Ciao mie belle amici! Last year when I officially committed to studying abroad it seemed like a lifetime away. It almost felt as though the day I boarded that plane would never really come, but before I knew it I was tirelessly attempting to stuff my life into a 50-pound suitcase to head home for the holidays. Studying abroad was undeniably a life changing experience.
Moving to a foreign country was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done but given the opportunity I would do it over and over again. The four months I spent living, studying and traveling in Florence, Italy were the best of my life.
Beyond the incredible architecture, food and fashion I experienced much more important lessons that will continue to have an impact on me for years to come. Needless to say making such a drastic change can be scary; I have never had to depend on friends as much as I did during this semester. I learned that friends could be found in the most unlikely of places.
Being open to meeting new people opens the door for the smallest connections that will be remembered for a lifetime. My friends and I will never forget Andrea, the owner of our favorite café, who greeted us every morning with a warm cappuccino and even warmer smile.
Another huge takeaway from this experience is the significance of having an open mind and a positive attitude toward new situations. It is so easy to be quickly turned off by things that are different from what you are used to. During my time abroad almost every situation was different from my norm. It was important for me to stop categorizing various cultures and ways of life as better or worse than one another and to start viewing them as different and unique.
Small mistakes aren’t the end of the world. I’ve learned to give myself a break. No, getting on the wrong metro line in Madrid isn’t the end of the world; neither is turning down the wrong street in Venice or mispronouncing that tricky Italian word I just learned. Racing through the Milan train station to make the train isn’t embarrassing; it’s a funny story to tell later. It is simply unrealistic to assume that everything will go perfectly 100% of the time. Allowing myself to make mistakes often led me to the best of places.
There is no way to fully convey the magnitude of the impact studying abroad has made on my life. There is no greater feeling than being made speechless by the sight of the Eiffel tower or having your breath taken away by the brilliant snow capped mountains in Austria or feeling so small in comparison to the overpowering Duomo in Firenze. I would recommend studying abroad to anyone who is considering it; take a chance and go, the world is waiting.