Studying abroad:” A term that excited me and filled me with dread all at once. It seemed like the greatest adventure and the biggest risk. There were so many things, both clichéd and not, that I heard before I stepped off the plane in Italy.
The first was to keep an open mind and be adaptable. There are foreign languages and different cultural norms, and things can’t always happen the way I want them to. Nothing can be picture-perfect all the time, and studying abroad is no different.
After the honeymoon phase, there will be ups and downs, just like normal. Take this piece, for instance; I’m writing this article on my phone on a train headed to Florence with high school students laughing like maniacs three seats away. And while I’d like them to be quiet, or for a few things to be easier to do, I wouldn’t change my decision to study abroad.
This semester I’m in Sorrento, Italy. For those of you who don’t know (because I sure didn’t) Sorrento is a small town on the coast of southwestern Italy that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.
When I look across the bay, I can see Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. The next logical train of thought is, “Italy, huh. Do you speak Italian, Aubrey?” Why no, whoever is reading, I do not speak Italian. That has been a huge adjustment, but it’s not impossible. I’m lucky that it’s mandatory for students in this program to take an Italian class while here, not to mention that most of the Italians I’ve met know some English.
Not to say you shouldn’t try to speak Italian or whatever language is spoken where you study, because most locals do appreciate any effort you make.
Another thing that I recommend doing is traveling. If this is my only shot to go places, I’m going to take the opportunity. In Europe, it is extremely easy to travel, whether by plane, train or bus, and it can be very budget-friendly. You just have to do research into where flights and trains leave from, different connections and times and where you stay. Hostelworld, Booking.com, Expedia and RyanAir are my best friends. Don’t be afraid to travel.
All of your experiences can end up being the best times of your life. I’m happy to have found people in this program who are like-minded and want to travel and experience as much as they can with me.
That brings me to my last point: people. I have managed to find a wonderful group, and as my new friend Mahogani said, “Sorrento could have been the worst place, and the Sant’Anna Institute could have been the worst school. But it all would have been worth it as long as I had good people to experience it with.”
I do miss my family and my friends back home, but surrounding myself with people who understand and feel the same way helps me to enjoy my time here and not worry about what I miss. I know I made the right choice for me, and I won’t waste a second regretting it or thinking “what if.”
The only question left is for you. What is your right choice?