Not Marriage.

Maybe I was a weird kid. I don’t know.

I grew up watching Star plus TV serials like “KUMKUM” and “Woh Rehne Wali Mehlon Ki”, absorbing the cultural ideas that were all too real in my own culture. I would idealize the lead female characters who’d get married off to a random guy and then bravely tackle the problems she’d face by her in-laws.

As a kid, I had decided on two goals:

  1. Have a wedding so I can have all the delicious food and dance to my favorite music.
  2. Wear a bright red bridal dress with lots of gold jewelry and makeup, like my dolls .

It was all of course a dumb fantasy where I got to be the center of everyone’s attention. My idea of weddings was more or less like playing dress up for a while and then returning everything back to normal.

I ignored the parts where the protagonist of the show had to suffer an extreme amount of sexism and emotional abuse from her husband and her “evil” mother in-law. Somehow, the problems would be portrayed as something that any married woman was meant to face.

While re-watching some of these shows, I realized that the problems were too normalized to be noticed, especially by a kid- who’d just be dazzled by the elegant staircase in the house, the make up of the bride and the food.

Or maybe I was just too dumb as a kid to notice.

The latter reason probably explains the death stares I got from my mother when I told her of my “life goals”. To this day I remember her outrage to my words.

Me: When I grow up I’m going to get married.

Mom: *with gritting teeth* What did you say?

Me: I said, I’m going to get married when I grow—

Mom: Chup! (Shutup) Don’t you ever say that again. Do you even know what you’re saying. Oh my God! Who told you about this?

It would probably have seemed cruel of a mother to reprimand her kid on something really simple like marriage. If only I had known as a kid that it was everything but simple.

And to this day, the mention of this word gives me goosebumps and I always cringe.

But I was a rebellious kid that time. I always did the opposite of what my parents told me to do. Hence, I kept nagging my mom about getting married. I always cringe at the childhood version of me and salute my mom for having to bear my idiocy.

Thanks to my mom who was even more rebellious and discouraged me from associating the word “marriage” with myself. In very subtle ways, she’d always distract me from anything related to weddings and direct all my attention towards concentrating on my studies.

Majority of the people in Pakistan worry more about the money they’d need to spend on a girl’s marriage rather than her education. According to them, it is parents’ responsibility to get their daughters married as soon as possible before they could bring any “shame” on the family. Every time a girl is born, they feel burdened with this responsibility.

If my parents (especially my mom) didn’t have a different vision for me and my sisters’ futures, I would probably be engaged to some man 8-10 years older than me with an already established career. Why is it that he got to establish his career and then got engaged while I would just be waiting for my bachelor’s degree before I got shipped off to his goddamn house.

My mother believed that the life of a woman is much more than just waiting for her “big day”. If it wasn’t for her, I would have been brainwashed by the Star plus serials and the Hum TV serials where the “victory” of a woman depended on getting the man.

In elementary school, when many of my friends were being told that their real home was their husband’s home, my mother completely discouraged us from even mentioning the word. She linked independent life and a successful career to the idea of a bright future for us.

As is the case with desi families where “The sex talk” is a huge taboo, our list of taboos also included the word “marriage”.

As time passed by, my mom’s influence spread in my veins and I began to see the horrifying reality of putting a girl’s marriage as a higher priority than her career.

Putting your own financial responsibility on your husband not only makes you dependent on him for the rest of your life but also gives him an upper hand over controlling you.

  • What if he turns out to be this emotionally abusive monster?
  • What if he has sexist views and imposes them on you?
  • What if he rapes you? (Marital rape)
  • What if you don’t want kids but he and his family pressurize you into having them?
  • What if he beats you for going out of the house without his so-called fucking “permission” ( I’m ANGRY NOW!)
  • Imagine having to ask for money from him for buying your personal stuff. This one makes me cringe.

Why on earth would I think of someone else’s money as mine? Am I mentally and physically incapable of earning and providing for myself? This is probably the most degraded that I’d feel.

And these are just a few of the things that no woman should ever have to deal with or compromise with.

Can you, having no university degree and no career, ever escape an abusive marriage? Not having established a solid career and getting married puts you in an extremely risky position. You are handing over the keys of your life to someone else and handing him a certain power over yourself.

You don’t even have the choice to take those keys back. Unless you take it in a tug of war where everyone would be on his side because “All hail patriarchy”.

If that’s not modern slavery, then what is?

Matters are worse if you live in a country that fully supports the male. A place where the divorce of the woman puts her family to shame instead of liberation from tyranny. A place where a woman is considered “used goods” after her divorce and no one would marry her again.

Imagine having no where to escape! You begin to slowly kill all those dreams you had for yourself. All you do now is wait for death. It’s equivalent to serving a life sentence in prison.

Or worse.

You have to put up with having to bear his kids and then raising those brats on whom you have no control over. Maybe you won’t even have a say in raising the kids. You’d just end up literally cleaning their diapers.

The only way to avoid this is to acknowledge the fact that you NEED to have an equally successful career.

We need to to teach little girls that they can have an independent life where they can choose their own way of living. They have capable minds to contribute to the world in ways more noble than “raising a future generation”.

Some people focus on girls’ education for the purpose of raising good citizens. When those educated girls can themselves contribute to the world, then why produce more humans into this overly populated world, wait for them to grow up and then be that productive future generation raised by those girls?

Damn! Can it get more complicated than this?

Why even link their education to raising better future generations? Aren’t these girls a part of the future? It is more important for a girl to spend hours honing her talent than to worry about the wrinkles on her face.

Several parents tell their daughters that they can travel the world or hang out with friends after they get married. Such ideas create a future zone in their minds where they get lost in dreaming of a beautiful life after marriage. When it is time for their minds to develop and for these girls to discover themselves, they are instead lost in this future zone.

It breaks my heart to see that such possibly bright minds are being put to a waste in believing that their happiness lies in a life after marriage.

As Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

And the first step to changing such mentalities is to acknowledge that life begins at birth.

Not marriage.

 

 

Books that speak to you

While browsing through books, in my university library, I noticed a book, set out separately from the other books on the top shelf. To this day, I’m not sure if it was our common loneliness that drew me or the magnificent halo that surrounded its borders.

In big blue letters, it read: “Why people fail”.

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It was one of those depressing times when I was desperately seeking inspiration from the books in my university library. Usually, I’d read a page or two from JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” or “Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone”. These books would always inspire me to keep moving and expect good things to happen and were literally (still are) my guides to maintaining my sanity.

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Yet, a book titled with a question that my inner voice kept nagging me with, was like the moment when Tom Riddle spoke to Harry.

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In those days, I was suffering from one of the darkest times of my life. Speaking from the perspective of a freshman student, whose happiness lay only in getting good grades, the “dark times” were nothing but the mere failure to get A grades in all my course quizzes. I still believe that those were indeed my dark times, due to the emotional instability I had put myself through.

I had linked my social life in university to my grades. According to freshmen me, having bad grades meant that no one would want to associate themselves with me.

Looking back now, it was only an adjustment phase in an international university with students that spoke different languages. I was too self-centered to notice the awkwardness of every other freshman student in my batch. However, unlike me, they approached each other to share in the awkwardness.

On the other hand, I lacked the self-confidence to make connections on my own and had (still have it) a resting bitch face that made me unapproachable!

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When I smile

You would say that in times of loneliness, you are the only one who can support you. I, on the other hand would find every way for negative self-talk. My confidence and self-esteem were almost dead at that point. This is the sort of talk that happened between me and my sub conscious mind:

Me: No one talks to me

Inner voice: You’re ugly and fat.

Me: I have bad grades

Inner voice: of course.

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How I talked to myself in Freshman year

Never mind that the title spoke to me; my inner voice was much louder and as is the case with negative thinking, I had very few expectations from this book. I thought it was probably just a fact book that I would put back after reading a few pages.

Everything changed, when I read this line:

Do you have an overall philosophy of life, a primary reason you get up every morning? Or are you just pulled along by current events, deadlines, and people asking you to do things?

My heart beat increased and my breathing intensified. This book had just described me! This book was meant for me! It was my Holy book!

I suddenly started to write down all my life goals. Goals that I hadn’t imagined before because of the fear of failure. I wrote them down and slept with my stomach bumping with butterflies. Writing those goals for the first time on paper made them seem possible and filled me with a sudden adrenaline rush.

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The next day I woke up before sunrise and was too excited to sleep again. For the first time, I began to exercise daily, resist fast food, complete my work on time and get free time to work on side goals. I was so excited after that. Life had suddenly changed in one night.

Every time, while returning home in the public bus, I’d talk to my personal coach Siimon Reynolds through the book and together we’d discuss the 16 obstacles to success and the ways to overcome them.

That semester, I received a GPA of 4.00, lost weight and made lots of friends. I couldn’t be happier.

I call it the “Semester of enlightenment”.

This book understood me and believed in my abilities, when my own inner voice had abandoned me. Three years have passed since I first read the book and it still serves as my reason to becoming better everyday.

Not that I didn’t fail after that. This book opened my mind to having a meaningful life purpose and as is the case with any huge life purpose, failure is inevitable.

In fact, after reading this book, I faced even greater obstacles than I already had.

While failure in freshman year might have felt like a slap on the face, failure in later years felt like falling head first from Burj Khalifa and walking all the way back, to fall again.

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Trying to reach life goals be like

Fun fact #1: I couldn’t stand a simple slap but was strong enough to face the fall more than once.

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When life slaps you

Fun fact #2: Falling from Burj Khalifa is exciting and so is your road to achieving a greater life purpose.

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Disclaimer: Don’t literally jump from Burj Khalifa. Seriously tho.

I believe that there is a book out there for everyone and it would understand you the way no one else did.

Fun fact #3: It doesn’t have to be a self-help book.

As Steve Jobs said,

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

I know I know! He meant your life purpose. And so do I.

Italy Internship Guide: Introduction

Interning outside your country is important. When you’re a thousand miles away from your actual work place — the university, the problems attached with it also begin to look trivial, as if you could just dust them off with the flick of your finger. Now that I look back on my own internship in Italy, in the summer of 2016, I realize that I really needed that.

Before leaving for Italy, I had received my results from the previous semester which didn’t turn out really well. They occupied my mind to such an extent that I went into an utter state of despair and hopelessness. It was the end of the world for me. I could already imagine myself getting married to some random man from my country and cooking lentils and rice for him every day, while he made sexist jokes.

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Of course I was being only dramatic about that! When failure hits you in life, you always think of your biggest nightmares becoming true. Travelling however, makes you stronger to face those fears.

When you travel to a different country and actually work there, you meet people that leave their marks on you forever. It’s not like a planned tattoo where you point out a certain design to the tattoo artist. These marks are left on you whether you like it or not, by people whom you had never anticipated to even cross your paths.

Suddenly, you start to develop a taste for coffee when you had once preferred tea instead. Your family realizes that you have stopped biting off your nails and you’ve probably started to joke around more often. Whatever the marks are, they remain carved on your heart forever.

Travelling alone helped me find and get rid of the glitches in my personality. My independence of living away from my family forced me to cook for myself, do my own laundry, and value time.

If you ever plan to intern in Italy at the Scuola Superiore Biorobotics Institute, I’ve made for you a small guide in blogs that follow. By reading these pages, you’re becoming part of a memory that I’ll never forget. In contrast to these two months, the rest of my life seems like a mere background noise.

  1. Visa Application
  2. Internship Documents
  3. Packing and Budget Calculation
  4. Reaching Pontedera
  5. Living in Pontedera
  6. Post-Italy Depression

However, these guide pages are from my own personal perspective that would speak of a female engineering student, who travelled to Italy from Abu Dhabi. Although, I do have high hopes that it would also help students from other countries

Italy Internship Guide: Reaching Pontedera

When it was finally time for me to grip that handle of my trolley bag and drag it to the exit door of my home, my palms began to itch and feel cold. It just registered in my brain.

“This is real! I’m leaving Abu Dhabi for two months, away from my family for the first time.” At that point, I didn’t want to go.

I felt like I was 4 again. Every time, my parents would send me to school, I’d sit at the back of the bus and cry. Now, at the age of 20, I felt the same emotion burning in the pit of my stomach.

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As human beings, we don’t like change. At that point, it was as if my whole body sensed the sudden change it would bring into my life for good.

Embrace the change then. Give your family a big hug before leaving.

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Can you imagine that two months later, when you arrive at the same doorstep, you won’t be the same person again? You’d be stripped out of your bad energies and you’d bring plenty of good energy.

When I left my house, I took with me depression, self-loathing and negative thinking. When I was coming back, those feelings were all replaced with confidence, hope and ecstasy.

And I hope that it would do the same for you.

Before leaving for the airport, make sure that you have a good home-made meal and don’t forget any of your luggage, travel documents and your phone.

Alright, now that you’re on your way to the airport, make sure that you have the following in your shoulder bag/hand bag:

  • Passport
  • Visa for entering Italy (if attached separately)
  • Flight tickets
  • Photocopy of your passport and Visa (really important)
  • First Aid Kit (the one you made)
  • 2 Euro coins (you’ll need them for the trolley in the airport in Pisa)

Don’t forget to carry your laptop bag with you. The one I have can be worn over your shoulder and also used as a hand bag.

To be on the safe side, arrive at the airport at least 3 hours prior to your flight. If you have already checked in, that’s great! Just hand over your bags at the check in areas, show your passport and ticket, and then you are free to go through the passport control. Stick your luggage tags, given to you, to your passport.

When boarding time is near, just give a call to your family and let them know that you’ll be flying in a short time.

I remember when I finally sat down in my seat, I felt like getting off the plane and going back, even though travelling to a different country was in one of my bucket lists.

In Rome

When I reached Rome, there were Alitalia crew waiting to escort us to our flight to Pisa. Unfortunately, we missed our flight due to the delay from our previous flight. If you arrive late, but still have reasonable amount of time to catch the next flight, you need to run as fast as possible to the gate number specified on your boarding pass of Rome to Pisa.

If you missed your flight, you should go to the Alitalia help desk and demand a ticket for the next flight to Pisa and they’ll definitely work something out. We didn’t have to pay for our new ticket because it was not our fault for missing the flight.

In Pisa:

You finally reached Pisa and of course you’re dead tired by this time.

Head over to the luggage control section and find your bags using the tags that were given to you at the airport in Abu Dhabi (or your country of residence). If you have two heavy bags, then you can use the trolleys stacked nearby. To get access to a trolley, you need to enter two euros into the lock system of the trolleys.

The best way to reach the institute is to take a cab and show the driver the address of the institute (which you will be emailed by the institute’s supervisor) and you can also find it on the website.

If you plan to take the train, then you need to buy the tickets at the Pisa Centrale train station. Ask them to get you tickets to Pontedera Casciana Terme which will cost only 2.60 euros. However, if train tickets for Pontedera are not available, then you can buy the tickets to Florence (Firenze SMN). The train will also stop at Pontedera.

The ticket station closes at 8 pm, so in case you reached late, you need to buy the tickets by card from the electronic system. It is really necessary that you reach the institute before 9 pm. Either that or you need to inform the supervisor of the institute of your late arrival so that the guardian doesn’t leave before handing you your room keys.

Do not leave your luggage alone at the train. Always, be at close distance to your bags in case of pickpockets. Don’t get too carried away with the scenery outside the train. You’ll have plenty of time to take snaps and admire them! For now, just be careful.

In Pontedera:

If you are travelling by train, then you should stop at the Pontedera Casciana Terme train station. Get down through the stairs and go towards your right in the tunnel. When you reach the outside world, you should take your left and keep moving straight. On your way, you will see a sort of museum, Piaggio factory, and a small Pizza shop with blue colored walls. To recognize the institute, you’ll see “Istituto Italiano di technologica” (iit) on the building.

When you reach there, the guardian will hand you and your room-mate the keys for your room. He will take a photocopy of your passport for security reasons.

I took this picture below after I settled into the room that me and my room-mate were assigned.

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You will have a closet with hangars to hang your clothes and a lot of drawers to keep your personal stuff in. We started to unpack our bags as soon as we entered the room to just get done with it.

Keep all your money in a small pouch with you at all times. You can also lock it in your bags and hide it somewhere unimaginable! Be creative! Don’t worry too much though. There is a CCTV camera in the hall that records everything.

Now, end the day with a delicious Italian Pizza!

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Just head back to the same Pizza shop you passed by before. We used to call it “The blue place”. Order a Margharita (5 euros only) and enjoy this piece of paradise. If you plan to sit and eat at the restaurant, they will charge you one euro per person as a service fee.

When I reached the institute, I was disappointed for being tired because every moment counted in Italy. If you feel the same, relax. You deserve a rest.

You need to be well rested before your exploration.

Italy Internship Guide: Packing and Budget calculation

Your visa application has finally been approved. Congratulations!

All you need to do now is to buy your flight tickets and pack off your bags.

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Try to find flight offers with convenient baggage weight. I booked my tickets via the Rostamani travel agency inside my university to avoid wasting time on searching for flight offers and deals. However, travel agencies are limited to certain airlines only. You can find better deals with more flight options online. Buying tickets with the round trip option is always a budget-friendly option, unless you are planning to visit another country after Italy.

In my case, I had booked a flight to Pisa with a transit flight from Rome. Depending on the flight duration, book an appropriate date to avoid any late arrival problems. Make sure that you take the flight on any day except Sunday. On Sundays, literally, everything is closed in Italy. If you reach the institute on Sunday, you’ll have to camp outside until the guardian arrives the next morning to give you your room keys. You will also need to make sure that you reach the institute before 9 pm, since the guardian leaves after that time.

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Once you have purchased your tickets, you can check in online and print your boarding pass with your seat number written.

You are now one more step away from beautiful memories, unforgettable friends, learnt life lessons and a better you.

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Take a deep breath and take out a pen and paper. Time to make a packing list.

What to wear:

It gets real hot in summer in Italy around mid-June. In order to keep your cool, literally, pack lots of cotton made T-shirts. Try to buy more of those basic tees. If you wear a head-scarf, make sure you pack those light-weight cotton shawls sold at your local store. If you are not bounded by any religious restriction, then pack tons of shorts for summer. Everyone, in Italy wear shorts and they look gorgeous!

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One thing I regret is not taking a summer hat with me. You would really need that during day time to avoid the strong heat on your head.

Despite the usual cool breeze, the sun’s glare is concentrated on you which can burn your skin. Save that one place in your bag for lots of sun screen and make sure you put it on before going out. The amount of times I forgot to put on my sunscreen was equivalent to the level of tan I underwent.  Lastly, pack some cool sunglasses to avoid squinting too much in the sun and give you a permanent RBF. (Resting Bitch Face).

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Don’t get too carried away with the summer packing though. It can sometimes get really cold at nights because, let’s face it: the summer of Italy is approximately equivalent to the winter of Abu Dhabi.

If you visit Italy around May, it’s still quite cold. Or maybe I find it cold because I have never lived in temperatures approximately below 18 degrees. At night time around May, it can get as cold as 11 degrees! So make sure that you have enough warm clothes with you for those exciting after-dinner walks.

Sometimes, without any apparent reason, it’ll start raining cats and dogs and suddenly a warm sunny day could turn into a thunderous wrath of the heavens. Be prepared!

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Also, get yourself a good pair of running shoes. I regretted so much for only taking summer slippers and loafers which, by the end of my stay, looked like a dog’s chewing toy. You will have a lot of walking to do.

Accessories:

Once you’re done making a list of your Italian wardrobe, it is time to pack for maintaining your basic hygiene.

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Here’s a small checklist that you can use to make sure that you do not forget anything.

  • Tooth-paste
  • Tooth brush
  • Floss
  • Hand Soap
  • Shower Gel
  • Shampoo
  • Bathing Brush
  • Hair Brush
  • Hair pins
  • Hair bands
  • Hair clips
  • Makeup
  • Hair-removal products
  • Menstrual Pads
  • Tissue boxes
  • Perfumes
  • Body lotion
  • Washing powder for clothes

Apart from your bathroom accessories, you should make a basic first-aid kit in case of any emergencies. You can use the checklist below:

This kit should be in your shoulder bag at all times. Therefore, try to make it as light weight as possible.

Miscellaneous items:

  • Umbrella
  • Lightweight Iron
  • Phone charger
  • Laptop charger
  • Adapter for two hole socket
  • Shoulder Bag
  • Locks: Buy locks for each compartment of your luggage and keep the keys safe with you at all times.
  • scissors

Kitchenware and food:

When you can just eat at the local restaurants everyday, then why bother to take kitchen utensils and food with you? Because, this blog is meant to teach you to live on a tight budget while travelling. I will talk about the amount of budget needed for a two months stay in the next section.

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This section is really important if you want to avoid wasting money on food and do not want to starve yourself either. However, I do not at all mean to discourage you from buying meals occasionally at Italian restaurants. Heck no! I’ve got one full article on the type of Italian food you should be ordering.

Since I was allowed a 46 kg baggage weight (23kg/piece), one of my bags carried only kitchen ware and food. However, I took a hell lot of unnecessary kitchen accessories including the dish-washing soap! You only need a few basic utensils that the kitchen does not have.

I’m assuming that you’d live in the guest house of the Biorobotics institute and hence, the list below is based on that sort of living. If you plan to live elsewhere though, I would advise you to contact that house owner and ask him about the house conditions. You might want to ask him or her whether they have enough kitchen utensils for you to be able to cook easily. Below are the items that I would advise you to take with you.

My check list for Kitchen stuff:

  • Electric boiler (really important)
  • Insulated water bottle
  • Medium sized cooking pot
  • One fork, knife and spoon (personal)
  • Cup noodles (20 would do)
  • Doritos chips (How I missed them)
  • Home-made cookies
  • Tea (for tea addicts).
  • Corn Flakes
  • Milk Powder (big size)
  • Cream cheese (to put on bread)
  • 1Kg long grained rice

Don’t bother buying coffee because if you live in Italy, you only drink Italian coffee.

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Cappuccino with chocolate syrup

If you don’t have enough weight but you will be staying with your room mate in the guest house, you both can divide the checklist items.

Also, if you are a Muslim and adhere strictly to your religious duties, then you are obviously restricted from eating the non-halal meat. Don’t worry! I’ll be also discussing with you the shops that sell Halal meat.

I generally eat food with lots of spices that come from my country. It is very hard to find such spices in Italy and so it is better to take all those from your home country, provided of course, that you are a big fan of spicy food. But then, travelling is all about adapting to a new culture.

So, just carry a little of your home food with you in case you start feeling homesick. Once you get used to living in Italy, you’ll be buying a lot of food from the local store and cooking your own invented recipes.

Budget

Living on a budget comes with lots of difficulties and emergency situations but it is the best part of life. You sort of learn the way your early ancestors lived and it brings you closer to understanding the strongest weapon that you have developed in the evolutionary process: your mind.

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With limited resources, you learn to create novel recipes that are actually really good for health and taste delicious. You’ll learn to deal with emergency situations that bring out new habits in you. Most importantly, you learn to value the unlimited resources you have back at home.

I was amazed at the list of ideas my brain threw at me during emergency situations. Before my travel, I sucked at cooking and I had zero ideas about combining appropriate food ingredients. Limited resources however, forced me and my friends to make our own food combinations.

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After my trip, I’ve learnt to spend money only on things that I NEED and this have made a huge difference in my savings. Limited resources also makes you think more about useful investments.

For example, I managed to save enough money during my trip to be able to apply for a driving license in Abu Dhabi!

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And this is exactly the sort of savings I want you to do during your stay in Italy.

To calculate your budget for the trip, you need to consider the following:

  • Rent for two months

The institute will have emailed you the amount of rent you would be paying for your room. This also includes a percentage of VAT (Value Added Tax). My advice for you is to get a room-mate to share the rent with.

  • Transport Costs

This includes your flight ticket costs and train ticket from Pisa to Pontedera and back.

If you have heavy luggage, it is better to take a cab from the airport.

The one way train ticket costs around 2.6 euros while the cab costs around 60 euros.

  • Buying groceries

There is no fixed cost for grocery shopping and it obviously depends on your spending and managing. However, I considered spending 5 euros per day for food and hence took 300 euros separately for living. This, however, is an exaggeration. There were days that I spent 0 euros and there were days that I spent up to 20 euros.

  • Travelling on weekends

I did not consider this part in my trip. I still managed to explore different cities in Italy by saving up my food money. I suggest, however, that if you can afford, have a separate travel budget as well.

Overall, I carried approximately 2380 euros with me apart from the flight cost and I managed to save around 1000 euros while coming back to Abu Dhabi. Just in case, though, I suggest you take no less than 2000 euros with you. This covered my living costs, rent and leisure travelling.

To be on the safe side, get a go-cash card and carry all your money in that. In case you lose it, you can block it and no one will be able to steal your money. You can buy train tickets and groceries with that card. However, you have to pay your rent in cash and will have to go to the ATM to withdraw your cash. Upon withdrawal, they charge you 3 euros.

On last note, keep track of your spending in a journal. I carried a small journal where I kept track of my weekly spending. This is important in the beginning weeks so you don’t run out of money. Although, I got a bit slack in the end over my journal keeping which I really regret.

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Even if you have a lot of money left in the end, it is still crucial that you are aware of the amount you spend every day.

Managing your money depends on your priorities. I gave a higher priority to exploring different places and the least priority to eating food. Most of the times, I’d skip either breakfast or lunch and just have a proper dinner. By the end of the week, I’d use my saved food money on train tickets, museum tickets, gelato and Pizza!

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It all depends on you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italy Internship Guide: Internship Documents

Meanwhile your visa is getting processed and you are waiting for a call from the embassy, you should prepare all the documents that are required to be filled at the end of your internship. Depending on your institution requirements, you might have similar required documents as listed below:

  1. Weekly internship reports

My internship lasted for 8 weeks which meant that I needed to take 8 pages of weekly reports. However, print two extra reports in case you lose one or spill your coffee on. In my case, I was able to print these from the resources section in my university symplicity account.

  1. Log-book

I was required to carry a notebook with me where I’d take notes on daily basis for my internship. These notes are something that you can refer back to in your later weeks. It is a good way of seeing your progress from basic notes to getting more detailed at the end of your internship. You can also call it a daily diary-writing process. Just don’t start with “Dear Diary”!

  1. Student Assessment form

I printed mine from the resources section in my simplicity account.

4. Internship student Report

This would be in the form of a word document that you would write after the completion of your internship. Just read over the requirements and word limit of the report from the university internship handbook just for awareness sake. It wouldn’t seem like a huge task when you’d finally start writing it.

Place your documents in a separate file and keep them in a safe compartment in your luggage.  If your laptop bag is big enough with several compartments, then better keep your documents there. While checking in at the airport, don’t hand over your laptop bag and any of your important documents. Keep these with you at all times.

Finally, research over the topic/project that your internship will be based on. Email your supervisor at the institute and ask him about any initial reading you can do. This would save you a lot of time in getting familiar with your work at the institute and you can start contributing instantly.

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Use google scholar and search up the research papers published under the name of your supervisor. Try to read as many papers as you can. When you start working at the institute, the work, no matter how hard it is, won’t at least come as a shock to you.

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One of the most important life lessons that I learnt is that to complete a successful internship at any company or institute, you have to do your own research prior to starting work. Not surprisingly, this is one of the most important steps.

Don’t just do it to impress your supervisor.You need to love what you do.

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It took me two years to finally realize that due to certain circumstances, you cannot escape from what’s in front of you. Then you might as well give your best!

 

Italy Internship Guide: Visa Application

Before you pack off your bags and set out to the airport in your chic outfit, you need to make sure that you have the right travel documents.

You need to apply for your visa to Italy as soon as you receive your acceptance letter from the institute. Depending on several factors however, it might take more than two weeks before you receive your passport with the Visa attached. One of my friends received her visa just two days before our flight!

While waiting for my visa processing, I could neither pack my bags nor buy my flight tickets, in case my Visa got rejected and all of my hopes and money had to be thrown into a pile of garbage.

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Therefore, it is better that you apply as early as possible so you may also benefit from flight ticket offers. By the time I received my Visa, all the flight offers were finished.

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For each country, there are certain rules to be followed and you might probably need to make a few adjustments to your documents, depending on the passport you hold. I have attached a link below that you can visit to know more about the travel documents concerning different nationalities.

Who needs a Schengen visa

Since my internship was to last for only two months, it was more convenient for me to apply for a Schengen visa, which is valid for 90 days. I applied directly from the Italian embassy in the UAE. Just visit the Italian embassy in your country and they will help you out. If you’re living in Abu Dhabi UAE, it is better to apply from the VFS global Italy. Just book an appointment with them and bring the following required documents with you.

Required Documents:

  1. Schengen Visa Application Form
  2. 2 recent passport sized photos
  3. Travel medical insurance for the required time. You can purchase it from here online. In my case, the travel agency that I booked my flight tickets from also bought me a travel insurance by AXA. You can check with Al Rostamani Travel agency in UAE.
  4. Copy of Flight ticket reservation. Just book the tickets online for the flight to Pisa. You’ll also have a transit flight from Rome to Pisa. Don’t buy them unless you’re sure that your visa would get accepted. In my case, I booked with Etihad Airways.
  5. Proof of accommodation for your entire stay in Italy. Your acceptance letter from the institute will also include the accommodation plan. That’s the one!
  6. Means of subsistence. How will you finance your living in Italy? In my case, I had to submit the bank statement of my guardian who’s responsible for my financial support.
  7. No objection letter from your guardian. (if you’re a student)
  8. Acceptance Letter from the institute.
  9. 2 passport copies of your guardian
  10. 2 passport copies of you
  11. Your passport
  12. Your national ID card
  13. The institute will also be sending a letter to the Italian embassy, confirming of their acceptance.

Finally, check out this website in case I missed out anything and hopefully your visa application will go great!

Once you have submitted everything, grab a Pepsi bottle and a jumbo Doritos and head to the movies. Trust me! You’ve got a major life-changing journey ahead of you.

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