Happy Abroad: for everyone who wants to live happily abroad!

Posts tagged ‘live’

New: online course “Happy Abroad”

I am excited to announce the launch of the new on-line course “Happy Abroad”, and you know what? You are one of the first ones to know about it!

When: course starts on 26thApril

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=659How much: it is a pilot course, therefore it is FREE, but hurry up, places are limited!
How to join: write to newabroad@gmail.com, explaining in 2-3 sentences why you would like to take part.
Contents: the course consists of 10 lessons. Each lesson is devoted to a particular issue on life abroad. Every week you will receive one lesson with an explanation and a practical exercise. Here is the example of some of the topics covered:

  • Planning and preparation.
  • How to find work abroad and integrate successfully into team at work.
  • How to find new friends in new place.

Should I join? Life abroad in general is a valuable experience, but it is up to you whether you will use 5% or 100% of its value. The course “Happy Abroad” will show you how to use your experience up to maximum, it will help you to discover all beauties of the life abroad and will prepare you for possible challenges.
Questions? If you have any questions, feel free to write to newabroad@gmail.com


Erasmus experience: is it only about getting drunk?

Quite many years have passed since I have done my Erasmus (Erasmus is an International exchange programme for students in Europe), and now I have decided to share some thoughts about it. Why now? Because after these years I feel that I can share and evaluate much better than at time when I finished it. Erasmus logo, taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erasmus_Programme

I did my Erasmus in Trier, Germany. I had to undergo a competition and I was among a few ones, who got the places in this exchange programme. It was not an easy process:I had to write an application, explaining why I want to do this experience, how am I going to compensate the courses I miss at my university, I had to undergo the interview and after a tough selection process I secured my place to study at the University of Trier for one semester. I had a feeling similar to what you feel when you buy your first car: great excitement, butterflies in your stomach….Mmm…

The first day was probably the most difficult one. I arrived to the main train station and was not sure where to go, which bus to take. I did not want to spend money for taxi, so after some attempts to find the right bus, I decided to walk, as the distance seemed to be not too long – ca. 1,5km. It did not help that people I asked showed me different roads, so in the end, when I arrived to my residence I was quite exhausted, as obviously I took the longest way possible.

Ok, what about the Erasmus experience? Was it only about getting drunk? Well, it definitely was not my case. I do not drink alcohol, so it never was my goal. Having fun? Partially yes, but again, it was not my primary objective. You might be surprised, but Erasmus students do study. Of course, it depends on the particular course, university etc, as requirements differ, but in my case  we studied quite hard.

Is it difficult to study? Many say that Erasmus students get more privileges than local ones and for them it is easier to study, pass exams etc. You might see it as unfair. And it is unfair if you get “pass” just because you are exchange student and professors do not take you seriously. However it is not always like that. Our professors, for example, closed their eyes when we spoke in German with mistakes, however we had to give the correct answer to the questions of the exams, otherwise we could fail. My roommate inItaly, a girl fromPortugal who did Erasmus inSiena, also had to study hard to pass her exams.

What did I gain? Now, looking back, I can say that my gains are probably different from the ones I expected, but I am still very happy about them:

  • Fell in love with latino dances, learnt to dance salsa.
  • Improved my German. Living inItalyit might be not the most useful language, but it does help me to communicate with my brother.
  • A friend, with whom I used to share a table during French clases (I still do not speak French tough); we write to each other very very long letters 2-3 times a year.
  • Realized thatGermanyis not the country where I would like to live all my life.
  • Took part in the Language exchange and got idea to organize similar events in my country.
  • Understood that sometimes people can hurt you, but this experience is given only to make us stronger.
  • Learnt how to cook using limited amount of appliances and space.
  • Realized for the first time, that the universities inWestern Europemight be better in some aspects (such as library facilities etc), but they are not the best in everything.

Thus, I had a very valuable experience. It was not always full of excitement and fun, there were also tough, and sad moments, tears, but overall it definitely was worth it! I would like to thank all people who were part of this experience, the EU for giving this chance via Erasmus programme, and last, but not least my family and friends for the support!

What to bring and what to leave behind?

Sometimes this question becomes also “To be or not to be?”.

When you are moving to a new country, especially the one where you have never been before, it is hard to imagine what is there and what there is not. Therefore some preparation could be useful:

What to bring?

  • Ask your friends who have already been there (ideally have been living there for some time), what are they missing from home, what is important to bring. May be it is a special plug to make your electrical appliances work or some particular spices without which you cannot imagine to cook?
  • Check in advance the supermarkets and stores which you will have around and their working hours (once I arrived to my new place on Saturday night and found out that there is no blanket, but on Sunday most of the shops were closed…and it was in January…).
  • Make a list of all items you would like to take and mark them (with markers, for example) in priority order. For example, red – extremely necessary, yellow – should take, green – can take if there is space in luggage. This will also help you to pack.

Probably if you are moving to a city, there is no necessity to bring all your utensils, cosmetic products (like shower gel) – you can easily buy them (and in the end it will be cheaper than paying for the extra weight in your luggage). So evaluate well the situation. My advice, even if you are moving for a long period of time, take with you only the items you really need for the first couple of months. All other things you will be able to bring later or to buy/find/get in a new place. Good luck!

Accommodation in Rome

Finding an accommodation might in the beginning seem to be an easy task. If you open a website or a newspaper you will see many advertisements, which seemed to respond to your wishes. However after you start calling, viewing the properties, you will realise that this process is not as easy, as it seems.

First steps

Ok, let’s start. You want to find an accommodation. What should you do? The options are approximately the following: you can search online, use local newspapers, advertisements or ask an agency to do this job for you.
Agency (agenzia immobiliare) is a good option if you do not have time and/or wish to get into details of the advertisements and you have enough funding available. An agent will find the appropriate options for you. Some are really lucky with the agency – for a little fee (less than a monthly rent) they got very nice places. Experience of others could be not so positive and the options found for them could be divided into two parts – 1) beautiful, exclusive and expensive, and 2) problematic accommodation (= apartments which have some fault because of which they cannot be easily rented).


If you for some reason do not want to use the services of agenzia immobiliare, try local newspapers and websites. In case you are still abroad, then most likely you will use internet. The main websites, which can be used throughout Italy, are: http://www.subito.it, http://www.easystanza.it, if you are searching for accommodation in Rome, then valid also http://www.portaportese.it. Wherever you are looking for an accommodation, check whether there are local websites, they are often better (i.e. have more advertisements for your specific zone) than the national equivalents. Advertisements in English language for accommodation in Rome can be found under http://www.wantedinrome.com, http://www.craiglist.com and of course http://www.friendsinrome.com. These are only some of the examples. If you know some other good websites, you could add them in the comments.

Local press

The other option is to go through local press. The differences from the internet is that in press you see at once all the options, which is not always possible online. So there is a higher chance that you will find an advertisement of your interest, however it will take you more time to go through all of them, as usually the advertisements are divided comfortably into subcategories to ease your search. Thus, in the newspaper you cannot use “search” button and almost always there are no photos.
Most likely you will try different search options and find the most suitable for you. Whichever it is – good luck!

After you found an accommodation of your dream, or at least somewhere to live for a while. 

What you should do and know before getting in?

One of the most important steps is to find out all the details of your deal. Contract – whether your landlord would like to make a contract (it is a legal must, but it is being avoided by many), how much is the monthly rent, whether the landlord asks for caparra (deposit), whether it includes condominio (i.e. rubbish collection, cleaning of staircases, portineria etc.), electricity, gas, water. Check whether your water is being heated by gas or electricity (electricity tends to be more expensive option, but not always); in case if you are planning to stay for winter check also what kind of heating you have (yes, Italy is a warm country, but still you most likely will use heater during winter months). Ask landlord about the payment procedures – how much, when, how, what (whether the bills are included in the fee or not). Normally the landlord should show you the bills and in the best case – give a copy, otherwise he could charge you an amount he wishes.

Be careful when you get the contract – reread it, even if your landlord is very nice person. He/she might change dramatically when you decide to leave the property. If you have a contract, it should be registered – this should be done by your landlord and costs for that normally are shared between the parties. There is a possibility, that you will have a contract, but not registered. In any case – whether you have a contract or not, whenever you give money to your landlord, make sure that you will receive written statement that he/she has received them. This is important in case of disputes, which could arise when you decide to move out.

When you want to leave…

Finally, your stay in Italy came to an end or you just have decided to change the place and you would like to leave your apartment. Make sure that you inform the landlord about your plans in advance (1 week or 3 months – whatever is written in a contract by sending registered letter), because otherwise they might not give you your caparra (deposit). Caparra officially is taken in case if you make any damages to the furniture, but this rule often is being abused and landlords are taking caparra also in case if you want to leave earlier than the planned date.
These are the main points you have to be careful about when arranging accommodation in Italy. If you have anything to add, comment or would like to share your experience – you are more than welcome to use comments section below. But for now – have a lovely stay! 🙂

*this article is also published in http://www.friendsinrome.com