What Study Abroad Taught Me
The Invaluable Experience Gained Through Travel
Although I had traveled a fair amount prior to my study abroad, I had never traveled on my own without the security of friends or family. I wondered if I would meet friends with similar travel interests, get along with my new roommates, and test into my upper level Italian classes, only to mention a few. Right before leaving for my semester in Florence, Italy, I definitely experienced a slight case of cold feet, but pushing myself to go was one of the best things I ever did. In the end, my experience taught me to be a more independent and confident person.
My problem solving abilities and resourcefulness were honed as I had to rely on myself to navigate foreign countries. I happened to be in Paris amidst the terrorist attack in Brussels. To add to the stress of the situation, my return flight from Paris to Florence was mistakenly scheduled in a rural airport, two hours away from the city. I made it there only to be confronted with misdirection, luggage issues, and to top it all off, confiscation of three jars of Speculoos, delicious cookie butter, which I still lament to this day. I was able to find a way there and took each obstacle one step at a time. I could not have imagined dealing with those circumstances prior to studying abroad, but having gone through it, I am a more resilient person prepared to take on life’s glitches.
I also acquired great managerial and organizational skills as I had to manage my own budget and living expenses, as well as balance academics with learning through travel. Traveling itself required planning, communicating, and at times compromising with friends in both my program and with those studying in other countries. Before going abroad, I was unnecessarily nervous about small things like setting up my phone plan upon my arrival in Italy. To my surprise, the process was fast and simple. However, as the semester progressed, I had many issues with the phone. This required me to make frequent visits to the provider. I was really proud to be able to resolve all of my phone problems using my Italian.
Through studying abroad, I truly felt connected as a global citizen. By immersing myself in my Italian community, I gained a better understanding of the people and culture. As I frequented neighborhood eateries, did my grocery shopping, got my hair cut, went to Mass, or just enjoyed a stroll, I felt like part of the community. Not only have I become very conversant in Italian, but I have become a better listener and observer. While abroad, I also enjoyed visiting other countries. Although my visits were short, I felt I left a positive impression on the people I met and I was able to fit into their environment. Someone once told me that when we travel, we are ambassadors for our country. Through my travels, I have found that this is a good adage to live by.
Being abroad is a great way to gain an education. Studying in Florence, the heart of the Renaissance, I was able to experience first hand Italy’s wealth of history and art. Not only did this broaden my appreciation for what I had previously studied, but also I learned so much more from all of the tours, museums, and people I met throughout my travels. Visiting the Pitti Palace in Florence, I met an elderly gentleman who had grown up in the area. He told me about it’s history and his experience there as a child. By talking to him I learned things that no tour could have taught me and made my experience more enriching. Finally, my personal experience helped me to clarify my career goals. The classes I took and my travel experiences, gave me an opportunity to reflect on my future.
Leaving my college to study abroad was a difficult decision because it meant leaving my friends, family, a place that I love. Taking that chance has made me more adaptable and self-sufficient and I find myself eager to take on new challenges. I met so many wonderful people, some of who I know will be my lifelong friends. I definitely returned home with a clearer view of the world around me.