Tens of thousands
of young students each year pack up their lives for a few months
to a full school year in hopes of creating a lifetime memory.
The opportunity to study abroad has become as available as
higher education itself. Some programs are even offered to
students in middle school and high school. To be honest, any
chance to study abroad is an amazing and life-changing
experience. I lived in
for two months last summer and created an unforgettable memory.
However, it’s important to understand why people study abroad
and what they can do to enrich their time in a foreign country.
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The best thing I
did before going to Italy was to drop all of my expectations
about what the next few months would look like. I can’t look
into the future; no one can. I had never been that far away from
home for such a long time, so to say I was nervous before I left
would be an understatement. But I didn’t let it stand in my way.
I decided that I would feel better if I traveled with someone
else in my study abroad program. When we decided to fly together
we were acquaintances, but hardly close friends. That would soon
Once I arrived in
Italy, it became clear that I wasn’t going to waste this
experience. Fortunately for me, my travel buddy was on the same
page. We when got to the town we would be living in all summer,
we tried to change our living arrangements because the place we
were assigned to seemed too far away from the center. We thought
we knew what we wanted, but as it turns out we couldn’t be more
wrong. Staying in our apartment was the best decision we made in
Italy. We met our roommate Sara who introduced us to all her
amazing Italian friends, who then quickly became our friends.
This is an example to let you know that you really have no idea
what’s best for you in a new and foreign situation. The best
thing to do is go with the flow in circumstances like that. You
know when you are in a bad situation and need to take action,
which does happen abroad. But chances are you need to let what’s
going on around you run its course, it will probably surprise
Now that I had all
these new Italian friends and learned to go with the flow, I had
to get over this apprehension I had about the language. I was in
Italy to learn the language and already studied Italian for a
year back in the states, so I knew enough to get by. But for
some reason I was too scared to use the language skills I had.
So I spent a lot of time not saying much. Finally my friend
Sergio confronted me on my silence. He assured me that everyone
knew I didn’t speak Italian fluently and wouldn’t get better if
I didn’t try. So I got over my fear of speaking horrible Italian
in front of my friends, which was a blessing because I got to
know them all so much better and improved in my classes.
I was lucky in
Italy. Most Americans who study abroad end up sticking with
people in their own U.S. program. It’s unfortunate, but true. My
thought was if I’m going to take all of the effort to go over to
Europe I was certainly going to try and experience as much as
possible. So in order to do this I needed to immerse myself in
the local culture. This is almost impossible to do completely,
but don’t let it stop you from trying. The best thing to do is
become friends with people from the place you are staying in.
Like I said before it’s hard, but honestly it will enhance your
experience aboard in a whole new way. I now have an amazing
group of friends that I still stay connected with in Italy. I
was able to see the other side of Italy, the one that many
visitors don’t see. I was welcomed into their family’s homes and
lives for two months. And I can promise you that I will never
forget my time abroad. It will always be one of the most
rewarding experiences of my life. So if you are planning on
studying aboard, remember to make the most of your experience by
letting go of any preconceived notions. And don’t be afraid to
talk to the locals and make friends, you never know how they can
help improve your time overseas.
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