Surprisingly, this is the hardest post I’ve had to write. It’s hard to sum up a four month, life changing experience in a certain amount of words. It was hard to figure out which angle to even discuss this from. However, I think the best way to do it is by listing and discussing the top 5 things I learned throughout this experience. I hope that they will come in handy for anyone who is planning on studying abroad and I also do have to warn that although these things sound cheesy, or obvious, or both, they’re a little harder to do when you’re actually confronted with the culture shock.
1: It will not be comfortable at first, give it time.
Yeah, you’re gonna squirm and have to wiggle your way in and out of situations (and if you’re going to Rome, then also through sidewalks because Romans don’t necessarily enjoy moving out of people’s way). But, with the more necessary Italian you learn, and the more you come to know as familiar, the more it will become comfortable, routine even. The most important thing to do is to give it time and (in most cases) forget the comfort zone.
2: Try all kinds of new things.
I do mean all kinds. Go to an art museum that you’re not sure you would like, take a class you’re not sure you would be interested in, try food you wouldn’t otherwise try, wander if you usually plan and plan if you usually wander. I know it’s a bit cliche, but taking a semester abroad really helps you learn about yourself. However, having that full experience only truly comes if you’re willing to do things you haven’t done before in order to experience a new culture to the best of your capabilities.
3: Don’t be afraid to do the tourist attractions.
They are not lame or overrated, they are tourist-havens for a reason. Especially in Rome where things can be 2,500+ years old, it’s important to go see the tourist attractions and learn about the history of the place that you’re inhabiting, especially when it comes to the ways it shapes the contemporary climate of the country that you are temporarily living in. It’s also just plain fun and interesting. The Colosseum and Trevi Fountain are awesome, the Pantheon is beautiful, everything that people rave about that are must-sees in Rome are worth exploring.
4: Stay in Rome more often then you think you would like to.
Though I believe I stayed in Rome and in Italy more than some would while abroad, I definitely didn’t stay enough. I got so swept up with how cheap and easy it was to travel to other European cities/countries that I’ve always wanted to visit, but in the end, I did wish that I stayed in Rome and Italy just for one or two more weekends to explore some more. The weird thing about studying abroad here is that you feel like you’ve been here long enough by the end but also feel like you need an infinite amount more of time to really see everything.
5: Don’t forget to have fun! This is a once in a lifetime chance so soak it all in!
This experience was so much fun and incredible for me! I met friends that I hope will be my friends for a long time, I’ve seen things I’ve always dreamed of seeing and done things I’ve always dreamed of doing. I learned so much about myself and made some decisions about what I want for my future and what I don’t want for my future. I’ve taken classes I wouldn’t have even dreamed of taken and learned so much more because of it. I really tried to make this entire trip worth it and I hope that everyone else will try to do the same with any trip or big adventure/opportunity that they embark on.