Cultural Experience | Italy

5 Lessons Learned Studying Abroad

A traveller carries newfound perspectives that will create change for the better

Studying abroad is much more than it’s standard definition of going to school in another country other than your own; it is an opportunity that will leave you with new life lessons, different outlooks on life and an appreciation of the world. There is no better way to develop during your college years than studying abroad. It is the best way to establish maturity and cultivate growth through independence and self- sufficiency. It can be scary to think that you will be in a foreign environment for months to come, but in the end you will emerge as a brand new, cultured person who feels like they have nothing left to fear! During my semester abroad in Florence, Italy, I never went a day without learning something new or unexpected; here is a list of some of the lessons I grounded after traveling through 8 countries and 26 cities in about five months.

1. Homesickness will wear off.

I know that the second you walk into your accommodation in a different country you will get overwhelmed with an uncomfortable feeling that makes you want to run back home to your mom and dad immediately. But, FYI, you cannot run back home, it’s impossible, and it is important to remember that this is a temporary thing, so make the best of it while you are there and you will be home soon enough! Start to explore right away to get your mind off of home and keep in touch with your parents through Skype. Before you know it, you will be back in their arms at the airport in no time.

 

2. Language isn’t a barrier.

It may seem like you need to only find friends who speak the same language as you who are in the same culture, but that will end up leading to a friend group with international students only (probably just the same American friends you went abroad with) and you will go home regretting that you did not take the chance to meet people that are a part of the new culture you were in. Words are not the only thing you need to communicate with another person. Nonverbal communication can be very helpful when talking with a person who speaks a different language than you. You can teach each other your native languages and create a friendship that will last forever while doing so. You may only be in this country once, so do not forget to connect with its people!

Our foreign friend, Emilio!

3. Be spontaneous.

There is no need to plan your whole time abroad on a calendar before you get there. Some of the best trips come from spontaneous decisions whether it is to take a train to the islands of Cinque Terre or hop on a plane to see the Eiffel Tower; whatever it may be, the impulsivity of it creates even more excitement. My friends and I never really knew what we were getting into when taking weekend trips, but once we got to our destination we would do anything to make sure we got the most out of the location. When we went to Amsterdam, we were told we were there on the sunniest day of the year, so we took advantage of that, and roamed around the city on bikes that we rented. I had the best time even though I may have not had any idea what the road rules were or if I would fall on my face in the middle of the street; taking risks and doing things outside of your comfort zone are extremely worth it!

Biking in Amsterdam

 

4. Slow down.

Being from a school near New York City, I was too used to the fast- paced lifestyle that most New Yorkers have. We tend to get the label of work-a-holics for a reason; we work, work, work, without thinking to relax and appreciate every single day. Italians taught me to slow down. I had to learn to stop getting annoyed at slow people walking on the sidewalks or long lines at the grocery store and adapt to the appreciation of slowness that many Europeans embody. I started to really value this type of lifestyle and admire how they take “siestas” during the day to have a time off to relax from work and spend time with their families. I think Americans should learn from this way of living; I know I am glad that I brought a little of it back with me. Next time you are snapping tourist pictures, remember to take a second and look up from your camera to take in the view.

Taking in the view in Capri, Italy

5. There’s so much more to explore.

Once that homesickness wears off and you are on that flight back home, I bet you a good sum of money that you will be crying your eyes out, wishing you were not leaving this country that has become so much a part of you in the past couple of months. After traveling to places you have never imagined yourself actually going to, you will realize that there is so much more to explore. This is not the end of it and you will promise yourself that you will come back one day. The travel bug hit me and it will hit you too- I promise! You will become addicted to learning about new cultures, languages, people, seeing spectacular views and indulging in the best food you’ve ever tasted. When you get back home, start filling up that piggy bank and you will be back before you know it.

Caitlin McConnell

Marist College | 12 stories

Caitlin is a senior at Marist College studying public relations and fashion merchandising. She enjoys being active, shopping and spending time with friends and family. She is also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She has gained valuable experiences through interning at companies such as Seventeen Magazine in New York City and traveling abroad to Florence, Italy for a semester. She fell in love with Europe and dreams of traveling to new places to further explore cultures, languages and traditions!


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