When Family Comes to Visit You Abroad

When my parents come to visit me at school, I never know quite what to do, other than dinner and maybe a little shopping. That being said, having visitors in Florence, Italy is significantly different than having visitors in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. After my dad’s trip to Florence in February and my mom’s trip in April, I’ve learned a little bit on “managing” visitors during your study abroad experience.

1.Take them to your favorite places.

View of the Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River in Florence, Italy.
My favorite view of the Ponte Vecchio!

This might seem obvious, why wouldn’t you take your family to your favorite places in your new city? Go beyond taking them to eat at your favorite panini shop or your favorite view of the city. Walk past your school buildings or the grocery store where you usually shop. It might seem mundane, but sharing little places like this can put your life abroad into context.

2. Do something touristy that you haven’t had a chance to do yet.

View from the Duomo in Florence.
While I walk past the Duomo almost daily, I waited to see the view from the top until my dad came to visit.

The later the visit, the harder it is to find sightseeing or touristy places that you haven’t already visited. I purposefully waited to visit some of Florence’s highlights so I could share the excitement with my parents when they visited.

3. Take a side trip

Selfie at Buckingham Palace.
A short-armed selfie at Buckingham Palace, during our weekend getaway to London!

Along the same lines, consider going to someplace entirely new with your visitors if time and budget allows! I was frantically searching for a fun day trip to take with my dad when a shop owner in Florence recommended a road trip route. I never would have dreamed of renting a car and doing that myself; it was even more special because a local recommended it. I had a full weekend without plans during my mom’s visit, so we headed off to London for three days!

4. Let them be a tourist.

Tourist photo stop in Arezzo.
My dad taking a photo of the bells in Arezzo…granted, we were all tourists that day!

I really struggled to pause for photos of the narrow streets, motorbikes, and food. I kept forgetting that Renaissance architecture doesn’t surround us in Pennsylvania. Remembering that your family is new to the city is crucial! Let them take photos and look at literally everything just like you did in your first few weeks in your new home.

4. Most importantly, make time to keep up with your “normal” life.

ACF Fiorentina match
Tori (left), Emily (right), and I caught a soccer match to celebrate Tori’s last week. While we were there, my mom visited Rome!

When someone is crossing an ocean to see you, it’s easy to feel obligated to spend every second you can with them. While I obviously spent/ wanted to spend time with my parents when they were here, I also realized that I needed to do some other stuff too. The family can check out the museum you’ve already visited while you’re in class. My mom visited during my friend Tori’s last week here–I wanted to have a last hoorah with her before she left. Tori, my roommate Emily, and I headed to an ACF Fiorentina soccer match after class; my mom spent the day in Rome, which she was already planning on doing one day during her week in Florence. If you have something exciting going on for school, try to involve your visitors. My dad came to an aperitvo and opening for my Gallery and Exhibition Curating Class–and even considered purchasing one of the pieces.


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