Cultural Experience | Florence

Read This If You’re Unsure About Going Abroad

It’s scary, but it’s worth every second. 

You make a lot of big decisions in this lifetime. What to wear to the 8th grade dance, what college to go to, what you’re going to order at Starbucks, what you’re going to do after college. They’re all of equal importance. And then there are some that cross your path and you’ve never felt more conflicted in your life.

This is how I felt about studying abroad.

I stared at the application, all of my answers neatly filled into each box, heart racing and sweat pooling on the back of my neck. Italy. For four months. It was a dream come true. I’d be dumb not to go. Right? Well, duh, right. But in that moment, nothing seemed more terrifying, magical, exhilarating, and nerve-wracking than spending an entire semester in a foreign country. I go to school less than two hours from home. Not that I ever take advantage of that, but just knowing that I can hop in my car at a moment’s notice and go back to the confines of my childhood house is comforting. But Italy? That’s a bit of a farther journey.

There’s the time difference, the language barrier, the 8+ hour flight– I could keep going. My indecision kept me awake at night. I had the opportunity to embark on what could potentially be the greatest adventure of my life. Or I could stay at school in my safe little bubble, seeing the same people and doing the same things, and being content. The pro and cons lists could go on for an eternity.

Then I get accepted. I didn’t have to go, but I could. I sat in weekly meetings that helped me renew my passport, get a visa, pick classes, find flights, pack efficiently, and be safe abroad. The whole hour I’d sit there in that swivel chair, nails tapping against the table, foot shaking uncontrollably. I had made a decision before I even realized I made one.

I was going abroad.

The anxiety didn’t stop there. Oh, not even close. I booked my flight, got my housing assignment, and my official class schedule. Then I had to actually get on the plane and go. To this day, getting on that plane was undoubtedly the greatest decision I have yet to make in my short life. From the moment I sat in that seat, fastened my seatbelt, and watched Pixar movies on an endless loop, my life was never the same, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my abroad experience.

Studying abroad teaches you to think on your feet. It teaches you to be resourceful. It teaches you to enjoy every moment for more than just the likes you’ll get on Instagram and what you can add to your Snapchat story– because you probably won’t have reliable WiFi anyway. It teaches you to embrace every sunrise, sunset, and picture-perfect day in whatever city you find yourself in. It teaches you patience, as you sit in traffic in the midst of yet another marathon bus ride where you hope and wish and pray you’ll fall asleep with each passing minute.

You’ll see things you’ve only ever seen on TV or in movies. You’ll have awkward and embarrassing moments because the cultural differences are REAL, and you’ll be a better person because of it. You’ll meet people whose paths you never would’ve crossed otherwise, and long for the days when deciding what country to visit was your biggest crisis. You’ll be exposed to more history, culture, and art than you ever thought possible. You’ll know the ins and outs of a city you only knew the name of before you got there.

Your life will never be the same. Mine still isn’t. Sure, you’re 5,000 miles away from home. There are language barriers, cultural barriers, and abut 100 things per day that could go wrong.

And that’s what makes it so great. Find your adventure. Find a place that speaks to your soul and ignites the greatest parts of you and go there. Speak there language (poorly). Try their food. Live like a local. Fall in love with this place and the people and the experience.

So I urge you: go.

Read This If You're Unsure About Going Abroad.

Kristen Dalli

Marist College | 7 stories

Hey everyone! My name is Kristen and I'm currently a senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. I'm studying English Writing, with minors in Gender Studies and Psychology. I recently studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and my life has forever changed.

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