering on Air France’s website.  I even looked up the maps of those terminals to have a basic idea of where I’m going and what to do.  I’m still horribly nervous, but I at least have some idea of what I’m doing. 

Then, I’m supposed to land at the Peretola Airport in Florence on September 1st and grab a taxi to LdM. Wish me luck!  And I hope you’ll enjoy my entries!




P.S. Feel free to add comments below on international travel! Or anything you would like to add to help others, and me, out! 


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